With barely a press of the Tesla “gas pedal,” we were off like a jackrabbit. “Acceleration of the various models ranges from outstanding to ferocious,” said Car and Driver magazine. Later in the review it said, “Blistering.”
I took a road trip and the opportunity to drive a 2021 Tesla Model Y (black car, left) along with a family member – a good car guy. My experience is limited to the days of my 1960s and 70s mid-size Fords – changing oil, gapping plugs, and (this dates me) successfully installing my own under-the-dash 8-track player.
MotorTrend calls the Model Y, “the most important vehicle Tesla makes today.”
While I have changed vehicles over the years, I knew that test-driving a Tesla would be an experience. Here are a few thoughts from a non-car reviewer on test-driving the latest model of Tesla, with an energy angle.
Signed up for the test drive and got an email with about a dozen video tutorials before I got to the dealership. The video lessons were short, anywhere from 25 second to a minute each. They didn’t need to be longer – well done. My sense is that these videos help Tesla ease a non-EV driver into the EV mindset.
On-site, the sales rep took time at the vehicle to finish this early education. How to unlock the car, start it, change gears, engage and use autopilot, stream music, adjust mirrors… Sounds like a lot but I found that once into the pattern of the Tesla it is pretty darned intuitive.
The lack of a dashboard struck me. Controls are on a screen and the steering column, with multiple functions off each steering column lever. Adjusting to the Tesla screen versus read-outs and gauges in a regular car was an easy adjustment to me and my other test driver.
On the road, two things struck both of us. First, acceleration runs up fast and is immediate. Meaning, in a combustion engine there is typically that “beat” from the time you press on the gas and when you get the response. With the Tesla when you hit the pedal the car is moving ahead.
Second, and this seems like one of the biggest adjustments to me, when my foot was off the accelerator the car slowed in less time than a gasoline engine vehicle, which coasts. Tesla regenerative braking sends some power of movement back to the engine. The engine slows the car, not just the brakes. Brake pads last longer because of that, I understand. The driver can adjust how the car stops and stays stopped – want a little creep like with a gasoline engine? That is possible.
Fuel is the big issue with Tesla, of course. It is not a hybrid, meaning electric and gasoline. It is all electric. Our rep said he can charge for 150 miles for $6 at a Tesla charger. Let’s compare costs. 150 miles in a gasoline car that gets 25 miles per gallon is six gallons, or $13.26. Charging costs will vary by who supplies the charge, just like with gasoline stations. (Two types of chargers, right.)
The charging port has adapters for other charging systems.
Speaking about petroleum, there is none in the Tesla save for the hydrocarbons used in plastic or fabrics. Wheels are direct drive versus on ball bearings, no lubrication. From the maintenance perspective then, there are, of course, no oil changes, transmission oil changes or coolants, either.
The range on the car we drove is 326 miles. The performance model (faster 0-60 mph, higher top speed 155 mph, bigger wheels) is 303 miles. When we talked with the sales rep he said people are really happy with regular performance. I felt like standard was plenty powerful and fast.
Odds and ends to note:
The phone app is neat. An owner can even get the temperature adjusted before getting into the car.
It was rainy when I test drove and the windshield wipers come on as needed and adjusts to the rain automatically.
When I was at stoplight I got a low “beep” when the light turned green. That is good for all the people you and I have sat behind while they do urgent texts at a stoplight.
The sound system has lots of choices for music, even a karaoke setting (or Caraoke in the Tesla. It is in the car after all). Of course, you have already done this, you just didn’t have the setting in your car.
My co-test driver is 6’5″ tall and he checked how the back seat felt. He was happy with the leg room, unlike some other high-end cars he has tried.
Being a software-centric electric vehicle MotorTrend points out, “Beyond the vehicle, the value of over-the-air software updates and the Supercharger network cannot be understated.” Says Tesla, there are, “2,000+ Supercharger Stations with 20,000+ Superchargers.”
After the drive we sat in the car trying to figure out how to turn it off. All we had to do was get out and walk away, the car turned itself off.
Finally, the battery. It’s under the car, so there is storage space in front and in back.
This was a treat. My co-test driver commented on how interesting it must be to sell cars that sell themselves.