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Tesla Model Y Review: Electric SUV pioneer finally has company

Tesla Model Y Review Electric Suv Pioneer Finally Has Company

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Pros: 300+ mile range available; rapid acceleration; abundant interior space; easy and expansive Supercharger network

Cons: Infotainment system has steep learning curve; common features not available; stiff ride; iffy build quality; fluctuating prices not great for resale value; ‘Full-Self Driving’ feature can be dangerous

The Tesla Model Y is a value-packed compact SUV that has some truly high highs, but its lows could be deal-breakers for lots of potential buyers. As with any Tesla product, you’re buying into the unique ecosystem when you buy the car. It’s almost impossible to oversell the benefit of Tesla’s Supercharger network for road trips and its seamless integration with the car’s software. Speaking of technology, you’ll need to make peace with the lack of buttons or hardware inside the cabin, as virtually every car setting, control and readout is found within the large 15-inch touchscreen that does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Fans of minimalist style should enjoy the lack of decor in the Model Y, but others may find it barren and boring.

What isn’t boring is how the Model Y drives, particularly the Performance, which can hit 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds. That’s a shocking amount of performance for its $53,130 starting price, and that’s before you subtract $7,500 for the federal tax credit it qualifies for. The Model Y handles well and accelerates with plenty of verve in every trim, but it’s unfortunately one of the worst-riding and least refined (from a noise perspective) cars in its class. We’ve noticed all sorts of awry sounds from the rear end, and its ride is verging on abysmal for its size. On the flip side, its range figures (spanning from 279-320 miles depending on which version you choose) are plenty competitive, and charge stops are quick thanks to an impressive 250-kilowatt max charge rate. 

We recently named the Model Y the best EV you can buy for the price of an average new car – around $45,000 – and while others are hot on its heels, anyone searching for a compact electric SUV should consider the Tesla when shopping. Just make sure you also take a peek at other budget options like the Chevrolet Equinox EV, VW ID.4, Nissan Ariya, entry-level versions of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 and so many others in this burgeoning class.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Level   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

 

What are the Model Y’s interior and in-car technology like?

The Model Y’s interior is minimalistic to a fault. The centerpiece is a 15-inch touchscreen that looks more like a tablet mounted horizontally on the dash. Missing are the banks of buttons, switches and knobs found in many of its competitors … and just about any other car you’ve ever been in. There’s no instrument panel in front of the driver, either, meaning you see your speed and other vitals over on the touchscreen. The seats and interior panels are upholstered with “vegan” synthetic leather, and shoppers can choose between black or, at additional cost, a white interior. The material has the look and feel of real leather, but it can be stifling on hot days and sadly, cooled or ventilated seats are not offered.

The front seats are firm and flat, making them prone to some hard contact points on longer road trips, and the same holds true for the second-row seats. There is a wealth of space for both rows, as 6-footers will have more than enough headroom and legroom. The optional (and extra-cost) third-row seats are notably cramped and barely even suitable for small children. Despite its limiting space, it’s still nice having those seats as an option when the carpool needs to expand.

Since the Model Y lacks instruments and most typical physical buttons, almost all functions are controlled and/or viewed through the touchscreen. There are scroll wheels on the steering wheel and stalks for the wipers/turn signal and gear shifter, but that’s it. As a result, the number of on-screen menus and settings can be daunting, with a steep learning curve. The screen can also be distracting for the driver since you have to so frequently take your eyes off the road to use it or see your speed. There are several voice controls that can remedy many of those problems, though, and the steering wheel has two multifunction dials that control a few features such as mirror positioning, audio and cruise control.

A navigation system is standard equipment, and it’s powered by Google. On one hand, it’s a good thing because the maps and information will be up-to-date. On the other, it means you could have limited access if you’re in an area with limited data coverage. Unfortunately, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto phone integration are available. There is also no wired audio link to your phone, forcing you to channel the audio through a lower-quality Bluetooth connection. There are some available streaming services you can login into on the screen, though, and games to play while charging. All of the above makes the Model Y atypical among most other cars.

How big is the Model Y?

The Model Y is classified as a compact SUV even though its footprint isn’t much bigger than the Model 3, which in turn is about the size of a BMW 3 Series sedan. The Model Y is only about 1 inch longer and a half inch wider than the Model 3, but the big difference is height. The Model Y stands just over 7 inches taller.

Those larger dimensions translate to a significant gain in interior space. There’s enough room that Tesla even offers an optional third row, though it should be noted that you’ll be lucky to even squeeze small children into the confining space. The Model Y’s rear hatch allows for quite a bit more cargo capacity, compared to the Model 3’s trunk, and do take note of the capacious under-floor storage in the trunk, too.

The Model Y can accommodate up to 30.2 cubic-feet of cargo behind the second-row seats and up to 72.1 cu-ft with those seats folded. If you opt for the third-row seats, those figures drop by 3 or 4 cu-ft, but even those specs are generous for both the compact SUV class and when compared to other crossover EVs. There’s also an additional 4.1 cu-ft in the frunk (front trunk).

What are the Model Y’s range and performance specs?

As of this writing in June 2024, there are three choices in the Model Y lineup: the Long Range RWD, Long Range AWD and the Performance. The Long Range RWD is estimated to return 320 miles of range on a full charge, while the AWD drops slightly to 308 miles. Note that both of those figures apply to Model Ys on the standard 19-inch wheels. Upgrade to the 20-inch option and range falls to 295 miles and 287 miles, respectively. Meanwhile, the Performance dips down to just 279 miles, and it comes with 21-inch wheels as standard equipment (no other options available).

