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2020 Tesla Model Y

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2020
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
August 10, 2020

Buying tip

The Performance model is tempting but the Long Range model has plenty of power, a longer range, and starts at $11,000 less and makes a whole lot more sense.

The 2020 Tesla Model Y adapts the formula of the best-selling Model 3 and applies it to a more popular crossover style for a winning combination.

The 2020 Tesla Model Y seeks to fuel the mass adoption of electric vehicles. With its punchy acceleration, exceptional efficiency, peerless infotainment, and over-the-air updates that freshen the crossover SUV like a smartphone, it just may. But some build quality issues and misleading driver assistance features could derail the Tesla hype wagon.  

For those reasons and many more explored here, the 2020 Tesla Model Y earns a high TCC Rating of 7.4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Styled like the Model 3 compact crossover but with an egg-shaped back for better cargo volume, the Model Y puts function over form. Yet, it distinguishes itself from all the other compact crossovers in the Super Target parking lot. Look a little closer and panel gaps and some flimsy interior plastic pieces suggest a rushed production job, however.

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The arching roofline creates a roomy interior housed under a tinted glass roof. There’s space for five adults in snug but supportive synthetic leather seats. The interior command center comes from a large 15-inch touchscreen unrivaled by the competition. It replaces the instrument cluster and functions like a laptop, controlling everything from the side mirrors to vehicle functions to a Toy Box that enables fart noises. Otherwise, the Model Y is well equipped with keyless entry and start, as well as heated front and rear seats, but doesn’t offer many luxury options.

Starting at $51,000 the 2020 Model Y comes in either Long Range or Performance models powered by an estimated 75-kwh battery pack with blistering acceleration and impressive range. The Long Range model has a 316-mile range and hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds; the Performance model sacrifices range (291 miles) for a 0-60 mph time of just 3.5 seconds, same as many six-figure luxury sports cars. 

Without official crash-test data, we can’t assess the safety of the Model Y, but the Autopilot suite of driver-assistance features is impressive in its accuracy and capability.

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Styling

Ovoid but roomy, the tall Model Y rides low and looks like an egg.

The humpbacked Model Y makes its Model 3 sedan sibling look like a beauty. It doesn’t move the needle from a starting point of 5 but the interior is so daring we add a point to come up with a 6 out of 10. 

The two entry-level Teslas share a lot in common. It’s only two inches longer but half a foot taller than the Model 3, which gives it such a raised profile. Even though the ground clearance goes from 5.5 inches to 6.6 inches, the Model Y is still closer to the ground like a sedan than the 8 inches or more of ground clearance on most crossovers. 

The front has a blank face easily marred by those states that enforce a front license plate. Upgraded 20-inch black “Induction” wheels on the Long Range model are a welcome $2,000 charge over the standard 19-inch silver “Gemini” discs, and the Performance model swells up to 21-inch wheels. With door handles flush to the body and an available rear spoiler, the Model Y blends aerodynamic elements into a distinct egg-shaped body. 

It enables excellent cargo room and interior spaciousness, and the inside takes distinction a step further. There is no instrument cluster nor any noticeable vents; instead a 15-inch touchscreen commands the cockpit. Real wood trim and chrome strips separate the upper and lower dash, and there is about a 1-inch gap across the upper dash concealing the vents. Black synthetic leather with contrast stitching and suede-like door panels ensconce the passengers in comfort. The heated leather steering wheel belies Tesla’s commitment to vegan materials, but CEO Elon Musk promises alternatives are on the way.  

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Performance

The Model Y offers prodigious amounts of power and efficiency.

Tesla no longer releases battery pack sizes or torque and horsepower ratings, but the Model Y is a charge, man, with gut-dropping instant torque that molds you into the seat. Hitting 60 mph takes just 4.8 seconds, but that’s in the Long Range model. The Performance model does it in 3.5 seconds. In a crossover SUV. That’s good for a 7 on our scale. 

