Modifying a car to do something it wasn't meant to do from the factory is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. Perhaps that's the reason why aftermarket shop Popup Motor decided to build a Tesla Model Y into the ultimate EV off-roader with a new purpose-built lift kit.
Popup Motor is run by Justin He, who you might remember from building a 1,000-hp Tesla Model 3 hybrid with a Volkswagen engine and the super-stretched Volkswagen Lamando "5XL" last year. Justin's newest endeavor with Popup has resulted in what appears to be the most complete lift kit for the Tesla Model Y on the market so far.
Now, we've seen lift kits for the Model Y before. That's nothing new. However, most other kits only gave a slight lift to the Model Y. Delta4x4's kit, for example, provides an additional 1.6 inches of ground clearance. There's also Unplugged Performance's "Dirt and Snow Pro Coilover Suspension Lift Kit," which provides up to 2 inches of additional lift with adjustable ground clearance. And that's just the tip of the suspension lift iceberg—plenty of other vendors sell their own flavor.
Popup goes above and beyond, producing what appears to be the biggest lift setup on the market. The company says that its suspension kit gives the electric crossover a lift ranging from 2.5 and 5 inches of additional ground clearance. In all, it says this allows its wheels to travel a maximum of 8 inches, making it one of the most capable kits on the market.
The difference between most of these other aftermarket suspension offerings is how much more Popup's kit includes. Popup claims that all of this overbuilding truly turns the Model Y into a capable offroader by not just adding to the ground clearance, but also by beefing up other components directly affected by the additional stress of off-roading.
The company says that in addition to its own coilover suspension and both upper and lower control arms, the company also provides new spindle gussets as well as a tubular subframe made from 4130 chromoly steel.
The Model Y isn't exactly built to go off the beaten path. And at 4,400 pounds (that's about the same weight as a fully loaded Ford Ranger), jumping the vehicle, even with a lift kit, likely isn't great for longevity. So building a kit that would help to curb these issues was one of the main points of the project.
"The reason for replacing so many chassis components, including the subframes, is that the Model Y/3 was not originally designed for these hardcore off-road scenarios and therefore cannot provide enough strength," wrote Popup on its website. "Hence, a complete chassis redesign was necessary."
All of that over-engineering is also reflected in the price. While most other lift kits are somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to $2,500, Popup is charging an eyewatering $15,000 for its kit (though early adopters will get a $3,000 discount). That's just over 34% of the purchase price of a new Model Y. Ouch.
The biggest downside of the kit seems to be concerns about the effect it will have on vehicle range. Lifting the vehicle will cause an increase in drag, ultimately resulting in lower efficiency. The vehicle owner may also choose to swap the factory wheels and tires for something larger, meatier, and heavier. By increasing the unsprung mass, the vehicle will also experience a decrease in its range—that means driving a car equipped with this kit on long highway trips may see a dip in overall range.
All of that being said, Model Y owners looking to take a battery-powered car off-road will soon have more vehicle options in the future. Tesla is getting ready to launch its hotly-anticipated Cybertruck, and General Motors isn't far behind with the Chevy Silverado EV. Plus, it's worth noting that there are already electric trucks on the road today: the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV SUT, and Rivian R1T. The point is that there are tons of other options for EV offroaders that might be more attractive. But, hey, if there's a lift kit for a Toyota Prius, why not a Tesla Model Y too?
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