The slowest version is the Long Range RWD model that gets to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The dual-motor AWD version drops this to a quick-feeling 4.8 seconds, and the Performance is shockingly-quick, getting to 60 in only 3.5 seconds. Unlike virtually every other car company, Tesla does not list official output figures for its various trims, nor does it list official battery or charging specs. That said, we know the max charge rate for the Model Y is 250 kilowatts, making it very competitive versus others in this class.

Tesla Model Y

What’s the Model Y like to drive?

Whether it’s the Long Range AWD or Performance, the Model Y is quicker than most drivers will ever need (we still haven’t driven the Long Range RWD). Stomping the pedal to the floor, acceleration is instantaneous and quiet. Driven more conservatively, the Model Y is well-mannered and seamlessly smooth with a well-tuned one-pedal drive mode. These traits are emblematic of most EVs.

With a curb weight tipping the scale past 4,400 pounds, the Model Y is on the heavy side, but as with every EV, the considerable battery weight is optimally concentrated in the floor. This gives the Model Y a low center of gravity and greatly improves handling. It indeed can be said the Model Y drives like a smaller vehicle, and the Performance version is even more agile thanks to a lowered suspension and upgraded brakes.

Ride quality is firmer than you might expect and tends to unsettle the Model Y on broken pavement. The Performance model’s sport suspension is even stiffer, with sharp jolts regularly transmitted right into the cabin. If comfort is a priority, you may want to look into smaller wheel options, as the 21-inch wheels tend to exacerbate this problem. Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski (a Tesla Model 3 owner) also notes that the Model 3 is considerably more comfortable and refined than the Model Y.

Since there’s no internal combustion engine, the Model Y is mostly quiet, but that makes other noises more noticeable. Road noise is ever present, and road bumps often emit low thuds – a recent rental with over 40,000 miles on it was especially bad with constant suspension crashing and banging over poor roads. In our experience, after only a few thousand miles, the Model Y’s interior panels begin to creak and squeak with annoying regularity.

What other Model Y reviews can I read?

EV Crossover Comparison Test: Tesla Model Y vs. VW ID.4, Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric

We pit the Tesla Model Y against some of its 2024 competition in the $45,000 range.

 

Tesla Model Y First Drive | One of kind

Back in July 2020, we got our first drive of the Model Y and found that it easily trumped the limited number of EV offerings from luxury manufacturers (Jaguar and Audi in particular). Things have changed since then, including the Model Y’s specs. 

Tesla Model Y

What is the Model Y price?

By the very nature of being a Tesla, the Model Y is different from nearly any other car in purchase and delivery experience. Instead of the traditional purchasing process where you drop by a dealership to purchase a vehicle and drive off, you have to order your Tesla online or from one of its stores. On the website, Tesla also displays pricing with “potential savings” deducted from the actual purchase price. These deductions include likely tax credits, other local incentives, and potential gas savings, so make sure you’re looking at the true numbers when calculating if you can afford one or not.

As of June 2024, the “entry-level” Model Y Long Range RWD is listed at $46,630 for purchase, including the $1,390 destination and $250 order fee charges. Factor in the point-of-purchase $7,500 tax credit, and that reduces the price to just $39,130. Every paint option except for Stealth Grey costs extra, with Ultra Red being the priciest at $2,000. The more stylish (but range-sapping) 20-inch wheels are a $2,000 add-on, and the two-tone white and black interior is an extra $1,000. If you want the third-row option, you’ll need to step up to the Long-Range AWD and pay the extra $2,000 Tesla charges for those seats.

We don’t recommend paying for it outright, but Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” package is $8,000 – if you want to try it out, we’d suggest subscribing to it for a month first to see if it’s something you want. We describe why below. 

Prices for all three versions of the Model Y are listed below.

Model Y Long-Range RWD: $46,630
Model Y Long-Range AWD: $49,630
Model Y Performance: $53,130

What are the Model Y safety ratings and driver assistance features?

A lot of noise has been made over Tesla’s automated driving systems, causing quite a bit of confusion. As for what comes standard, every Model Y has forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure avoidance, adaptive cruise control, “Autosteer” (lane-centering), Lane Assist (a quasi-blind-spot monitoring system with active steering assist), a blind-spot camera and a driver inattentiveness camera.

“Full-Self Driving” (again, not an autonomous driving system) comes with additional features that include “Navigate on Autopilot,” automatic lane changes, Smart Summon/Summon, Autopark and Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. Plus, “Autosteer on city streets,” that you’ve likely seen videos of at this point. Most competitors can’t match this, but Mercedes-Benz is notably the first OEM to offer true Level 3 autonomy under specific conditions.

That said, we have serious issues with the way Full-Self Driving functions. The system still requires constant supervision and can lead you into some dangerous situations. For a few examples, in our testing we saw it try to drive into curbs on multiple occasions, come to sudden stops at flashing yellow lights and even tried to cut around folks waiting in a right turn lane by using the paved shoulder to their right.

In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Model Y was awarded five-out-of-five stars across all evaluations. Similarly, it achieved the highest rating of “Good” across the board from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which also names the Model Y a Top Safety Pick+ for 2024, its highest award.

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