It’s easy to see why people love Elon Musk’s cars

  • I drove a Tesla for the first time after test driving over a dozen other EVs and came away impressed with the highly touted brand.
  • The Model Y SUV’s speed, minimalistic cabin and ridiculously convenient charging network set it apart from its competitors.
  • However, the large touchscreen and lack of regular buttons may put off some buyers.

Tesla created and dominates the growing electric vehicle market. But can the company’s popular cars withstand a barrage of competition from titans like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen?

That’s the big question I sought to answer when I got behind the wheel of a new Tesla Model Y SUV earlier this year. After testing more than a dozen battery-powered rides over the past year—but never one from Elon Musk—I wondered whether or not Teslas could live up to the hype. In other words: Are the company’s die-hard supporters right, or are its cars nothing special?

I borrowed a friend’s Tesla to learn it myself. (The company doesn’t offer press loans, so reporters have to get creative.)

First, the basics

The Tesla Model Y electric SUV.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



The Model Y is Tesla’s small SUV and its most popular product. It has a starting price of $65,990 and two engines that provide all-wheel drive. A Performance version that sacrifices some range for added speed is available for $4,000 more, but the base model is plenty sporty.

Tesla has no dealerships and instead sells its cars online, direct to the consumer. Buyers can pick up delivery at a Tesla location or have their vehicle shipped to their home.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



What stands out: State-of-the-art technology, sporty driving and effortless charging

Slide into a Tesla and you’ll find a refreshingly uncluttered interior devoid of conventional buttons, vents and gauges. The cabin’s sleek design and subtle wood trim look more like an Apple store than a car.

This minimalist appearance is made possible by a large touch screen that controls almost all the important functions of the vehicle except stop, go and turn. This command center contains the door locks, A/C settings, speedometer and navigation system. It’s also packed with out-of-the-box features like games, a digital pillow and Netflix that can help owners pass the time while charging.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



The screen is extremely responsive to taps and swipes and has crisp graphics. Plus, Tesla regularly adds new features through software updates, making the Model Y’s cockpit a tech geek’s paradise.

There’s plenty of room to stretch out in both the front and rear seats thanks to the completely flat floor and tall glass roof. And the Model Y provides tons of cargo space, including a generous trunk up front and underfloor storage in the back, both of which you won’t find in every EV.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



Despite not being the Performance model, the YI sampled accelerated surprisingly quickly, rocketing forward with every push of the gas pedal in the same way that other high-powered EVs do. And it felt more like a sports car than an SUV, offering quick, precise steering that allowed me to point exactly where I wanted to go.

Tesla’s advanced Autopilot function confidently kept the SUV in the center of its lane and following the flow of traffic. Although the system is not autonomous, it could be useful during long stops on the highway.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



Recharging after a long day exhausting the Y’s 330 miles of range is easy as pie. After loading a credit card into the Tesla app, they simply pull into one of the nation’s 1,500 Supercharger locations and connect.

Using Tesla’s dedicated fast charging stations is remarkably seamless compared to the often awkward process of filling up a non-Tesla at a public outlet.

What’s lacking: Complicated controls and bumpy ride

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



As much as the Model Y is a techie’s dream, it could prove to be more of a nightmare for the less tech-savvy.

Basic functions such as opening the locker, changing the speed of the wiper and the direction of the air vents require the use of the touch screen, which is not only inconvenient but also distracting while driving. I couldn’t help but think how someone like my mom, who needs help using the DVR and cringes at the thought of navigating some new app, might be overwhelmed by a fully digitized driving experience.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



Additionally, the Model Y lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

While the Y’s stiff suspension helps maneuverability, it doesn’t insulate passengers well from rough roads. I also noticed a lot of wind and road noise above 60 mph.

Our impressions: Excellent choice, but not the only one

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



As it turns out, Tesla fans have a point. The Model Y has a lot going for it, packed with dazzling technology, drives better than most SUVs, provides access to Tesla’s convenient charging network, and generally feels different from other cars.

But it is not without flaws. In addition to what I’ve noted, widely reported issues like inconsistent build quality and difficulty with repairs are major issues, but I didn’t experience either firsthand.

The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Tim Levin/Insider



The Model Y is a great choice for many buyers, but Tesla is no longer the only game in town. The EV-curious have more attractive options than ever as players like Audi, Rivian and BMW pile into the EV space. And the competition is getting tougher day by day.

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