Tesla Model Y – first impressions

We need to find a suitable replacement for my wife’s Hyundai Ioniq hybrid soon. Thanks to the generosity of Tesla showroom in Southlake, TX, we were able to take an overnight possession of a brand new 2021 long range Model Y. Here are some initial thoughts and findings.

The elephant in the room

Everyone is obsessing about Tesla’s fit & finish, panel gaps and paint quality. There was a lot of reason to all this in the past, but as far as I can tell, the car we had was spotless. All the gaps between body panels and around the head- and taillights were uniform and comparable to any other premium vehicle from other brands. The interior fit and finish was excellent and there were no squeaks or rattles. The paint quality didn’t display any defects and I could not spot any “orange peel” or uneven streaks anywhere. So far, so good.

Look & feel

I was a day one reservation holder for Model 3, but I wasn’t exactly crazy about the looks. Model S it ain’t (ironically, that pushed us towards buying one instead). In comparison, Model Y has a much better appeal. It is also promising better overall functionality, thanks to being a hatchback.

The car is sized between Model 3 and S, but when talking about utility value I think it lands closer to the latter one. Many call it a “stretched” Model 3 and there’s some truth to it. For what it is worth, the proportions and taller rear end make it look more desirable and just better looking.

Interior

Very similar to Model 3, but thanks to more vertical clearance it provides better sitting position (similar to what you find in SUV) and more leg room for rear passengers. It is worth noting that the particular model we had a chance to test drive was equipped with third row seats. Granted, nobody should expect that an adult could enjoy sitting there on longer trips, but if kids are involved it actually offers significant clearance for the legs.

I wasn’t convinced that white interior would be the way to go, but seeing one in person I must say that it provides that premium feel. Seats were very comfortable (at least as good as the ones on Model S) and provide plenty of support. Taller stance also provides for an easier entry and exit to and from the vehicle.

Thanks to employing dual panel glass on front side windows, the wind noise is significantly reduced (definitely so when compared to our Tesla’s bigger brother). Electric cars are quiet by design, but this innovation allows to enjoy the ride in more comfort, music included.

Speaking of which, audio quality was excellent. It is always a subjective opinion and there are many variables at play, but I dare to say it is as good as the premium sound package on my Model S.

Being a hatchback, the Model Y does not disappoint with the amount of cargo space. The “frunk” is spacious enough to put a standard sized carry-on luggage. Trunk has ample room as well. Similarly to other Tesla models, there is also an additional cargo compartment under the floor. One new feature is the presence of a tray under the floor – could be useful for some loose items such as an extension cord, a small toolbox or other relatively flat objects.
Given that this was a 7-seater configuration, I would expect that a regular 5-seater would have even more room for carrying one’s belongings.

For those suffering from allergies, 2021 Model Y comes equipped with HEPA filter and Bio Defense Mode. Nice.

Bio Defense Mode

One minor surprise was the lack of a cargo cover. It does not look like one could be retrofitted in (not without modifications to the cargo area anyway) as there are no rails or clips that would hold it in place, even if Tesla would provide one as an option. As far as privacy though, both rear side and liftgate windows are tinted enough to prevent any peeking in. We always use the cargo cover to provide some insulation from direct sunlight, so it would be interesting to see how the tint would fair in comparison.

Other note-worthy perks include a newly redesigned central console with dual wireless charging for mobile devices, handful of USB ports and nice compartments to hold smaller items. I like the idea to mount a USB stick holding all dashcam and Sentry Mode recordings inside the glove compartment. Keeping it locked and out of sight makes it harder for anyone to gain unwanted access. Tesla even provides a USB stick with the car, mounted and ready to use. The only small gripe would be that they should make it a low profile (similar to SanDisk Ultra Fit). Otherwise it is just a matter of time before it gets damaged while reaching for other items in the glove box.

Ride quality

Equipped with the standard 19″ wheels, the Model Y did a good job providing a smooth ride and dampening any road imperfections, even without having an adaptive suspension. All-wheel drive and more compact size as compared to our Model S allows for approaching curves with even more confidence and taking corners without easing off the accelerator pedal. Even in standard drive mode the car feels nimble and there is no noticeable body roll.

This doesn’t necessarily fall under ride quality, but the long range Model Y offers Tesla-worthy acceleration (0-60 in 4.8 seconds) which allows for a spirited and breathtaking driving experience.

Other observations

One of the major concerns many people have is the lack of an instrument cluster in front of the steering wheel. Similarly to Model 3, there is only one screen mounted centrally in the dash area. I’ve had a chance to drive the Model 3 before and my personal concerns were quickly dismissed then. Having a chance to spend more time in Y, it only confirms that it really isn’t a big deal. The important information, such as the speedometer and overall status of the car, are positioned to the left of the screen and close enough to the driver’s side that it becomes second nature just after a few minutes of driving.

Final thoughts

We were very impressed with the Model Y. No wonder it quickly surpasses the Model 3 in its popularity, as it offers more versatility and comfort while remaining relatively compact and fun to drive. Tesla is not wasting time fine-tuning its manufacturing processes, as the 2021 model definitely addresses most of the quality related complaints. Would we recommend one? You bet!

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