The Model Y beats all the other Tesla Models and other luxury SUVs around the same size, and it’s obvious why. It’s more practical than the Model 3, it’s faster than a BMW X3M-competition and it’s got better tech than anything I have seen on the market at the same price point. But is this the best Tesla yet?
The new 2020 Tesla Model Y is the latest offering from Tesla and is due for delivery in early 2020. This is big for Tesla because finally they have a relatively affordable family crossover SUV, and today I’m going to review it.
I’ve borrowed the Model Y from a dealer who got one of the very first ones built and the very first one that was sold new to a customer. In my mind, it’s a really big deal, probably the most important Tesla on sale right now.
That’s because everybody wants SUV’s and crossovers right now, that’s where the market is heading. But Tesla’s lineup is heavy on cars, the majority of their sales are the Model 3 and Model S sedans, Tesla does have a crossover the Model X but it’s starting price of around $85,000 places it well out of the reach of most people. But that changes now.
The base-level Model Y will start around $40,000 when it goes on sale, sometime early 2020. That’s still not Honda CRV cheap, but it’s far more affordable than the Model X.
Right now, two versions are offered, you can get the long-range Model with a range of about 320 miles at a starting price of around $53,000. Or, you can upgrade to the performance, which has a starting price of around $61,000 and has a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. Which puts this deep into sports car territory.
And yet, this is no sports car, quite the opposite. It’s a family crossover, about the same length as a BMW X3 or a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And like those Models, the Model Y seats 5 with 2 rows of seats. Although, Tesla says a third row is coming sometime next year to expand the Model Y’s practicality.
The Model Y we tested is well equipped with the performance upgrade and with Tesla’s autopilot self-driving system, for a sticker price of just under $70,000. First I’m going to take you on a tour of the Model Y to show you all of the interesting quirks and features of the latest Tesla that I found.
Model Y And Model 3 Differences
Alright, I’m going to start with the quirks and features of the Model Y, and that would be pointing out the differences between the Model Y and the Model 3. These cars share about 75% of their parts, but there are some key differences that I’ll show you, and that means starting in the back seat.
Model Y Rear Cabin Area
The Y is a larger car than the 3, intended for more family use as a crossover would be. To that end, I’m happy to report that the legroom is just fine. The driver’s seat is positioned where I would sit in it, and I have good legroom and knee room in the back. For reference, I’m 6 foot 3 tall.
It’s not huge or overly abundant, but more than enough for me to sit comfortably which is nice. More important though is the Headroom, I was concerned that the Headroom would be an issue in this car because of the sloping roof design. The roof slopes over the back seats and I thought that would limit rear headroom, but that is not the case.
Rear Cabin Seating
I can sit in the back perfectly upright and I still have a couple of inches between my head and the roof. Part of the reason for that is the panoramic glass roof, which is not as thick as a typical vehicle headliner which gives you a couple of extra inches of room for your head to fit in.
I can confidently say there is ample rear-seat room in the back of the Model Y, more than the Model 3 for both heads and legs. I will say that there is one drawback to the rear-seat and that it feels a little bit narrow.
If you have two people in the back it’s not a problem but the middle seat is kind of pinched, it just seems a little bit narrower than it should be to provide room for three passengers.
Rear Cabin Climate Control
There are some drawbacks to the whole Tesla minimalist interior, and they are felt in the back seat. For one thing, you have rear climate control vents, but no climate controls in the back. In other words, the rear passengers cannot control their temperature.
You also have heated rear seats in the back, except you can’t control them from the back either. There are no buttons, there’s no screen in the back to activate the heated rear seats. Instead, you have to ask the front seat occupants nicely to turn it on using the center screen in the front.
There are a few good items worth noting in the back, for one there is a center armrest. You fold down the panel in the middle of the seats which also includes cupholders. This is nice for rear-seat passengers especially since this will primarily be used to transport kids for a lot of families.
