As the new Tesla Model Y approaches, about 100 people pull out their smartphones and start recording. The same Deep Blue Metallic model that was shown on stage by Tesla CEO Elon Musk stops in front of the assembled Teslarati and journalists who clamor impatiently to get in.
I’m in front of the line and ready to step inside. “Come on, it’s your turn,” says onde of the people coordinating the rides. The doors swing open like a regular SUV, not the wild cantilevers of the Model X.
Despite its compact crossover underpinnings, the Tesla Model Y’s second row is ample. First thing I check is headroom—I have about and inch and a half between the top of my head and the all-glass roof. Legroom is decent, as there’s enough space to comfortably seat my 6-foot self. But as another two people come into the second row, shoulder room gets tight.
Tesla claims the Model Y can seat seven. But I look behind me into the hatch and see no room for passengers. “It may be too dark to tell, but there are two other seats folded down behind you,” says the guy commanding the wheel. It’s clear the third row is for children only—“There’s no way I can fit myself in there,” I say out loud. It’s small, tight and there’s not much headroom.
First thing I notice when I look forward is the clean dash. The Model Y’s interior is lifted straight out of the Model 3 sedan. The 15-inch floating screen catches your eye. The rest of the interior is clean and tidy—the lack of a cluttering instrument panel, and the sweep of its simple dashboard gives the Model Y a crisp look. There’s wood trim and nice leather that give it a premium feel. The center console, just like in the Model 3, has a couple of cup holders and an armrest that’s also a compartment.
As we pull out of the alley, the driver stomps on the accelerator and my back is pushed against the seatback. We’re on board the dual-motor all-wheel drive variant of the Model Y, and like all Teslas, it’s energetic. The compact crossover quickly reaches a speed of 53 mph before we start slowing down on the closed road.
Musk claims a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds, but we will have to verify that in the near future. After turning the Tesla around, the driver does a bad interpretation of a slalom, and even though the turns he made weren’t especially precise, the Model Y’s maneuverability is proof of its low center of gravity. For an SUV, it sticks to the ground, and there’s hardly any head toss inside the cabin.
Musk alluded earlier how his crossover rides like a sports car with the functionality of an SUV. That’s a hard statement to validate after spending just two minutes riding in the Model Y, but its quick acceleration and ground-hugging handling makes us want to take this crossover on a canyon road.
As we return to the alley, I look around the cabin and have the same impression our own Kim Reynolds had when he rode in a Model 3 for the first time: It feels like a fishbowl inside. With the huge panoramic moonroof and large side windows, the Tesla Model Y has a sense of freedom. The seats feel like they’re positioned a little bit higher, reminding me of the ride height of the Jaguar I-Pace – not too high, but not too close to the ground.
Soon enough, someone from MotorTrend won’t be sitting in the passenger seat, but actually driving the Model Y, and we’ll provide you with driving impressions.