Hybrids & Electrics

Why Isn’t the Tesla Model Y an SUV of the Year Finalist?

The Tesla Model Y is one of the most well-known electric SUV options, yet it wasn’t even considered as a contender for MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year awards. As it turns out, this wasn’t an oversight — Tesla declined to enter the Model Y into consideration, MotorTrend reports. Even so, reviewers decided to unofficially test the Model Y to see where it would rank if it could be included in the awards.

How MotorTrend evaluates SUVs

Every year, MotorTrend reviewers spend 10 days test-driving a range of SUVs to see how well the vehicles hold up against six criteria: advancement in design, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value, and performance of intended function. Rather than comparing the contenders against one another, MotorTrend will evaluate each SUV independently. Because of this, reviewers were able to judge the Tesla Model Y without actually including it in the official testing.

Although the Model Y wasn’t eligible to be included, plenty of other excellent SUVs were considered for the SUV of the Year awards. Among the finalists were the Cadillac Escalade, the Land Rover Defender, and the Nissan Rogue.

The pros of the Tesla Model Y

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In order to evaluate the Tesla Model Y, reviewers rented a low-mileage 2020 Model Y Dual Motor Long Range. They ultimately concluded that this vehicle held up well against each of their six key criteria. In fact, MotorTrend notes that “few vehicles do what they’re meant to as well as the Model Y.”

Perhaps one of the Model Y’s biggest strengths is its range, which goes up to an impressive 316 miles at 121 MPGe. These ratings are second only to the Tesla Model X before the new Model 3’s refresh.

Additionally, this vehicle has a spacious interior and smooth, highly responsive steering. Test drivers note that the Model Y’s regenerative brakes enable convenient one-pedal driving. And while its autopilot is not without issues, it still functions extremely well for the class.

The Model Y is also one of the more affordable electric SUV options, starting at $51,190. This low price is particularly impressive given that the Model Y’s range is larger than almost all competitors. It also offers notably more cargo and cabin space than rivals within a similar price range.

The technology of the Model Y also stands out against the competition; test drivers found it intuitive and easy to operate. Additionally, the availability of over-the-air software updates provides added value to an already surprisingly affordable vehicle.

Where the Model Y falls short

While the Tesla Model Y has many benefits, there are a few areas test drivers found to be lacking. An ongoing issue with Tesla vehicles is their occasionally dubious build quality, and the Model Y is no exception. In particular, MotorTrend notes several misaligned body panels on the test vehicle. While the Model Y is affordable for the class, it is still fairly pricey — certainly expensive enough that buyers shouldn’t have to be on the lookout for these types of errors.

Additionally, the large sunroof can cause discomfort on hot days. While it adds to the vehicle’s attractive appearance and excellent visibility, its sheer size makes it impossible to get a reprieve from the sun.

Finally, while the Model Y is marketed as an SUV, its low ground clearance means that it is not the right choice for anyone who actually wants to go off-roading. Its clearance is just 6.6 inches, while the industry standard is 8.5 inches.

Despite these shortcomings, however, the Tesla Model Y performed well in its unofficial testing. While it may not be an SUV of the Year finalist, its incredible range and roomy interior certainly make it stand out in its class.