Another benefit in the back is you have USB ports, and not just regular USB but USBC. You can see them below the rear climate vents. You get two ports, one for each rear passenger.
Another notable rear seat item is the latch on the top of the back seat, next to the headrest. You can use this latch for two different purposes, one is to adjust the backrest to various positions for more comfort. It can be adjusted to have the seat upright or tilt it back depending on what you’re looking for.
For you can also use this latch to hold it down and put the seat back down in case you want more cargo space. The whole seat bag doesn’t go down at once that way you can put a large item in here but also keep a seat available in case you want to carry more cargo and still have a rear passenger.
Of course, you can also fold the entire seatback down if you want, just go over to the other side there’s a corresponding latch to put it down and then the entire seatback is folded down.
In the Model Y, there are a couple of interesting items in the back compared to the Model 3, which is, of course, more sedan-like in its cargo area. For one thing, you see it is a large cargo area, a 66 cubic feet space Tesla says, that’s pretty standard for a vehicle this size.
BMW X3 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are about the same size as the Model Y, they have about the same cargo volume as the Y.
It’s worth noting that the cargo volume is much larger than the Model 3, which is about 15 cubic feet. The Model Y has more than four times as much cargo volume as the Model 3, and that alone will push some people to switch from the 3 to the Y.
One notable item in the cargo area is that you can drop the rear seats from the cargo area over on the left on the driver’s side. You have two little switches that you can pull to lower the corresponding rear seat. It’s a very easy process and a lot of crossovers and SUV’s had this.
Although it is worth noting that you cannot use these switches to re-raise the seats, if you want the seats to go back up you have to walk-around, open the rear passenger door and push them back into place manually.
One interesting item on the subject of the seats folding down relates to the middle seat, which can fold down separately of the other two seats on the side. You can’t do it with one of the switches in the back, you have to go around and pull the little latch in the back of the middle seat.
I guess the theory here is that Tesla wants you to be able to have two rear-seat passengers in place, and also have some additional cargo space.
Makes sense but the weird part is that when you fold down the middle seat you have a little bar that sticks out rather obtrusively which looks a little strange.
I guess that’s the bar that the middle seat would typically be latched onto when it’s in place, but when you have it folded down it hangs out there in space, a little bit of an odd design decision.
There are a few rather clever tricks Tesla has included in the cargo space. The floor is very flat so easy to get things in and out but it has some little cavities on either side where you can stick stuff if you don’t want them rolling around while you drive.
That’s pretty standard, but if you pull up on the little leather loop that you will find next to the back door latch you can lift the back half of the cargo floor where you have more storage space. A lot of cars have this but this one is surprisingly deep, you can get a lot of stuff back there.
But that isn’t all the clever cargo storage space in the trunk. There’s also a second underfloor cargo area directly behind the rear seats if you open that one up you will see there’s even more storage space.
Again to place more items out of the way if you don’t want them rolling around, or if you don’t want them to be seen in the back of your vehicle.
One other thing I want to mention about the Model Y is it has two rows of seats, but a third row is supposedly going to be available sometime in the next year or so. Are you wondering how you are going to a third row back? I guess that the third row is going to be rear-facing, so looking backward which is a solution that Tesla has used in the past.
I say that because the rear design is steeply raked so you couldn’t fit a third-row forward-facing and get the headrests and seats in place, this vehicle is just too small and it comes down too low in the back.
One other item worth noting in the cargo area. There is no cargo cover, which is unusual for crossovers or anything with a tailgate. So you can’t cover the stuff you have in the trunk, although I will say that with the factory provided the tinted glass is really hard to see through the glass so it’s hard to tell what you have in there anyway.
The Model Y has black trim on the outside, the door handles and various other pieces are black where most Model threes have chrome. It looks a little better, a little more modern in black and the Y has its standard in black.
Here’s another one that’s rather silly the seats in the Model Y are the same as the ones in the Model 3, but because this is a taller car with a taller passenger compartment they had to set them up higher.
