Leading the electric crossover pack
THE GOOD
  • More practical than Model 3
  • Amazing smoothness, power, and range
  • Huge touchscreen entertainment options
THE BAD
  • Too expensive for government EV rebates
  • Interior too simple
  • Quality still an issue
2020 Tesla Model Y Review

When deliveries of the 2020 Tesla Model Y crossover started in Canada, expectations amongst EV enthusiasts and the auto industry in general were huge. Tesla openly stated that it expects the Model Y to become its most popular vehicle, eventually surpassing the Model 3 sedan, which is currently the best-selling electric vehicle and entry-luxury sedan in Canada as well as other markets where it’s offered.

The Model Y uses the Model 3’s platform and virtually copies its futuristic-yet-austere interior, while adding worthwhile improvements that seem tailor-made to the Canadian market. This particular Model Y is the Long Range Dual Motor – otherwise known as all-wheel drive – with an as-tested price of $74,980. Tesla rarely makes its vehicles available to the media to test, so we found this one on car-sharing service Turo and sampled it over three hot summer days.

Styling: 8/10

It’s surprisingly difficult to tell a Model Y from a Model 3 sedan, as the former looks taller but not by much. It’s larger by all measures, but gets very similar nose and headlight treatments. Model Y spotters will note the unique wheels, blacked-out door handles and lower body trim, plus the sloping hatchback tailgate instead of a trunk opening as the giveaways.

Compared to its all-electric luxury rivals, it makes the Audi E-Tron seem a frumpy square, though the Jaguar I-Pace‘s more sensuous lines arguably trump the Y’s for stylish eye appeal. The electric Ford Mustang Mach-E will also add some visual heat to the competition when it arrives near the start of 2021, with its higher-end editions that start above $70,000 and wander into Model Y pricing levels.

Where the Y arguably loses style points is in the interior, which is fairly plain at this price point. The owner of this particular Y covered the wood finish of the dash as well as the centre console with an aftermarket carbon-fibre-look trim kit, which he said improves the overall look considerably. I personally think the matte wood finish adds a touch of warmth to an interior that needs it, but the plain black centre console was certainly upgraded by this extra attention.

Practicality: 8.5/10

The extra space and larger door openings provided by its taller and wider body compared to the Model 3 are useful, making it easier to climb into and out of the Model Y. The sloping rear tailgate may seem shaped more for aerodynamics than outright rear headroom and cargo space, but sitting in the back still offers plenty of room, as well as a majestic view out of the uninterrupted shaded glass roof.

That rear cargo area is massive, as the Model Y will eventually offer seven-passenger seating, which can be ordered now as a $4,000 option, though those models aren’t expected to roll off production lines until 2021.

Once colder temperatures inevitably arrive, Model Y owners in Canada will surely appreciate that it is the first Tesla to use a heat pump, which pulls significantly less electricity to warm the cabin, and therefore improves overall driving range in chilly conditions. Add standard features like a heated steering wheel and all-wheel drive, which is optional in the Model 3, and the Y falls well ahead in terms of practicality.

Features: 10/10

Though the above features do help its practicality, it’s really the infotainment features where no other automaker can touch Tesla, for better or worse. That huge 15.4-inch centre display offers a cornucopia of entertainment options while the car is in park: Netflix, YouTube, live TV, even gaming options that use the actual steering wheel to steer your virtual Tesla.

And there are lots of things you can do in a Tesla while driving as well that you can’t do in any other vehicle. Like surf the web – and that’s true whether there’s a passenger in the car or not. In most vehicles, you can’t even key in an address into the navigation system while the vehicle’s in gear, for safety reasons (and likely legal ones, too). With Teslas, not only can you punch addresses into the GPS, you can type any URL directly into the built-in browser and surf to any site you like.

Other unique features can be found in the Toybox section on the large screen: bring up a romantic crackling fireplace, or a colourfully artistic sketchpad, or use the music-mixing Trax to lay down and record your unique sound.

Plus, there’s the infamous Emissions fart machine. Not only can you choose from seven different types of human gaseous emission sounds, and a set-and-forget “Fart with Turn Signal” function, but you can also choose which of the five seats you’d like the fart to come from, courtesy the Y’s very good surround sound system. It seems juvenile – and it is – but it also reflects an off-the-wall playfulness that’s rare amongst automakers.

User Friendliness: 8/10

It’s great having all these unique features, and together they form a truly singular offering, but that doesn’t mean they all work flawlessly. The glacial loading speed of webpages will dissuade you from ever using the embedded browser again, though it’s smart enough to prevent videos from playing while in drive. And while web-surfing in the car is a neat party trick, trying it while streaming a podcast through my phone made the entire screen freeze, then go black. Luckily, it rebooted on its own and came back to life without the need to pull over.

Yes, Tesla, the Silicon Valley EV company, can have software issues just like any other automaker. But our tester also had the sadly common quality and fitment issues seen in both the early Model 3 and the Y, such as doors that sometimes don’t align perfectly, or sizable gaps in between body panels.

