All-wheel drive (AWD) and rear-wheel drive (RWD) are the two main configurations offered in the current lineup of Tesla cars. RWD is currently only available in two models, with AWD coming as standard in the others. This may leave you wondering what is best: Tesla RWD or AWD?
Tesla’s AWD drivetrain offers more traction, acceleration, and range than the current RWD models. It’s also better in wintery conditions and reduces the chances of skidding when navigating icy roads. While AWD will remain the higher performing drivetrain, it is more expensive than RWD.
The gap in price between Tesla’s base level RWD models and the upgraded AWD versions will leave many contemplating whether it is worth spending more for an AWD Tesla. In this article, we will discuss the differences between the two setups as well as comparing price and performance levels.
All-Wheel Drive vs Rear-Wheel Drive Explained
One of the biggest choices you will have to make when looking for your new Tesla is whether you want it to be an all-wheel drive model or a rear-wheel drive model. There are positives and negatives to both options, with AWD models having increased traction, especially in wintery conditions. However, RWD Teslas are cheaper and will provide adequate grip in dry conditions.
How Tesla All-Wheel Drive Works
Tesla’s all-wheel drive system is powered by two highly responsive, independent electric motors that distribute power and torque to both the front and rear wheels. This improves the car’s handling, stability, and traction, especially in icy or snowy conditions. AWD is seen as the safest option, reducing the chances of the tires slipping and sliding out of the driver’s control.
All-wheel drive is often wrongly confused with four-wheel drive (4WD), although the two have different qualities. 4WD distributes equal amounts of power to each of the wheels, whereas AWD cars can vary this amount of power. With certain AWD Teslas, the user themselves can decide how they want this power to be distributed, via the in-car display.
How Tesla Rear-Wheel Drive Works
While the power in AWD Teslas can be distributed to all four wheels, the power in RWD Teslas goes straight to the two rear wheels. RWD Teslas specialize in driving in dry conditions and won’t have as much traction in more treacherous conditions. Even in dry conditions, RWD Teslas won’t have the same levels of traction and stability as AWD models.
Are All Teslas All-Wheel Drive?
Not all Tesla cars have all-wheel drive, but each model in their current lineup has an AWD option. The base Model 3 and Model Y cars are currently the only two in the lineup that don’t come with AWD as standard.
The upgraded models of these two cars do have the option of AWD, albeit for a different price. All-wheel drive comes as standard in the Model S and the Model X.
Which Tesla Models Have AWD?
|375 miles / 604 km
|155 mph / 249 kph
|Model S (Plaid)
|348 miles / 560 km
|200 mph / 322 kph
|267 miles / 430 km
|140 mph / 225 kph
|Model 3 (Long Range)
|334 miles / 538 km
|145 mph / 233 kph
|Model 3 (Performance)
|315 miles / 507 km
|162 mph / 261 kph
|347 miles / 558 km
|155 mph / 249 kph
|Model X (Plaid)
|333 miles / 536 km
|163 mph / 262 kph
|283 miles / 455 km
|135 mph / 217 kph
|Model Y (Long Range)
|318 miles / 512 km
|135 mph / 217 kph
|Model Y (Performance)
|303 miles / 488 km
|155 mph / 249 kph
Which Teslas Can Have RWD?
The only 2 Tesla models that can have rear-wheel drive are the Model 3 and the Model Y. It is only the base models of these cars that have the RWD feature, with the upgraded versions of both models having AWD.
Those who drive in mostly dry climates may be tempted by the RWD models as they are considerably cheaper than the AWD versions and won’t underperform in stable weather conditions. There are drawbacks in terms of range and acceleration speeds, but for those who need the car for shorter journeys and day-to-day use, the RWD models won’t let you down.
Cybertruck & Roadster
Although not available yet, with a production date scheduled for mid-2023, Tesla’s long-awaited Cybertruck will reportedly have a RWD version alongside two AWD options. However, it is not certain that a RWD Cybertruck will ever materialize.
Tesla’s plans for the second-generation Roadster are more concrete than the Cybertruck, with pre-orders currently being taken. However, the new Roadster is only going to be available in AWD. The original Roadster model is available in RWD but can only be purchased second-hand, as the car is no longer in production.
KEY POINTS• All Teslas can be AWD, but not all Teslas can be RWD
• The two models that can be RWD are the Model 3 and the Model Y
• A rear-wheel drive Tesla is cheaper than the equivalent AWD model
Is AWD More Expensive On A Tesla?
All-wheel drive Teslas are more expensive than rear-wheel drive Teslas due to the premium features that they offer. Enhanced traction in all weather conditions, as well as quicker acceleration speeds thanks to the dual motor system, mean that AWD Teslas are often a more desired option.
The Model 3
A single motor RWD Model 3 will cost around $47,000 when bought new directly from Tesla. Compared with the AWD Model 3 Performance, which costs just under $63,000, this is a steep incline in price. However, the AWD feature isn’t the only upgrade, as the Performance model also comes with improved brakes, a longer range, and a higher top speed.
The Model Y
This trend carries on with the only other Tesla model to come without AWD as standard. The base level RWD Model Y will cost around $63,000, compared to the cheapest AWD Model Y, the Long-Range version, which will set you back just over $70,000. The Performance model is even more expensive, costing over $82,000.
