- Driving the Tesla Model Y showed me why people are so in love with Elon Musk’s cars.
- Popular as it may be, the Model Y SUV isn’t the perfect electric SUV for everyone.
- If you need a comfy, plush ride and uncomplicated physical controls, it may be best to consider other models.
I recently drove a Tesla for the first time, and I’m starting to get why Elon Musk’s cars are by far the most popular electric vehicles in the country.
In addition to benefiting from a decade-plus head start on other carmakers, Tesla’s cars are sporty, packed with interesting tech, and simple to charge through the company’s exclusive Supercharging network.
But my day with a friend’s Model Y SUV also taught me Teslas aren’t perfect or for everyone, despite what some of the brand’s most vocal fans may tell you. (Tesla doesn’t loan out cars to journalists, so I had to get a little resourceful.)
The Model Y’s firm suspension gives it the liveliness and precision of a sports car but not without sacrifice. Drive down any less-than-perfect road in the Model Y and you’ll notice every bump and crack. Some vehicles are built to soak up road imperfections for passenger comfort, but the Model Y isn’t one of them.
Ride quality may be better on models equipped with the standard 19-inch wheels, as opposed to the 20-inch rims I experienced.
There’s another double-edged sword in the Model Y: Its iPad-like, 15-inch touchscreen. It’s quick and responsive, featuring impressive graphics and fun features like games, but replaces practically all the switches, buttons, and knobs that drivers are accustomed to.
Like other Teslas, the Model Y packs functions like door locks, windshield wipers, headlights, climate controls (including air-vent direction), and mirror adjustments into the screen. While this all may become second nature for most owners over time, the learning curve may be too steep for some.
(You can also access many functions through voice commands.)
Lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
For all its cutting-edge features, the Model Y does without some of the most basic and widespread tech features on the market: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Anyone who’s used to relying on their smartphone while driving will have to use Tesla’s built-in navigation and music apps instead.
No gauge cluster
One of the strangest things about hopping into a Tesla for the first time was belting in, looking forward, and seeing nothing. All the important driving info that would normally be shown in a gauge cluster behind the steering wheel is instead displayed in the Model Y’s all-powerful touchscreen.
It means you have to glance sideways to check your speed, cruise-control settings, battery level, and turn-by-turn directions. While this may not be a deal breaker, it can be distracting to constantly peer at the display, and the Model Y could benefit from a driver-facing display like you’d find in most competing electric cars.
The Model Y’s slanted roof pinches its back window, impeding visibility. But this problem plagues lots of new SUVs with the same trendy coupe shape.
Prices keep rising
New cars have gotten more expensive during the pandemic as automakers faced shortages of semiconductors and rising raw materials prices. But Tesla’s prices in particular have been out of control over the last year or so.
Tesla briefly sold a Model Y Standard Range for around $41,000 but eliminated that cheapest model in early 2021. Since then, the price of the new base version (the Model Y Long Range) has rocketed from around $50,000 to $66,000.
The Y provides lots of range and capability for the money, but competing electric SUVs can be had for between $40,000 and $50,000. Even Musk admits that Tesla’s prices are “embarrassing.”