Fuel Economy: 10/10

With an official range of 509 km, the Model Y Long Range AWD is amongst the top-five longest range battery electric vehicles on the market, all of which are Teslas. The Model Y offers only nine fewer kilometres of official government-rated range than the Model 3 equipped the same way – an impressive engineering feat given its larger dimensions and increased weight.

After a 90 per cent charge, the Y’s display showed 477 km in estimated range, with no worrisome drops in that number over the course of my testing to make me question the on-board computer’s measurements. It’s clear Tesla has packed some of its most efficient batteries and technology into the Model Y.

But the big “fuel” advantage the Y has is undoubtedly Tesla’s Supercharger is network. It is the most comprehensive quick-charging network in the country, available only to Tesla owners, and offers almost-but-not-quite the fastest quick chargers on the market. I visited three of these Supercharger locations in total, with their signature row of white charging stands with red accents, offering the easiest interface and the most elegantly designed charge cables on the market; just plug in, and the car will automatically check and debit your account as necessary.

Comfort: 9/10

Smoothness and mausoleum-worthy silence are hallmark Tesla qualities, as with many EVs, and the Model Y is indeed one of the quietest crossovers on the market. The optional low-profile 20-inch wheels on the tester likely hurt its ride slightly, but it was still worlds better than the spleen-bursting rumble dished out by the Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid I drove a few weeks prior.

The Tesla companion app for smartphones can easily remotely cool or heat your Tesla from anywhere, which is especially handy in the winter. And the app allows you to walk up to the car and open it just by having your phone, then lock again as you walk away, as the Honda Clarity and some others do as well.

There are some missing comforts, sure. No AM radio means you have to search for the digital versions to catch them – if they’re even available. And some drivers may prefer the satellite radio they’re used to versus TuneIn internet stations.

Power: 9/10

There’s major acceleration off the hop with the Model Y, with a five-second 0–100 km/h time – a run capable of interrupting any conversation instantly. Top speed is 217 km/h, compared to 250 km/h for the Performance version, which drops the 0–100 km/h run to 3.7 seconds, according to Tesla. But it also raises the base price from $69,990 to $83,990.

Driving Feel: 9/10

The Model Y doesn’t have the hard-edged performance feel of that XC60, but it does offer refined suspension settings and more-serious Goodyear tires. They didn’t complain when taking highway off-ramps aggressively, but also didn’t seem to be begging for this treatment either, with a touch of body lean to stamp out one’s silliest behaviour.

There’s a setting in the Tesla that allows for one-pedal driving, which some prefer for the convenience factor in the city of barely having to move your right foot off the accelerator. But I always find it strange to be coming up to stopped cars and just lifting off the right pedal, meaning you’re still feeding it fuel when you know you have to slow down.

Safety: 9/10

This version of the Y comes standard with AutoPilot, which doesn’t quite live up to its name, but is still a very advanced suite of safety items: emergency braking, collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control are all standard. It uses a series of cameras integrated throughout the car’s bodywork to keep a full 360-degree view and cushion from vehicles around them.

There’s also a Sentry mode that records video of any close calls the sensors receive, as well as any time you use your horn, and footage can be instantly reviewed on the display. Plus there’s a dog mode to keep your pet at a safely controlled temperature inside the Y, along with a large message on the display that your animal is safe and in a comfortable climate.

Value: 9/10

For sure, this is not yet an “EV for the masses,” given the Model Y’s hefty $71,000 current starting price. Less-expensive Model Y versions are on their way, but as with many companies, Tesla generally starts production with its highest-spec models first. Interestingly, on this owner’s invoice, the Y’s starting price was listed as $55,700, with the Long Range Dual Motor configuration adding an extra $15,300 to the deal. This suggests the existence of a $55,700 base Model Y, though it may officially be a super-low-range “off menu” item you can’t order online.

But there’s no denying how much technology is packed into the Model Y now, and how far ahead it is ahead of its pricier Jaguar I-Pace and especially Audi E-Tron competition when it comes to innovation, packaging, range, performance, and overall ownership experience.

The Verdict

All in all, the 2020 Model Y is far from inexpensive, or perfect from a quality control perspective. But its owners love it, as often expressed in online EV forums, and it’s really not difficult to see the many reasons why.

You’d never find a fart function in any other luxury vehicle, but it somehow works for a brand whose model names spell out a S – 3 – X – Y lineup of vehicles.

Leading the electric crossover pack 8/26/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 358 kW combined   Model Tested 2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD
Engine Cylinders n/a   Base Price $71,000
Peak Horsepower 384 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 376 lb-ft   Destination Fee $1,280
Fuel Economy 376 lb-ft 1.9/2.1/1.9 Le/100 km cty/hwy/cmb, 16.5/18.3/17.3 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 509 km range   Price as Tested $74,980
Cargo Space 1,919 L seats down (including frunk)  
Optional Equipment
$2,600 – 20-inch Induction wheels, $2,600