Y so important? The 2020 Tesla Model Y is poised to be next hottest thing from today's most-watched automaker. This isn't just due to the usual hype surrounding the disruptive car-builder from California; the success of the Model Y may prove to be more important to the long-term viability of Tesla than even the much-ballyhooed Model 3.

The Model Y fulfills two critical strategic moves: it rounds out Tesla's lineup with a compact crossover, and it also introduces another affordable, cool electric for the masses. With prices expected to start at under $40,000, the Model Y is set to undercut other all-electric luxury crossovers currently on the market. However, we should note that the cheapest Model Y as of this writing starts at $54,190 including destination.

If the popularity of other Tesla products is any indicator, the Model Y is sure to be another success story for the brand.

Range-busting electric power. The innards of the Model Y won't surprise anyone familiar with other Tesla products. Power comes from either one or two electric motors, depending on whether rear- or all-wheel drive has been equipped. Standard Range models are exclusively single-motor; Performance Range models are dual-motor. Long Range models can be equipped either way.

While range details for the forthcoming Standard Range are still to be determined, buyers of the Long Range get an EPA-estimated 316 miles of total range. Performance models sacrifice some range, but, in return, they gain a 150 mph top speed, lowered suspension, 20-inch wheels, and a special Track mode. It's the enthusiast's choice.

Keen readers will note that those range estimates fall short of the 373 miles of range that's currently advertised for the Model 3. There's no denying is true, but keep in mind that the Model Y is bigger, heavier, and taller than the hatchback Model 3. And the 316 miles of range of the Model Y is still significantly better than the Mercedes EQC (200 miles), Audi e-tron (204 miles), and Jaguar I-PACE (234 miles).

The Tesla is also poised to be sportier than any of those models. Case in point: even a Model Y in Long Range trim yields precise, planted handling that shouldn't be the forte of a tall, 5,200-pound crossover. Throw the Model Y into a corner and it sticks like glue while holding a line all the through and past the apex. Keep giving it throttle mid-corner and it still won't relent. Eventually, you'll get tire chirp and understeer, but at that point you should be on a track, not a public road. For an everyday car, the Model Y will more than impress.

Model 3 similarity. If everything so far reads like a Model 3 review, that's because the Model Y is essentially an enlarged Model 3 that rides higher and offers more interior space. If you're still firmly in the sedan camp, the hatchback Model 3 will be your preference. If you've come around to the commanding ride height of crossover SUVs, the Model Y should be your pick.

A word about that ride height: if you pull out the measuring tape, you'll find that the Model Y is only about an inch higher off the ground than the Model 3. Inside, though, the seating position of the Model Y is such that it feels significantly higher than that of the car-like Model 3. Tesla has given the Y that over-the-road feel buyers have come to love about crossovers and SUVs.

The Model Y also boasts far more interior space than the Model 3. Rear-seat leg room is up over 5.3 inches, and head room is increased as well. Cargo space tops out at over 68 cubic feet once the rear seats are folded, which is best-in-class. The ECQ only has 56 cubic feet of total cargo area, and the I-PACE just 52 cubic feet.

A less impressive similarity with the Model 3 is the build quality, which remains a sore spot for Tesla. Panel gaps are inconsistent, and the paint quality leaves something to be desired. These have been long-standing complaints with Tesla, and we expect them to persist as production of the Model Y ramps up.

Tesla Model Y

Decked out with tech. For the typical tech-loving Tesla owner, the Model Y shouldn't disappoint. Like its showroom siblings, the Model Y gets all manner of technology, presented in the usual Silicon Valley-like manner of sleek, simple, and sophisticated.

The party piece is, of course, the massive touchscreen in the center stack. In fact, it actually is the center stack – there are no buttons or knobs to be found. The screen is a rectangular 15-inch affair that handles everything from climate to radio to navigation. Even vitals like speed and remaining range are shown on this screen, as there's no traditional gauge cluster.

Like other Teslas, this system is fast, intuitive, and easy to use. The voice recognition software is one of the best around, and allows drivers to audibly navigate the infotainment system without taking their hands off the wheel. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Entertainment options like Hulu and Netflix are also available for when the car is stationary.

The Model Y also comes with a host of active safety and driver assist technologies. Standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking. Tesla bundles all this under the well-known Autopilot moniker. More advanced features will be optional, including automatic self-parking and a summon feature that lets the car drive to you in a parking lot.

Tesla is also known for their over-the-air updates, so any future tech that's introduced by the brand can be downloaded off the internet by cars built prior to the updates. So, when Tesla officially rolls out the feature that lets their cars recognize and react to stop lights and traffic signs automatically – something that's in the pipeline and should be out sooner rather than later – existing cars can download the update overnight. In the morning, owners will find their Teslas ready to go with the new feature. It's not unlike how smartphones update to a new operating software.

Final Thoughts. The first Tesla was a moonshot; the Model 3 was another watershed moment; now the 2020 Tesla Model Y takes the concept of electric motoring to its natural next step. It's practical, relatively affordable, and generally a better executed crossover than the larger, pricier Tesla Model X and its complicated falcon doors.

All this should make the Model Y the most popular Tesla yet. And from our first taste of it, we can see why.

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