- Driving the Tesla Model Y showed me why people love Elon Musk’s cars so much.
- As impressive as it may be, the Model Y SUV isn’t the perfect electric SUV for everyone.
- If you need a comfortable, luxurious ride and simple physical controls, it’s best to consider other models.
I recently drove a Tesla for the first time, and I’m beginning to see why Elon Musk’s car is by far the most popular electric car in the country.
In addition to benefiting from more than a decade of leadership over other automakers, Tesla’s cars are sporty, spacious, full of interesting tech, and easily recharged via the company’s exclusive Supercharger network. They remain an excellent choice for the growing electric vehicle segment.
But my day with a friend’s 2022 Model Y SUV also taught me that Tesla isn’t perfect and it’s not for everyone, despite what some of the brand’s most outspoken fans might tell you. (Tesla doesn’t lend cars to journalists, so I’ll have to be a little resourceful.)
The Model Y’s firm suspension gives it the dynamism and precision of a sports car, but not without sacrifice. Drive the Model Y on any less-than-perfect road and you’ll notice every bump and crack. Some vehicles are built to absorb road imperfections to improve passenger comfort, but the Model Y is not one of them.
The ride quality on a model with standard 19-inch wheels could be better than the 20-inch rims I’ve experienced.
There’s another double-edged sword in the Model Y: an iPad-like 15-inch touchscreen. It’s responsive, has impressive graphics and interesting features like gaming, but replaces pretty much all the switches, buttons and knobs drivers are used to.
Like other Teslas, the Model Y packs features like door locks, windshield wipers, headlights, climate control (including ventilation direction) and mirror adjustments into the screen. While this may all become second nature to most owners over time, the learning curve may be too steep for some.
(You can also access many features through voice commands.)
Missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
While the Model Y has all the cutting-edge features, it lacks some of the most basic and extensive tech features on the market: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Anyone used to relying on a smartphone while driving will have to switch to Tesla’s built-in navigation and music apps.
No instrument cluster
One of the weirdest things about jumping on a Tesla for the first time is driving in, looking forward, and seeing nothing. All of the important driving information that would normally be displayed in the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is displayed on the Model Y’s all-encompassing touchscreen.
That means you have to look sideways to check your speed, cruise control settings, battery level and turn direction. While that might not be a deal breaker, constant staring at the display can be distracting, and the Model Y could benefit from the driver-facing displays found in most competing EVs.
The Model Y’s sloping roof clips the rear window, hindering visibility. But the issue plagues many new SUVs with the same sleek coupe shape.
Prices keep rising
New cars have become more expensive during the pandemic as automakers face semiconductor shortages and rising raw material prices. But over the past year or so, Tesla’s prices have especially gotten out of hand.
Tesla briefly sold the Model Y Standard Range for about $41,000, but retired the cheapest model in early 2021. Since then, the price of a new base version (the Model Y Long Range) has soared from about $50,000 to $66,000.
The Y offers a lot of range and features for the money, but competing electric SUVs cost between $40,000 and $50,000. Even Musk has admitted that Tesla’s prices are “embarrassing.”