And so they did literally that, they’re just mounted on platforms. They are the same seats as the Model 3 just stuck on these platforms to give them a higher seating position.
Another welcome change is the panoramic roof. No, it still doesn’t open, but you do have one large uninterrupted piece of glass, no crossbar in the middle. It’s just a giant piece of glass that makes you feel like you’re one with the skies.
Although, it is worth noting it is heavily tinted, so if you live in a sunny or hot place like Florida or Arizona you’re not going to get too much sun coming through making you uncomfortable.
Another difference between the Model 3 and Model Y is the wheel design. The Y has completely different wheels from the three, both the base model and the performance. The 21 -inch wheels look nice on this car, although I think they’ll make the ride feel a little harsher than the Model 3.
My very favorite thing about Teslas is the autopilot. Autopilot is Tesla’s self-driving system that will automatically steer, brake, accelerate, lane change for you, and the system just keeps getting better and better.
You can turn the autopilot on and the car will follow the terrain of the road, I tried it when testing the Model Y and the car just followed the curves in the road, it’s a very comprehensive self-driving system.
With that said, it isn’t fully self-driving regardless of what Tesla might tell you. You have to tap the wheel every so often to make sure the car knows that you’re still there and you’re still paying attention. That way they can stop people watching a movie or reading while they’re behind the wheel.
One nice thing that has changed is the graphics they now use with autopilot. It used to be able to show cars and maybe motorcyclists or bicycles and maybe large trucks, that was pretty much it. But now it’s way more intelligent.
I noticed when I was driving in traffic that when I was following a pickup truck it showed a pickup truck on the screen, that’s pretty. And when I was behind a van it showed a van graphic on the screen.
One other thing I noticed was when I was sitting at a stoplight with a red turn arrow and green traffic lights the screen notices the red turn arrow and the green traffic lights. It can also see the arrow painted on the ground noting that I am in a left turn lane. That is a pretty cool trick.
The reason this system now recognizes traffic lights is that Tesla reportedly plans to roll out a version of autopilot that won’t just slow down when the car in front of you slows down but will stop when it senses traffic lights.
In my opinion, using this and seeing the screen it does a really good job of noticing every traffic light, and what color all the lights are. It’s really impressive and it will be interesting to see if they can successfully implement that. It’s a smart system and they have come a long way with their autopilot system.
Next up I do want to go over two of my very favorite tech features in this car. I covered them before in my Model three performance review, one is sentry mode and this is how it works.
You see there are some cameras on the outside of the car, one is on the door pillar and there’s another one just in front of the front passenger door. The cool thing here is you can program your Model Y to activate sentry mode when it’s locked, and then the cameras will always be alert to detect motion in case someone walks up to your car.
If that happens the lights flash and a warning come on the center screen letting you know that sentry mode is activated and you don’t want to break into this car.
Then when you, the car owner, and get back into your car after you’ve had it parked for a while, it will tell you how many times sentry mode has been activated while you were away.
When you get back to your car you will know if someone came up to your car while you had it parked and potentially tried to break in. Because it’s cameras are monitoring you can even watch the clips of what sentry mode detected, in case something is damaged or stolen. It’s like having your private guard for your car while you are away.
The other feature I like on the Model Y is something called dog mode. You go into the climate control and put on dog mode, you can then leave your dog in the car and the climate control will stay on keeping the interior at reasonable ambient room temperature for your dog.
That’s pretty cool, but of course, you’re worried that someone will see your dog in the car, not know it’s in dog mode and then break the window to save it, even though it’s nice and cool in here. Well, Tesla, has that covered.
We’ll check this out, the screen lets people know that the car is in dog mode and that the temperature is nice and comfortable in the car. It’s a great idea for people who want to leave their dog in the car while they run into a store.
Another interesting quirks and features worth noting are the climate’s control. You have something called the camp mode, and if you turn this on it will keep the climate control running until the car gets down to 20% battery charge.
