Vehicle: 2020 Tesla Model Y (Dual Motor Long Range)
MSRP as tested: $83,190
Specs: Dual electric motors (384 hp, 376 lb-ft torque), with a 75 kwh battery (507km range, EPA estimate)
0-100kmh as tested: 4.6 seconds (5.0 claimed)
Despite what Tesla’s marketing department might tell you, the Model Y is essentially a taller and larger Model 3 with a hatch. That’s not to say it’s not good; on the contrary if you’ve never owned a Tesla, the Model Y is almost guaranteed to blow your mind with its blend of impressive performance, cutting-edge technology, and surprising practicality. There's a reason why the Model 3 sold like hotcakes, and with perks like ludicrous acceleration, razor sharp handling, being cheap to fill up, Autopilot, and a bunch of ridiculous yet surprisingly useful features (as well as a handful of useless but equally ridiculous Easter Eggs), its easy to see why Model Y will be such a uniquely enticing option, even in the cut-throat small luxury crossover segment.
Model Y is quite a fun and zippy little crossover, delivering explosive bursts of power at the tap of your foot, and cornering grip that makes it feel like its on rails. Pop the steering into Sport and steering gets stiffer than many sports cars (almost to the point of feeling unnaturally stiff), responding to even the smallest inputs immediately, precisely, and with little drama. It’s not as razor sharp as the Model 3, and its low-slung battery pack can’t quite completely mask its higher centre of gravity and increased mass, but for its size it corners as flat as you could ask for, and handles as well as the best sporty crossovers out there.
Even though this Dual Motor version is rated to do 0-100kmh in 5 seconds, it feels WAY faster than that. Clocking in at an impressive 4.6 seconds during our testing, Model Y can almost rival acceleration figures of far pricier high-performance crossovers, despite only being the ‘non-performance’ model. Believe it or not, in most scenarios on public roads, it felt even quicker than the 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo we were also testing during the same week, thanks to its immediate and explosive power delivery giving it a solid head start (even if it may be a fraction of a second slower in a quarter-mile drag race; 0.3 seconds slower to be exact). Now that’s impressive…
So it’s safe to say that Model Y isn’t simply an “iPhone on wheels”; in fact, it drives like a proper sports crossover, and outperforms rivals in most performance metrics. It does also have its flaws though. Even though steering is heavy weighted and sharp, it feels a bit artificial and doesn’t provide too much feedback or elasticity. The steering wheel's small size yet thick girth can also be a bit off-putting, and even with its low centre of gravity and digital traction wizardry giving it massive cornering grip, the car feels heavier than rivals around a bend. Though to be fair, these are very minor nuances that most Model Y buyers probably won’t notice or care about. Just know that while Model Y can probably beat a similarly-specced performance crossover, it might not have the same feel, feedback, or playfulness as something like a Porsche Macan or a BMW X3.
Side note, we also had the chance to briefly try the Model Y Performance. As you might expect, it feels like a Model Y on steroids, accelerating and handling impossibly well for something of its shape and size without much compromise beyond a slightly stiffer ride and 41 km less range. We’ll be covering it in a separate review once we manage to get our hands on one for a week.
Ride and Comfort:
The best way to describe Model Y's ride is: better than average in the city, and below average on the highway. During city driving, the complete lack of engine noise and vibrations makes it feel as if Model Y simply glides forward, propelled by a powerful invisible force (an odd yet satisfying sensation if you've never driven an EV before). Even as a passenger, you get a sense of how effortlessly and smoothly the car accelerates. At higher speeds and over rough surfaces however, other forces overpower the tranquility created by the lack of an engine, and if anything, make you more aware of the loud tire-on-road noise (even with its special sound deadening foam filled tires). Tesla's firm suspension setup also is a bit less cushy than comfort-oriented rivals, though neither of these aspects are out-of-line for the class, and is entirely acceptable unless you’ve got some really picky passengers.
Up front, Model Y's interior is identical to Model 3's, employing the same minimalistic design with nothing but a giant slab of open pore wood (or white ceramic depending on your interior colour choice) spanning the entire dash, a 15-inch touchscreen in the centre, and a simple steering wheel with two stalks and scroll wheels on it. Nothing more is needed, as Tesla has managed to stuff all the controls into these 3 input methods, from the climate controls and air flow direction adjustments, to the electric steering and mirror adjustments, to the wiper speeds and glovebox release mechanism.