Once again, the AWD versions of the Model Y offer quicker acceleration speeds, with the Performance version also offering a predictably faster top speed as well as lowered suspension. The upgraded versions of both the Model 3 and the Model Y are seen as luxury vehicles with genuine noticeable upgrades on their respective base models.
Why Are Tesla’s AWD Cars More Expensive?
From a manufacturing standpoint, AWD cars require higher levels of sophistication to manufacture than RWD cars. They rely on a dual-motor system, which can distribute power to all four wheels on the car, which means that there are more parts required. More parts mean more resources will need to be used and the initial setup of the vehicle will be more complicated.
The extra traction and quicker acceleration that AWD offers will also be a guaranteed selling point for the car, which also increases the price tag. But AWD is not a simple quality of life feature, but instead it is both a safety and performance feature, hence the higher price tag.
Is An AWD Tesla Faster Than A RWD?
AWD Teslas accelerate faster than RWD Teslas, but they don’t necessarily have substantially higher top speeds. The rear-wheel drive Model 3 and Model Y have the two slowest acceleration speeds in the Tesla lineup, going from 0-60 mph in 5.8 and 6.6 seconds respectively.
It is unsurprising that Tesla’s Performance and Plaid models have the quickest acceleration times, as they are designed to be quicker off the mark, as well as faster over longer distances. Is it a coincidence that these cars are built with AWD? Definitely not. Faster acceleration isn’t the only string in the all-wheel drive bow, as increased traction also allows for faster cornering speeds.
Cornering speeds are usually talked about in a racing sense, but they also make a difference in domestic situations. Having improved traction means you won’t have to slow as much when turning, as the car won’t feel as though it is losing its back end. Add up all the time you make up by adding a little more speed (safely) through each corner of your journey, and you will arrive at your destination quicker.
Does AWD Mean Higher Top Speeds?
Having an AWD car doesn’t necessarily mean that the top speed of the car will be higher. The added mechanisms inside AWD cars can add to their overall weight, stopping you from being able to reach higher speeds. Tesla have counteracted this by upping the size and power of the batteries in their AWD models compared to the base level Model 3 and Model Y.
This hasn’t led to a substantial increase in top speed for the long-range versions of the two RWD models, with the AWD Model 3 Long-Range only 5 mph (8 kph) faster than the base level Model 3. The AWD Model Y Long-Range has the exact same top speed as the base level Model Y. The AWD Performance models are substantially quicker, but they have been manufactured with speed as a priority.
Speed In Bad Weather
AWD Teslas are ideal for snowy roads, wet roads and dirt trails because of their increased traction. While it is never recommended to drive too fast in these weather conditions, and the car does have a limit to its grip, you won’t have to be as overly cautious in an AWD Tesla as you would have to be if you were driving a RWD model.
AWD Teslas are faster than RWD Teslas, mostly because of their increased traction. This helps the cars to maintain corner speed as well as greatly improving acceleration speed. While you will still have to drive cautiously in bad weather conditions, the added traction in AWDs will mean you drive a bit more freely than you would be able to in a RWD Tesla.
Tesla AWD vs RWD: Which Is Best For Winter?
AWD Teslas are better for winter than RWD Teslas. This goes for each aspect of driving, including the initial acceleration, grip levels, handling, and even braking. Having power distributed to each individual wheel allows for better grip on slippery roads and snowy or icy conditions.
It must be said that wintery conditions require winter tires to get any sort of result from the car whether it be AWD or RWD. An AWD car with summer tires installed can only do so much to keep you from skidding as the tires are just not suited to icy conditions.
AWD Teslas are perfectly suited to wintery conditions. From their evenly balanced weight distribution, to having power in all four tires ensuring better traction, they have a resounding upper hand over RWD options. You’ll have to be a lot more cautious with a RWD Tesla if you are driving in snow and ice, as the lack of power in the front tires can leave it vulnerable to skidding.
Tesla RWD vs AWD: Which Should You Buy?
The answer to this question ultimately comes down to what you can afford. AWD Teslas offer an enhanced driving experience in all weather conditions, with improved acceleration and traction. However, they’re often a lot more expensive compared to the cost of getting a RWD Tesla. In short, AWD Teslas can do everything RWD Teslas can do, but not vice versa.
RWD Teslas will be more difficult to drive in adverse weather conditions, whereas AWD models will feel a lot more stable and easier to control. AWDs also have the bonus of quicker acceleration, which is useful during highway overtakes and other aspects of driving. AWD Teslas also have extended range, which will mean less time spent recharging the car.
Our recommendation would be to spend that bit extra on an AWD Tesla if you can afford it, as it will serve you well all year round. While the difference in price between AWD and RWD can be over $10,000 depending on the model you choose as well as other upgrades, AWD is both a safer and more comfortable option, helping to justify the extra money you’ll have to pay.
AWD Teslas offer drastic improvements on the RWD models, especially in wintery conditions. Traction, acceleration, and the car’s range are all improved when you choose an AWD option. All Teslas have an AWD option, but only the Model 3 and Model Y offer RWD.