I guess the thinking here is that maybe you can camp in the car, and stay at a comfortable temperature and the car will just keep running the climate-control, hence why they call it camp mode.
Another item worth noting in the climate controls is how you turn on the heated rear seats. You just pop into the menu on your display screen and turn them on, the car we tested even has a heated middle rear seat, which I’ve never seen before.
Unfortunately, rear passengers can’t turn it on themselves, they have to ask the driver to go into the menu and do it for them.
Steering Wheel Dials
One of my very favorite Tesla quirks is the steering wheel dials. If you take a look at the steering wheel you have two little dials. If you move the one on the left it adjusts the radio volume, nothing unusual about that, but it’s unusually special in this car.
That’s because the dials do a lot more than just the radio volume. Go into steering wheel adjustment in the infotainment screen and you will see the dials have changed their purpose, now you can use them to adjust the steering wheel both tilt it up, and down, and telescope it forward and back. That is a cool use of these dials but we’re not done yet.
If you go into the mirror adjustment in the center screen the dials are now able to adjust the mirrors. If you move the dial around the mirror will move correspondingly. So these dials can have different functions depending on what you’re trying to do in the car.
One other noteworthy item on the giant Tesla Center screen is the door locks. You can configure the locks to automatically lock when you walk away from the car, Tesla Models don’t have a traditional key like most cars, instead, most key functions are done from an app on your phone.
You don’t walk away and press the lock button on your key fob like a normal keyed car, you just configure it to lock automatically as you walk away.
It is worth noting, however, that if you’re letting someone borrow your Tesla you don’t also need to let them borrow your phone to gain access.
Instead, you just give them the card that comes with the car. The card will fit in your wallet and when you want to unlock the Tesla just hold it up to the little point on the B-pillar and the doors unlock.
From there, if you want to start the car you have put the card key near the cupholders in the center console, the car will start and allow you to drive it away. So that’s what you give to friends or other family members if they want to borrow your Model Y.
One menu I love is the acceleration mode, you can have either sports or chill mode. Another notable item in the menu you can choose to configure is what happens when you stop, for example at a traffic light.
You can either have the car remain stationary or creep forward, you can adjust that setting in the display menu depending on which one you’d prefer.
Another item worth mentioning is the settings for sentry mode, you can have sentry mode turn off when you have the car at home or work. This makes sense because you have the car parked at home in your garage or driveway, and you’re constantly walking around it.
If you have the sentry mode turned on all the time even at home the Sentry mode is going to activate all the time you don’t necessarily want that.
I mentioned before that you can have the cameras constantly recording while you are driving along, in case there’s an incident. If you want to save a clip you can program it to save the recording when you honk the horn.
I guess the thinking is if you honk the horn you’re in trouble on the road or some dangerous situation and so you might need the recording for insurance purposes or if you need to give it to the police.
There is an unusual item in the center screen menu and that is called Joe mode. Joe mode is an alert that will alert the driver when necessary, but keep alerts to the rear passengers at a minimum so it won’t distract them, or maybe wake them up when you’re driving.
It gives the example of rear passengers like Joe’s kids, who exactly is Joe? I don’t understand that one but the idea is a system that keeps the alerts in the front so the rear passengers aren’t disturbed.
Another function of the menu screen is to open the tailgate, just press the tailgate icon and the tailgate will pop open automatically. You can also use it to open the front trunk, press open and the front trunk unlatches, but then you have to go around and open it up.
And yes the Model Y has a front trunk, one of the benefits of not having a large ICE engine up there.
Vehicle Color Matches
Another item I like on the menu screen is you can see that the vehicle on-screen is color-matched to the vehicle you are driving. I was driving a blue MOdel Y so the car depicted on the menu screen was blue.
I also like how responsive the menu screen is to your brake light and turn signal usage. When I select the turn signals or press the brake pedal you can see the brake lights light up on the screen, and if I put on the turn signal the same thing happens.