Powered by what is believed to be a 75-kwh battery pack (an 50-kwh entry-level model is expected in 2021), the Model Y uses a front and rear motor to provide all-wheel-drive grunt and grip. It balances power and efficiency like few other cars, gas or electric. Motor Trend estimates 384 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, and the Long Range model has an EPA-estimated 316-mile range; for an $11,000 upcharge the Performance model with the same battery pack has a 291-mile range.

The instantaneous torque even in the Long Range model takes your breath away; if you’re in need of air, switch from Standard to Chill mode and use one-pedal driving with an aggressive regenerative braking setting that can also be switched from Standard to Low, which coasts more like a traditional car. 

Steering can also be configured three ways, from Comfort to Normal or Sport. Sport tightens the turn of the wheel for more precision and it stays centered better while cruising so you don’t need to tweak the wheel. The ride is firm overall, thanks in part to large wheels ranging from 19 to 21 inches. A Comfort setting with adaptive dampers might soften the ride more than just the coil springs up front and multi-link rear independent suspension.  

The tall ride height leads to inevitable lean while turning, but the low center of gravity makes it less pronounced than other crossover SUVs. For now, the Model Y is not equipped to tow, and the all-wheel-drive system doesn’t suggest off-road capability. 

For more on how it drives itself, check out the Safety section, and for more on its exceptional efficiency, check out the Fuel Economy section.  

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Comfort & Quality

The main knock against Tesla gets louder with panel gaps and build quality issues.

The Model Y makes a great use of space to seat five adults with ample cargo room, which each earn a point on our scale. But the shoddy finish makes us deduct a point to reach a 6 for quality. 

The humpback glass roof offers plenty of head room, leg room, and spaciousness. There’s no drivetrain tunnel running through the center, so five passengers can sit comfortably on snug synthetic leather seats with 12-way power adjustments up front to accommodate most frames.

Plastic parts fill the center console in a way that lessens the otherwise refined soft-touch materials. The twin smartphone dock feels like a flimsy iHome knock off, and the flip-up storage area isn’t much better. On the outside, there are similar build issues that reflect Tesla’s newness as an automaker building to scale. Misaligned panel gaps, garish welds in the hatchback, and reports of bumpers falling off suggest a rushed production job.  

The 68 cubic feet of cargo room is more than 10 cubic feet better than competing electric crossovers such as the Audi E-Tron and Chevy Bolt, and provides plenty of space for a family of four. Couples could even plug the Y into a campground, lay the seats flat, inflate an air mattress, and turn the touchscreen into a campfire and let the air conditioning go all night long in Camp Mode. Tesla plans to equip it with a third row in 2021, but it strains belief that anyone could fit comfortably.

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Safety

The Model Y is expected to rank high on safety.

Without official crash testing results from the IIHS and the NHTSA, we can’t assign the 2020 Tesla Model Y a safety score. But it features the same equipment and is mechanically similar to the Model 3, which earned a 9 out of 10.

The Model 3 comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and a host of other driver-assistance features Tesla calls Autopilot. Standard on every Tesla Model series, Autopilot includes adaptive cruise control down to a stop, active lane control, and the ability to change lanes when the driver clicks the indicator. 

Tesla also rolled out a more advanced system with Level 3 semi-autonomous features called “Full Self-Driving” that still require a driver’s presence, for now. It’s still in beta test mode on the Model Y, but Tesla says owners can set the navigation and let the car drive itself from on-ramp to off-ramp, it can change lanes itself, park itself, meet you in a parking lot from where it was parked, and can read traffic lights and stop signs to make assisted stops at certain intersections. 

For now, it is an $8,000 upgrade, but the price increases with more features added via over-the-air updates, such as the forthcoming “Autosteer” on city streets, that enables the car to make lane changes on its own. 

