Conducting a comprehensive review of a Tesla vehicle is akin to aiming at a moving target. Unlike traditional automakers adhering to annual model releases, Tesla continually refines its offerings through software updates, battery enhancements, and new sensor technologies. Thus, despite the ever-changing landscape, we’ve chosen to provide our assessment of the 2021 Tesla Model Y as of November 2021, approximately three months into our ownership experience. Unlike typical car reviews, we’ve invested our resources to procure and thoroughly test this Model Y, intending to lease it for a duration of two years. Now, after several months of ownership, it’s time for our initial evaluation.

Regrettably, our first impression does not bode well. While the Tesla Model Y excels in various aspects, boasting commendable range, practicality, and performance, coupled with a host of unique features, I must unequivocally advise against purchasing one at this juncture. Allow me to elaborate on the reasons behind this assertion.

The package Review

The Tesla Model Y stands as Tesla’s compact crossover, a sleek SUV boasting two rows and seating for five individuals. It adheres closely to the established blueprint while making subtle adjustments, notably in its vertical expansion by a few inches. This alteration primarily impacts the rear, where the modest trunk of its sedan predecessor has evolved into a spacious hatch. With the rear seats folded down, the Model Y offers a generous 76 cubic feet of storage capacity. Lowering the seats reveals a flat surface with a concealed storage compartment underneath, providing practicality alongside its aesthetic appeal. Furthermore, the raised configuration ensures ample headroom for passengers in the rear, attributed in part to the panoramic glass roof.

However, the focal point lies within the interior, characterized by a prominent 15-inch landscape-oriented touch display. Initially a point of contention during the Model 3’s debut, this feature remains a significant highlight. Serving not only as a speedometer and gauge cluster but also integrating various infotainment functions including climate control, mirror adjustment, and steering wheel positioning, the singular display centralizes the driving experience. While generally satisfactory, accessing Autopilot status and navigation prompts necessitates diverting attention towards the lower portion of the display, posing a distraction from the road. While a traditional gauge cluster or heads-up display would alleviate this issue, their absence is notable, particularly given the vehicle’s price point.

Speaking of which, pricing fluctuates frequently, but our Model Y Long Range variant, inclusive of $1,200 in delivery charges, commanded a total of $67,490. Notably, a $10,000 premium was attributed to the purported Full Self-Driving package, a feature whose realization within our 24-month ownership remains uncertain. Additional expenses included $1,000 for the Deep Blue Metallic paint, $1,000 for the concealed tow hitch, and another $1,000 for the white vegan interior.

Opting for white upholstery in an SUV might seem unconventional, and indeed, it wasn’t a choice I would have made personally. Nonetheless, I am intrigued to observe its resilience over time. After just three months, the driver’s seat has begun to exhibit a noticeable blue tint from denim, while the rear seats have absorbed black dye from a protective cover used to shield them from my dog. Even aside from these issues, the material feels somewhat rubbery, and despite all seats being heated, none offer ventilationβ€”a feature omission that disappoints given the vehicle’s premium price tag.

The Performance Review

The performance review of the Tesla Model Y reveals a mix of strengths and weaknesses. While the interior falls short of expectations, the range of the vehicle impresses. Our Model Y Long Range boasts an EPA-rated range of 330 miles, a notable improvement over its counterpart equipped with 20-inch wheels. However, opting for the larger wheels not only reduces range but also adds $2,000 to the cost without offering significant benefits to ride quality. From personal experience, the car consistently delivers a range close to the estimated figure, often achieving between 320 to 340 miles on a full charge, barring instances like towing a pinball table on a utility trailer. Few electric vehicles currently on the market can surpass this range, although the landscape is evolving rapidly.

In terms of performance, the Model Y proves to be swift. Tesla claims a 0-to-60 mph acceleration time of 4.8 seconds, but in practice, the car feels even more responsive. Its agility allows it to maneuver adeptly in traffic and exploit passing opportunities with ease. Notably, this assessment pertains to the Long Range variant; while the Model Y Performance offers a quicker acceleration for an additional $5,000, sacrificing range to achieve a marginal improvement in speed seems unnecessary.