So now the car lights up on the screen to let me know that it’s lit up both on my virtual car and my actual car.
One more interesting item you use this screen to open the glove box. On the screen you will see there’s a little glove box icon, you push that and the glove box opens up. A little bit more complicated than your standard glove box opening.
Front Cabin Storage
Speaking of interior storage, in this car, there’s quite a bit in addition to the glovebox. For one thing, you have the center console between the seats, you can open it up and there’s a little top shelf, or you can pull that out and have a larger deeper center console storage area.
You also have two Center storage areas further forward next to the cupholders, the one on top contains the wireless charging system so you can put your phone in there and it will wirelessly charge as you drive.
The other one is just a traditional storage area where you can stick more stuff if you don’t want it rolling around while you drive.
The most interesting thing about these little storage areas is that their lids are magnetic. You don’t just latch it down, instead, you just put it near where it’s supposed to go and a magnet does the rest.
The funny thing is if you become too animated and try to slam the lid closed the car will display a warning message on the center screen telling you to be more gentle. I’ve never seen this before, a warning message telling you to calm down with your center console lid slamming.
The Minimalist Look
Next up I want to talk about the interior in general. Model Y is very similar to Model 3 but if you haven’t been around a Model 3 expect minimalism. You don’t get all sorts of consoles and buttons and designs, it’s a very simple, very basic looking minimalist interior. Some people will like it, some people don’t.
I like the minimalist interior, it looks modern and fresh and futuristic and I think it very much goes along with Tesla’s design ethos. Although, I do wish they had included a heads up display right in front of the steering wheel to give you your most important information.
Like what gear you’re in, what speed you’re doing, whether your turn signals and wipers are on. Just a tiny little display or a projection onto the windshield like so many other cars would have been better.
Instead, you have to look at the top left corner of the screen, and because of the steering wheel it’s out of your line of sight, and just a little too far away to be completely convenient, they can solve this problem so easily.
Door Locking Mechanism
Other items worth noting are the doors unlatched electronically, there’s no traditional mechanical latch you pull. Instead, you push a button located on the interior door handle and that will electronically open the door leaving you to push it open from there.
Just in case the battery dies while you’re inside the car there is a manual door release you can find just below the door release button, you just pull on it and the door will open with its traditional mechanical latch.
Although when you do that a warning pops up on the screen and lets you know that opening the door manually may damage your door trim, so it’s not something you want to do very often.
And finally, our last interesting interior item in here is the Sun visors, which are magnetic. I’ve always known that the visor mirror cover is magnetic and this kind of trick function lets you open the visor mirror while not having the cover kind of hanging down too low.
But in this car, the visor itself is not clipped on with a clip, but rather with a magnet. You can pull it off and you will see there’s no clip keeping it in place, just a magnet keeping it in place.
At the time of the article you can only get the long-range Model and the performance, as I said previously the long-range starts around $53,000 and the performance star around $61,000.
From there you can get the performance in two ways. There’s the regular performance, or you can get the performance with the performance upgrade. So you can have a performance non-performance and a performance-performance.
Tesla trim levels remain confusing, even though it appears they’ve now ditched that P85D trim that most people didn’t understand except for Tesla enthusiasts. Like I’ve mentioned the base Model of the Model Y will start from around $40,000 with rear-wheel drive in a range of about two hundred and thirty miles.
Right now the long-range Model Y and the performance both come as standard with all-wheel-drive and they have a range of about 315 miles, which is pretty good. Unless you get the performance-performance, then your range drops to 280 miles, because you got larger wheels.
You also get performance brakes and a slightly higher top speed. Interestingly the performance, performance upgrade is free, I guess because you’re getting some stuff but you’re also losing range.
So you can choose whether you want the performance with the higher range or the performance-performance with the lower range and the larger wheels.
