Elon Musk kept calling the Tesla Model Y a “mid-sized SUV” at the new car’s reveal party, but the proportions in real life are more Toyota Prius than Honda Pilot or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Here’s what I was able to glean about what it’s like to ride in on a trip around the block.
(Full Disclosure: I asked Tesla’s PR people as nicely as I could for an invitation to its Model Y unveiling event. They were kind enough to acquiesce.)
I had to elbow my way through a throng of puffy vests and gimbaled phones to join the line to go for a spin, but lucky me, once I got there Tesla’s black-suited security had made a special line for members of the press.
Good thing too, because there was only one demonstration car loading up with four passengers at a time and doing laps of a street adjacent to the company’s Hawthorne, Calif. facility.
You’ll have to forgive the super dark environment, which led to some pretty rough photos here. I won’t subject you to the video I tried to shoot, which wasn’t any better.
But to give you some perspective on this and any other Model Y ride reviews you might be reading today, here’s exactly how these rides happened: Once one passenger was in the front and three were buckled in the second row, Tesla’s designated driver made a U-turn from a stop, took a right onto a four-lane road closed off by police, squeeze the paddle and surged up to about 50 mph, braked, another U-turn, sawed the steering wheel back-and-forth a couple times at about 25 mph, and then parked us again.
Start-to-stop was about 100 seconds. The acceleration was palpable, even when hauling over 600 pounds of passengers plus a driver here.
As far as comfort, I pretty much agree with what Motor Trend’s Miguel Cortina said: “Legroom is decent, as there’s enough space for my 6-foot frame. But as another two people come into the second row, shoulder room gets tight.”
Tight means tight, though. There was no room for politeness between myself and the left rear passenger seat and my new friend right in the middle. Lots of awkward finagling for that seatbelt clip, too.
I have no idea how anyone is supposed to fit in the third row, but it’s possible that those seats are deeper than they might appear.
As others have said, the dashboard and interior appointments pretty much look identical to the Model 3—ultra spartan, with a gigantic horizontally oriented tablet running everything in the middle.
That darkness I mentioned, along with being shooed away from the car as soon as it came to a stop, precluded anybody from making judgments on the demo car’s build quality.
The driver the driver of the demonstration car describe the trim as “long-range dual motor,” which is odd, because there was no such trim described in Musk’s presentation. I think it’s safe to assume that the demo car was actually a Dual Motor Performance model (280 mile range, with a top speed of 150 mph, a 0 to 60 mph claim of 3.5 seconds, starting at $60,000) but we reached out to Tesla for confirmation anyway.
The Tesla Model Y has already proven divisive; there are folks who don’t like the look and those who just like anything Musk makes. But I actually think this car looks pretty handsome from the front three-quarter, and I still really like the panoramic roof in this and the Model 3.
It should go without saying, but we would need quite a few more miles to make any genuine assessments of what the car is like to ride in. But it’s cool to see that at least two copies of the Model Y now do in fact exist in the sheet metal and one of them is drivable.
Here’s hoping Tesla has an easier time getting the assembly line spinning than it did with the Model 3.