Tesla warns that the features “do not make the vehicle autonomous” and requires “active driver supervision.” It also requires regulatory approval, which Tesla states can take longer in certain areas. In our beta testing, the Model Y required the driver’s hand on the steering wheel every 45 seconds or so. 

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Features

Updated like a smartphone, the Tesla Model Y has features that complete the Tesla tech experience.

The difference in Performance and Long Range trims mostly comes down to performance, not features. But with an evolutionary infotainment system, over-the-air updates that keep the car as fresh as a smartphone, and good standard equipment, we give it an 8 out of 10. 

The most noticeable feature spans overhead. A tinted glass roof stretches from front windshield to rear windshield. The tint has UV and infrared protection so the cabin doesn’t get too hot, and offers the open-air look of a convertible without the wind noise. It elicits the futuristic vibe more than any other feature, and might elicit the humming of the Jetsons theme song…”his boy Elroy.” 

There is no key in the traditional sense; instead, vehicle conditioning and access occurs through the Tesla smartphone app or a smart key shaped like a credit card. 

Like other Teslas, the Model Y comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, and a 8-year/120,000-mile battery and drive unit warranty. Access to Tesla’s Supercharging network that enables cross-country travel is pay as you go, and the infotainment system or Tesla app will show charge rates and availability. 

Both models come well equipped with 60/40-split folding rear seats, remote entry and ignition. 12-way power adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, 14-speaker sound system, power-folding heated side mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, and four USB ports. There is no smartphone compatibility, and frankly, it isn’t needed because of the peerless infotainment center.  

Tesla Model Y infotainment

The centerpiece and nerve center of the Model Y is the 15-by-10-inch touchscreen the size of a laptop. It replaces the instrument cluster, radio controls, climate controls, side mirror buttons, opening the trunk, frunk, and glove box—pretty much every vehicle function except for driving. 

It might seem like too much at once, but it takes about a day to get the hang of it. 

The left third of the screen acts as the instrument cluster, showing charge, range, and activated driver assistance features. When Autopilot is activated, the graphics show the number of lanes, the type of traffic beside the vehicle so a semi appears as a semi, and other info that instills confidence that the system is seeing what the driver sees.  

A large, clear menu bar at the bottom acts like a dock on laptops and desktops. The Toy Box icon showcases Tesla’s whims, such as a fart noise maker with several settings to be activated by pressing the scroll wheel on the steering wheel. Games and a drawing sandbox offer passengers plenty of amusements. 

The remaining screen can be used for a stunning map projection that would satisfy Rand McNally, or it can be customized to split media and mapping or any number of other fun Tesla things, such as streaming Netflix when in park

The landscape orientation keeps the driver’s sightline closer to the road than a portrait touchscreen, but it still tempts distraction.

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2020 Tesla Model Y

Fuel Economy

Using just 28 kwh per 100 miles, the Model Y is one of the more efficient electric vehicles.

The 2020 Tesla Model Y is a fully electric compact crossover with better range and efficiency than most other battery electric vehicles. It has an EPA-estimated range of 316 miles, which is unmatched by rivals such as the Audi E-Tron and Chevy Bolt. It earns a 10 out of 10. 

For now the Model Y comes with a 75-kwh battery pack in either Long Range or Performance trims for a difference of $11,000. Range drops to an EPA-estimated 291 miles with the Performance model. 

Both the Performance and Long Range two-motor all-wheel-drive models are rated at 121 MPGe, or 3.6 miles per kwh. That beats the same Model 3’s 116 MPGe, but trails the Model 3 Standard Range Plus that gets the best efficiency of any electric vehicle at 141 MPGe or 4.2 miles per kwh.   

A 240-volt Level 2 charger can provide up to 42 miles of range per hour of charge via a 60-amp circuit. A standard 120-volt Level 1 outlet charges up to 7 miles of range/hour. Owners can pay to use Tesla’s Level 3 Supercharger network that charges 158 miles in 15 minutes. 

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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 10
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