The 0-60 time for the long-range Model Y is 4.8 seconds, the performance is 3.5 seconds, that’s a little slower than the Model 3 performance as you’d expect because this is essentially just a larger Model 3.
Finally as for colors. White is free, there are a few other colors available and they all cost a $1,000 extra, at least that part of this process is pretty simple.
So those are the quirks and features of the Tesla Model Y, now it’s time to get it out on the road and see how it drives.
How Does The Model Y Drive?
Driving the Model Y let’s start where everybody starts. This car is so fast, it’s unbelievable that it’s so fast. I tried a lot of fast SUVs but there’s a couple of really unusual things about this one.
For one thing, it’s just so instantaneous, and then there’s no sound which makes it feel even faster.
The Model Y is a little bit slower than Model 3 performance, but in my mind, it’s a trade-off worth making. One thing you get is additional cargo space, four times more space and you’re sitting up a little higher, which some people want.
Steering and Handling
In terms of steering and handling, you can tell very quickly some interesting things. One is the steering is still really quick, that was a thing that I loved about the Model 3, there was no on-center laziness, the moment you start turning it starts turning.
Some automakers don’t make their steering quick enough in my opinion, even good established automakers most of them in fact, but Tesla has gotten that right
One big difference you can tell right off the bat is that this car is taller, and so in terms of handling you’re looking at more of a body roll, and you’re not going to have as much of a sports car like the BMW M3 or the Model 3 performance.
At the end of the day, even Elon can’t fight physics, that’s just the reality of a taller car. I think it’s the best combination of Tesla so far, which is why I’m so into it. I like the Model 3, but like most people, I have gotten more and more into SUVs.
I have a bunch of them myself, this is where the market is headed. This car isn’t as splashy as when the Model 3 came out or when the S came out or when the Roadster is going to come out, in the sense that it doesn’t blaze an uncharted territory.
But by entering this new segment it’s a different world, especially when the third-row seating comes out and people can use this as a realistically practical, minivan replacement. Toyota Highlander competitor that is going to be a big splash.
It is reasonably quiet, nothing particularly unusual. It’s similar to other crossovers that are at this price point in terms of road noise and quietness, maybe even a little bit quieter.
You do feel more of the road than a lot of the competitors but I think heads because it says the 21-inch wheels and the larger wheels are adjustable weights going to have that effect.
You have less tire sidewall, the car I drove was the performance model so the suspension was upgraded for sporting or driving feel, at the end of the day it’s just going to be a little bit harsher.
Of course, it’s very quiet with no gasoline engine. One thing I am surprised about is a lack of wind noise. It’s always been a question with Tesla because the build quality is never quite as good or consistent as with other large scale automakers.
And so you get in one, you’re thinking is something going to be off a little? And you may hear the wind, well, actually it was really quiet in terms of wind noise.
This car is really quick, and you know what the interesting thing is? It just doesn’t stop coming, this car has a lot of horsepower. One of the early criticisms of the early EV’s, like the Leaf and the Bolt we’re they are fast initially but then it slows down.
Well, you get the performance versions of these Tesla’s and that’s not the experience you have any more, you just have power and power and speed and speed and it just keeps going.
This is a really important vehicle for Tesla, the Model 3 has been very popular and tremendously well-received, but with the market trend going toward SUVs and crossovers this is the Tesla that everybody is going to want.
It’s a great vehicle and it might just be the best, most well rounded Tesla yet, especially when the third row of seats comes later to add more practicality.
The only thing that lets the Model Y down, in my opinion, is the styling, and that’s why I give it a 5 out of 10. It certainly isn’t beautiful, though I don’t consider it ugly, otherwise, this is a great all-around vehicle. I think it’s more well rounded than a Model 3 and a better buy than the Model X.
The Model X costs more money, it’s no faster and it has those stupid doors that are so ostentatious and attention-seeking.
I see no real reason now to get a Model X, except for the third row, and even then the Model Y will add that soon which will probably make the Y the best all-around Tesla in existence.