You might think this becomes a pain in the ass, but actually it's more intuitive than you'd think. Within a day I found myself already acclimated to all the controls I'd ever need to access while driving (all except the directional air flow adjustments; even after a week it still felt overly complicated to adjust). Harder to access controls such as the steering wheel, mirror, and seat position are not a problem, as the car remembers your profile settings, and automatically defaults to your preferred settings when it detects your phone (which also acts as the key).
For rear passengers, the differences are much more noticeable. The most obvious is the huge uninterrupted panoramic glass roof (Model 3's roof is cut in half by the B-Pillar roof bar), spanning the entire cabin and making the interior feel a lot more open. Of course the raised and far roomier rear seats also make the cabin feel huge, with an extra 1.7 inches of headroom and a whooping 5.3 inches of leg room added to the Model 3's already impressively spacious rear. Other minor differences include the redesigned rear cabin lights and coat hooks, as well as details such as updated USB-C ports and a wireless charger (which Model 3 has also adopted very recently).
Practicality wise, the Model Y is also a strong contender. As with any other crossover, the hatchback design allows for far more trunk space and flexibility than any sedan including the Model 3, but it doesn't stop there. Under the trunk floor there is a surprisingly deep cubby that's large enough to fit a watermelon, as well as deep pockets on each side large enough for a full grocery bag. Its seats also fold independently and flat, allowing for larger and longer items, and with its tall doors and huge hatch opening, its quite easy to get large times in and out of the car too. Finally there is of course the front trunk, which is signficnlty deeper than Model 3's and large enough for a small carry-on suitcase.
Looks are subjective of course, but personally I wouldn't exactly call the Model Y a stunner. Maybe it's because we're just so used to looking at the sleeker Model 3 by now, but its proportions look slightly bulbous and awkward. From the front, you can really tell that Model Y shares 70% of its parts with the Model 3, but from the side profile, it actually resembles the flagship Model X quite a bit with its tall coupe-like roofline.
All cars come standard with a chrome-delete, replacing its chrome window trim, door handles, side indicators, and mirror housings with matte black versions. Unlike other manufacturers, there are also very few visual distinctions between the regular Model Y and its performance versions, the main differences being the red brake callipers, 21 inch performance wheels, rear spoiler, and badging (even this is subtle; performance versions simply get their 'Dual Motor' badge underlined with a red stripe, as opposed to having AMG or M badges plastered everywhere inside and out).
The Tesla Ownership and Service Experience:
Tesla is famous for doing everything in a radically new way, and though its flashy high tech cars get all the attention, the ownership and service experience itself is also very unique and forward-thinking, especially compared to the the rest of the auto industry. Highlights include the phone app (which no other brand can remotely match when it comes to feature set, integration, and ease-of-use), Sentry mode which renders hit-and-runs or mysterious parking lot damage a thing of the past, and Netflix + Arcade mode, especially when paired with the shockingly good stereo system. There's way too much to talk about, so I've written a separate article diving into the ownership experience a bit more in depth, as well as build quality issues and some unique favourite features (will be published soon, stay tuned).
The ever-growing Supercharging network also plays a huge role in the Tesla ownership experience, essentially eliminating range anxiety. Combined with Tesla's excellent drivetrain efficiency and huge battery packs range, there really is no reasonable place you can't reach in North America without having to worry about finding a charging location with decent top-up speeds.
Recommended Build: Dual Motor AWD ($69,990)
Unlike many luxury crossovers, there aren’t that many options on the Model Y, though the few the exist are pricey… Our tester came with a $1300 Midnight Silver Metallic paint job, $1300 white interior, and last but not least, the Full Self-Driving Capability package (or so Tesla calls it) for a whopping $10,600. Total price? A whopping $83,190 before taxes or fees.
To be fair, Model Y is only offered with premium interior + sound for now, as well as in Dual Motor Long Range configuration, which subsequently bumps up its starting price quite a bit. While the price may seem steep, comparable luxury crossovers with similar specs and features will cost you around the same money, if not more.
Still, if we were to spec a Model Y today, we’d leave out the fancy paint jobs (which range from $1300 to $2600), and probably skip out on the Full Self-Driving (FSD) package too. As of writing, many of the FSD package’s core features aren’t yet available, and given the Model Y already comes standard with Autopilot, it just doesn’t seem worth the extra $10,600 to add auto lane changes and traffic sign/stop sign recognition, and a few party tricks (i.e. AutoPark and Smart Summon). Or at least, not until autonomous driving technology has made some further advancements.