Despite its spirited performance, the Model Y is not a dedicated sports car. While acceleration is exhilarating, handling leaves something to be desired. The car exhibits reasonable agility but lacks composure when pushed in corners, and even with the smaller 19-inch wheels, ride quality remains subpar. Nevertheless, the sheer thrill of acceleration is undeniably enjoyable, capable of eliciting smiles from drivers.

However, the experience is marred by occasional malfunctions in the active safety systems, which can dampen the overall driving experience.

Autopilot Review

Since 2014, Tesla has marketed its suite of active safety systems under the overarching term “Autopilot.” However, over the years, these systems, along with the underlying sensors and components, have undergone significant evolution. Our Model Y, delivered in August 2021, reflects Tesla’s decision to eliminate radar sensors from the Model 3 and Y, relying solely on the optical sensor-based Tesla Vision system. While Tesla asserts that this system renders radar sensors redundant, my experience suggests otherwise.

I cannot definitively attribute the issue to the absence of radar, but our Model Y struggles with detecting obstacles ahead, exhibiting a pronounced weakness in this regard. False positives, commonly referred to as “phantom braking,” plague the vehicle, wherein it erroneously perceives obstacles and engages the automatic emergency braking system, resulting in sudden and unwarranted deceleration. While this issue is not exclusive to Teslas, its frequency in our Model Y is alarming, occurring at least once per hour, sometimes even more frequently. During a single hour of driving, I recorded five instances of phantom braking, two of which triggered the automatic emergency braking chime.

This recurrent issue poses a significant safety concern, particularly on highways and secondary roads, even when the cruise control is active without Autosteer. Consequently, the reliability of the car’s cruise control and, by extension, the Autopilot system, is compromised, undermining the overall safety of the vehicle.

When not plagued by phantom braking incidents, Autopilot functions reasonably well, particularly on highways where it adeptly maintains lane discipline and executes lane changes with minimal driver intervention, especially when Navigate on Autopilot is engaged. However, on secondary roads, Autosteer struggles with lane markings, often misinterpreting them, especially when additional lanes open up. This leads to erratic lane behavior, with the car frequently veering between lanes. It would be prudent for Tesla to follow Cadillac’s lead and disable this function on roads where it proves unreliable.

Although phantom braking stands out as the most pressing issue with our Model Y, it is not the sole concern. Following a car wash, I discovered water accumulation in the frunk, rendering it unsuitable for storing items requiring dry conditions. Additionally, the design of the tow hitch leaves the lower diffuser susceptible to scratches from safety chains during towing, and the taillights exhibit noticeable fogging. While these issues may seem minor individually, they underscore concerns about the vehicle’s overall quality, particularly considering its price tag of $70,000.

Wrap-up Review

The Model Y boasts several impressive features. Its performance is exhilarating, and its range provides ample reassurance for long journeys. While the interior may lack premium feel, its practicality is undeniable. Moreover, Tesla introduces a range of unique features such as Dog Mode, Sentry Mode, and the extensive Supercharger network, which stands as the largest and most reliable in the country. Overall, it offers a compelling package, providing an accessible entry point into the world of electric vehicles.

However, despite its strengths, the Model Y falls short in one critical aspect. The recurring issue of phantom braking undermines its safety credentials. Even with the latest version of Autopilot, our car poses a risk whenever cruise control is engaged. For a vehicle with a price tag of $70,000, this flaw is unacceptable. Consequently, I cannot in good faith recommend the Model Y at this time.

Fortunately, the electric vehicle market offers an expanding array of alternatives. Models such as the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Volkswagen ID 4 present compelling options. Additionally, forthcoming vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Nissan Ariya, Toyota BZ4X, and Subaru Solterra will soon join the ranks. As we continue to assess our Model Y and monitor developments from Tesla, I urge potential buyers to explore other options until this safety concern is addressed.

In conclusion, while the Model Y has its merits, the issue of phantom braking detracts significantly from its overall appeal. Until this problem is resolved, I advise consumers to look elsewhere for their electric vehicle needs.

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