By Yuva Chandana, Lucas Kist, and Chris Claybon
Three teenagers with the keys to a brand new SUV almost never ends well, but is sure to be a blast. We tested a Tesla Model Y, hands on and everything. We ran it through its paces, pushed it to its limits, dug deep into its flaws and positives, and thoroughly investigated every stitch there is in this car. We left no stone unturned in this review, and so, here’s how it went…
We started out just trying to get into the car. Unplugging the Y from its plugged in charger in the wall was a perplexing situation in and of itself. Lucas took the first plunge at it, making us hold our breath as he tried to yank it out. After actually unlocking the car and a quick google search we got it unplugged and ready to go. Or so we thought. As soon as we hopped in the car, we were met with a tiny dilemma, how to start the car. Finding the right spot for the key was a bit difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite intuitive. One thing we noticed right away was how thought out everything was. Overlord Elon Musk may not be so nuts after all, it seemed everything was done with a rhyme and a reason. Not just hastily thrown together in some plant in Dearborn. I’m looking at you Ford. Quality materials lined the interior, and an actual wood trim glissades across the dash. Here came problem number three, how to put it into gear. There’s no center shifter nor a true column shifter. After a quick google search and a whole lot of arguing, we were finally on the road.
About 15 minutes into the review and we were just now getting on the road. The car immediately gave off that signature “spaceship” vibe, making a gliding noise as you drove it. As a former EV skeptic, driving the Tesla felt no different than driving a regular car. The only huge difference is the regenerative braking, a feature which I wish was more configurable. Tesla does give you the option to choose what the pedals do when released as a stop, but there’s no way to turn off regen braking from a movement, which makes you learn a whole different driving style. Our 0-60 timing gave it a solid 4.1 seconds, and every time we accelerated our heads pinned back against the seat. That instant torque is no joke and gives you all available horsepower nearly right away. No gears means the Tesla can keep its acceleration rate for longer, it’d be interesting to see how it would do on a racetrack around corners. Body roll was kept to a minimum, as proven by our countless number of U-turns Lucas insisted on pulling. I felt slightly nauseous, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Elon had implemented a virtual barf bag into his huge center screen. The steering is heavy and girthy, exactly how you’d want it to be. Modern day steering I feel like is too light in economy cars, but with the Y, it feels like your inputs actually matter more. The steering wheel deadzone is pretty small, and makes for sharp and precise inputs.
When I took over at the helm, I toyed around more with the regenerative braking. A handy chart built into the infotainment screen shows real time range updates, getting rid of that range anxiety people tend to get. The regen brakes, they do brake pretty hard, and the timing is hard to get down. As all things however, most people do get used to it. With 283 horsepower, gassing it is a load of fun. We did plenty of launches and each one was equally thrilling. We let Chris push it to its limits in a controlled environment, or in his terms, he gave it “the beans”. The instant torque was apparent, and the entire ride was smooth. Even at high speeds, the SUV barebones don’t stick out, it handled well no matter the situation. Each launch pinned us all back in our seats, making the Tesla a dark horse for a fun car.
Despite the minimalistic interior, the center screen steals the show. That screen controls everything, from the glovebox to the exterior lights. It’s quite intuitive and is pretty user friendly. The speedometer is also tacked on there and its just as convenient as the normal location. Also stuffed in there are plenty of random goodies Elon Musk brewed up in his evil SpaceX lair. He put a plethora of playable, enjoyable games that have great attention to detail. Our MarioKart spinoff had detailed Teslas. Hidden are easter eggs such as Romance Mode, the ability to turn your navigation into Mars, and the changing of your horn sound.In addition, streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu are included. This is pretty handy especially at superchargers, where you’d be waiting a while.
That won’t be used too often however with 326 miles of range on a full charge. Unless you’re going on a full road trip, it won’t be too big of a deal. A lot of features are built in to conserve as much range as possible; other than regenerative braking, AutoPilot is a huge one. We didn’t get the full version, but who really needs it? In my opinion it’s a $10,000 gimmick for some overrated software. The Y did perfect in its AutoPilot tests, except we couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. But we eventually figured out it was the brake and problem solved. The Tesla maintained its lanes well and we ran into no issues. The center screen shows cars, people, and even proximity to the curb, it was more technologically advanced than I could have ever imagined.
I think the Tesla has really turned me and the guys over to the EV side. We used to be heavy skeptics and critics, yet driving this felt like a cool new adventure. For the daily driver, the Y is a great value, with purchase price of ours being about $45,000. For that much you get a super capable AWD vehicle, plenty of cargo space, all the aforementioned things, and YouTube in your car… who could refuse?