Pros and Cons of an Everyday Electric SUV

Pros

  • Impressive EV range
  • Dynamic performance
  • Spacious packaging

Cons

  • Iffy build quality
  • Steam-bath sun panel
  • Ground clearance

The Tesla Model Y is not MotorTrend’s 2021 SUV of the Year. Nor is it a finalist for the award, or even a contender. Despite our repeated entreaties, Tesla declined to participate in the competition. In order to bring you this review, we rented a privately owned Model Y and evaluated it against our award criteria, but we respected Tesla’s desire not to be considered for our Golden Calipers.

Despite this setback, we feel the Model Y is a significant vehicle for Tesla, for the industry, and for the consumer—and thus it deserves to be evaluated. Richard Hak at Precision One Design in Torrance, California, agreed to rent us his low-mileage 2020 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor Long Range to do so. We found the Model Y scores very well against our six key criteria for determining the SUV of the Year.

The Model Y successfully translates the Model 3’s look to a taller vehicle without becoming cartoony. The roofline is surprisingly similar to that of an SUV coupe like the BMW X6, but it’s far more elegantly done. The conversion from trunk to hatch is nearly invisible, and the proportions are deftly maintained despite being 7.1 inches taller but only 2.2 inches longer. It can be easy to mistake a Model Y for a Model 3 if you don’t see the two together.

With an EPA-estimated range of 316 miles, the Model Y easily achieves the second-highest rating of any electric SUV, eclipsed only by Tesla’s larger Model X. At 121 mpg-e combined, it’s more efficient than any electric vehicle on the market except the smaller Model 3.

One of the highest compliments we can give this Model Y is that it’s a better car than the Model 3, which was a Car of the Year finalist. While providing more space for people and gear, it is “effortlessly smooth, with quick, agile steering, a buttoned-down though firm ride, flat power delivery, and integrated regenerative brakes that allow for one-pedal driving,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. Autopilot remains among the best semi-automated driver aids in the business. There are some misses, however: Misaligned body panels, a frustratingly small rear window, and the occupant-cooking glass roof show this is not the perfect crossover.

Few vehicles do what they’re meant to as well as the Model Y. It offers the commanding view of the road SUV buyers demand along with additional space for their family, pets, and cargo. It retains class-obliterating range while delivering performance only matched by sports cars at this price. Its technology is class-leading and ever-evolving but still easy to operate.

“It feels like I’m driving the future,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “Besides that, it drives awesome. It’s powerful, quick, and fun.” But is it an SUV? With ground clearance a spare 6.6 inches (just 1 inch more than a Toyota Camry sedan and well below the accepted industry standard 8.5 inches), you sure aren’t going off-roading in it.

At $51,190 to start (and Teslas no longer qualify for federal tax credits), the Model Y is one of few electric SUVs within reach of the upper middle class, and for that price it offers vastly greater driving range, interior space, cargo capacity, and performance than any similarly priced competitor (and every more expensive competitor, save Tesla’s own Model X). Beyond the vehicle, the value of over-the-air software updates and the Supercharger network cannot be understated.

The Tesla Model Y is an excellent crossover and an even better electric vehicle. It successfully builds on the style, range, technology, and value pioneered by the Model 3 sedan as it brings new functionality to buyers who want the look, the space, and the capability of an SUV.

2020 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor Long Range
Base Price $51,190
Price As Tested $53,190
Vehicle Layout Front + rear motor, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Motors Induction (front) + permanent magnet (rear); 384-hp/376 lb-ft (comb)
Transmission 1-speed direct
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,357 lb (50/50%)
Wheelbase 113.8 in
Length x Width x Height 187.0 x 75.6 x 63.9 in
0-60 MPH 4.1 sec
Quarter Mile 12.4 sec @ 114.8 mph
Braking, 60-0 MPH 118 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.86 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 25.2 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 127/114/121 mpg-e
EPA Estimated Range 316 mi
Time to Charge, Level 2 10.0 hrs
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 27/30 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.00 lb/mile (at vehicle)
Individual front- and rear-motor peak output (which may vary with rpm and hence are not necessarily additive). The combined horsepower and torque ratings are provided by the manufacturer. Miles-per-gallon equivalent (mpg-e), and predicted range are sourced from EPA results.

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