The Tesla Model Y might be the fifth vehicle offering from the all electric automaker, but it is hands down the first Tesla that is aimed directly at the mainstream North American car buyer. It's no secret that, here in the US anyway, we love our SUVs and crossover utility vehicles (CUVs), and the Model Y fits the bill. Sharing nearly 75% of its parts with the smaller Model 3 Sedan makes it the bigger SUV/CUV Model 3 conversion we've been waiting for. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities between the two vehicles, but surprisingly, there are many differences as well.
Driving any electric vehicle can be an arousing experience if you've only ever driven their gas powered counterparts. Even for the cautious driver the instantaneous power delivery will leave a smile on your face that is nearly impossible to wipe away without days going by. The pedal on the right becomes an addiction. Most new EV owners are also Tesla owners, so it's no wonder why Tesla has the highest owner satisfaction of any automotive brand. Electric vehicles are so much more fun to drive than anything else.
Your first experience with any Tesla vehicle, Model Y included, can be exciting but scary as well. And if you're one of the lucky owners, it is an experience that requires you to rethink everything you thought you knew about cars and car ownership. In the Model 3 and therefore the Model Y (the interiors are practically identical), nearly every button, dial, gauge, and control is replaced with a massive touch screen display in the center of the dashboard. This screen is now your best friend. It is the brain of the car and the gatekeeper of all joy.
Every time we hop in the driver's seat of a Tesla, we have to remind ourselves how to adjust the side mirrors (touch screen), set the air conditioning to a comfortable temp (touch screen), and turn on our favorite music (yup, touch screen again). Additionally, all your gauges are to the left side of the screen in a very easy to read location, even while driving.
The experience driving a Tesla, that is to say when you don't want it driving for you, is as if you were piloting a feather. The Model Y is quiet, gentle, and smooth when you want it to be. The seats are firm, yet comfortable enough to not bother you on a longer road trip. There is plenty of room to stretch out your legs, even for back seat passengers. For the driver seeking a peaceful, easy commute, the Model Y offers everything that you could hope for... But the feather we had the pleasure of driving also had a rocket strapped to it, and we want to go fast.
Tesla broke the bias against EVs that they were merely over-sized golf carts that could barely move out of their own way. Tesla proved that EVs are quick, nimble, and can go toe to toe with the best sports cars the world has to offer. What Tesla has done with the Model Y Performance is nothing short of a miracle of engineering. Let's start with the fact that this is actually an SUV. It's a family car, a grocery-hauler. A vehicle to take you down to the beach for the weekend. It is not a track car that would compete with highly modified race cars not only at the drag strip but also road courses. Don't tell that to the Model Y performance version though, It doesn't seem to know any better.
This 4,400 pound SUV is equipped with two electric motors, one up front, one in the rear, that put out a combined 456 hp and 497 lb-ft of torque. To put that in perspective, that's more low end grunt than a 2020 Corvette and it allows the Model Y to sprint to 60 mph faster than most performance sports cars. It is the family car that will throw your family back into their seats and have you laughing the whole time.
Because we don't have a prepared track, our own performance tests had to to be somewhat limited. However, we had a go with the Model Y and discovered that Tesla's traction control in combination with the sophisticated power delivery from the electric motors still managed to overcome the potential setbacks from not having a prepared surface to launch from. The Model Y is supposed to achieve a 0-60 mph time of 3.5s and 1/4mi in 12 seconds. Our times were close: 0-60 mph in 3.64s (with a 1ft rollout) and 1/4mi in 12.07 seconds at 114.59mph. That is impressive for most sports cars and outright insane for an SUV. The Model Y is likely capable of beating these times with simply some minor weight reduction.
If performance isn't your focus however, you would likely be perfectly happy with the Long Range AWD (non-performance) version. Both trim options come standard with Tesla's Autopilot system and suite of safety and driver assistance features. Springing an extra $8,000 will get you the full self driving software package.
The Model Y Performance that we tested is rated at 280 miles of range while the non-performance achieves 316 miles of range. Impressive for a vehicle of its size and weight. The 75 kWh battery pack in the Model Y is the same as the Model 3 and will charge at a similar 250 kW at its peak. Tesla says that this will allow the Model Y to recharge 158 miles of energy in only 15 minutes at one of their v3 superchargers. If you're looking for a family road trip vehicle, you just found it.
The interior is large and the all glass roof gives you an even more spacious feeling and there is plenty of head room, even for back seat passengers. Cargo space is cavernous in the rear and the frunk (front trunk) as well.
When it comes to pricing for the Model Y, the less expensive Long Range AWD starts at $49,990 while the Performance will set you back an additional $10,000, or $59,990 before options or upgrades. Standard features listed on Tesla's website include:
An optional seven seat layout is set to be available in 2021 for only $3,000 and if you want to add a tow hitch, it is available for an additional $1,000.
There is no question that Tesla didn't reach very far outside their existing toolbox to bring us the Model Y. After all, it is based on the Model 3 and shares many parts. However, it is different enough for us to consider it to be the ultimate family vehicle.
For the most part the Model Y met our expectations and we didn't find much that we would be concerned about except for one really big issue: Build quality. Tesla has certainly earned a reputation for the most adored vehicles on the road. The fan base is extremely loyal and likely to look past some significant build errors. We however, are not.
One of the first things we noticed when pulling into the Tesla parking lot was an already delivered Model Y with colored stickers all over it. Upon inspection, we noticed a lot of the issues with that vehicle were related to alignment of doors and lights. It looked like it was rushed through the build process, and in all likelihood was rushed in order for Tesla to hit their Q2 financial numbers and show a profit for the quarter despite the COVID-19 shutdown. This is not, however, an excuse for poor build equality and we were very disappointed to see an example of sloppy assembly.
The Model Y that we tested also showed misalignment of taillights mostly, but overall wasn't nearly as significant of an issue as the other car. That being said, if you are in the market for a Model Y, we don't suggest accepting delivery until you've had a very thorough walk around checking for misalignment, paint issues, and other quality concerns that Tesla should fix before you accept the vehicle and drive it home.
We don't mean to say that you shouldn't buy a Model Y though. You should. Absolutely you should. Just make sure that everything is in good order before you call it your own. We expect that in the coming months, examples of this kind of rush job through assembly will become fewer and fewer as Tesla isn't as pressured to meet expectations. If they take their time, they really can build and amazing vehicle. The Tesla Model Y is our recommendation for car of the year (whatever worth that carries) and we think that it will push all other automakers to build better vehicles themselves. After all, that is what Tesla is really good at... getting the world to progress and improve.