As a business based in Jackson, WY, where we often get 600 inches plus of snow in a season, it’s crucial to have AWD. Which Tesla models can handle the snow? Here is everything you need to know.
Buying the right car for your needs means matching its capabilities to your weather conditions. For those that live in snowy regions, this may mean all-wheel drive (AWD). Will this requirement knock a Tesla off your list?
Spoiler alert: not at all! Many models come equipped with AWD to ensure you can get where you need to go without stress.
Here’s a rundown of what AWD really means in regard to a Tesla and the models you should put on your shortlist.
AWD in a Tesla—What Does It Mean?
All-wheel drive is the process in cars where both the front and rear axles are powered at once. When a Tesla has AWD, you can take this to mean the car has two motors—one on each axle. Software within the vehicle will dictate when each will run. The included computers are adaptive, meaning that they only send power to the most efficient wheel.
The goal is to get you as far as possible on each charge, so the AWD only turns on when the car can sense you need it.
Teslas with AWD
At publication, Tesla has four car varieties commercially available:
- Model X
- Model Y
- Model S
- Model 3
Here’s a rundown of which offer AWD within any of the model variations.
Tesla Model S
The Model S is the luxury sedan that started it all. As Tesla’s first commercial success, the car put EVs on the map—literally. And with AWD activated, it’s one of the fastest electric cars in the world.
While all 2023 versions of the Model S come with AWD, this hasn’t been a standard feature for the model’s history. The following chart shows which Model S varieties came with AWD and the year that version was first released. (Each updated version of the cars with AWD continue to have it).
Every Tesla Model S with AWD:
|Year First Released||Model Name|
|2014||60D, 80D, P85D|
|2015||70D, 85D, 90D, P90D|
|2018||Performance, Long Range Plus|
|2021||Standard, Plaid, Plaid+|
Tesla Model 3
Sold since 2017, the Tesla Model 3 is considered a budget-friendly version of the Model S. But even so, it offers impressive performance, such as a range that can extend to 353 miles for the Long Range version.
The Model 3 first added AWD to its feature list as an optional upgrade on the 2018 version. Today, only the standard model comes with just RWD.
|Year First Released||Model|
|2018||Available as an upgrade on the standard model, Performance|
|2021||Long range, Performance Plus|
Tesla Model X
The Model X first hit the market in 2015, and it has made a name for itself as a luxury “soccer mom” car. Despite its sleek design and futuristic falcon-wing doors, the crossover SUV can seat up to seven adults—making it the largest fully electric SUV available today.
Note: AWD has always been a standard feature with the Model X, as the car’s weight makes RWD impossible.
Tesla Model Y
As Tesla’s compact SUV, the Model Y offers a stylish and speedy driving experience while boasting a roomy interior. Its long drive range and quick acceleration makes it one of the most popular EVs on the market for road trippers and families.
As of 2023, the standard Model Y remains RWD, while the Long Range and Performance both come with AWD.
|Year First Released||Model|
|2019||Long Range, Performance|
How Does Tesla AWD Handle Snow?
Despite popular assumptions, AWD Teslas are built to handle driving in snow and ice. That’s partly due to their advanced traction control systems that override certain features in less-than-ideal conditions. For example, Tesla’s brake regeneration system limits itself in the snow to prevent sudden breaking that could leave you fishtailing.
Teslas have an unexpected advantage over internal combustion engines—their batteries are on the floor, which lowers the overall center of gravity for better grip on the road. Even so, it’s best to turn off the cruise control or adaptive cruise control in icy conditions to improve your traction on the road. These features don’t have a good read on whether the road is slippery, and they may accelerate at the wrong time—putting you in a tailspin.
Each Tesla model has a different clearance height, affecting its suitability for wintry weather. The higher the clearance, the more likely you’ll make it over rough roads unharmed. Here’s where each 2023 model falls on the ranking for clearance.
- Model S: 4.6 inches minimum
- Model 3: 5.5 inches
- Model Y: 6.6 inches
- Model X: 5.4 to 8.1 inches
With only the Model X reaching clearance heights over 7 inches, Teslas are not made for off-roading. You’ll need to drive cautiously on bad roads with the Model S and Model 3, and likely will want to upgrade to snow tires. The Model X is the closest the car line comes to a standard SUV, and it will probably be your best bet for driving on treacherous roads.