When people find out I’m an automotive journalist, the first question many ask is: What is my favorite vehicle?
It’s an impossible question, much like a parent having to say which child is their favorite.
The second question I’m usually asked is: What do I think of Tesla?
Frankly, it’s been a sore point until now, since my experience with the brand is limited. Until very recently, the company didn’t advertise and didn’t even have a PR department. Needless to say, it also doesn’t make its vehicles available for journalists to test drive.
I decided to take matters into my own hands since I was going to be on vacation for several days in Los Angeles -- where, unlike in Detroit, Tesla vehicles are as common as Chevys or Fords -- maybe more so.
Hertz has a huge assortment of Teslas and other EVs for rent at LAX, and I settled on the Model Y since an SUV is the body style I prefer to drive.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked questions of friends who drive Teslas before I picked up my loaner vehicle.
Hertz, which is smart for wanting to both protect its investment and promote its deal with Tesla, also sent several emails with instructional videos, Q&As and tips to make the rental easy.
When I got to the rental car lot, my agent Zach took special care in showing me around the vehicle, including where the charge port is and how to open it. Compared to other EVs I have driven, the Tesla port is really well disguised, so that was an especially helpful tip.
I’m usually very even-handed in my reviews of vehicles. Choosing which vehicle to buy is incredibly subjective and depends on a consumer’s personal needs and wants. I can always find something favorable and something critical to say about every vehicle I test drive.
As for the Tesla Model Y, it’s almost all good. I have driven hundreds of different vehicles, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever evaluated.
Clearly, there's a reason the model became the world's top selling vehicle in the first quarter of this year, according to data from market research firm JATO.
I really wanted to check out the Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta, but sadly, that feature is not available in rental cars. But my Model Y's autopilot, which is similar to adaptive cruise control with lane keeping, was phenomenal in and of itself.
The best analogy I can make to what it felt like driving a Tesla is the feeling I get when I’m horseback riding and I get the sense that the horse is reading my mind and anticipating directions even before I give them. It was one of the most intuitive and fun driving experiences I’ve ever had — and that was in LA’s famous horrific traffic!
One of my favorite features is a gentle chime when the red light turns green to signal it is time to get moving.
Some vehicles (including the Kia Sportage I'm test driving this week) will display a message on the screen that the “leading vehicle is departing” or something to that effect. But that only works if you are behind another vehicle. Tesla vehicles signals it is time to go even if you are at the front of the line of vehicles -- it reads the traffic light.
Using Tesla Superchargers is a joy. Superchargers can add up to 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes. I only had to charge twice despite a lot of driving, and I was able to find an open charger easily and at a convenient location.
When I indicated I was heading to the charger, my Model Y began preconditioning the battery so that it would more quickly take the charge.
Plugging the Tesla Supercharger into the vehicle port was much easier than any of the other public chargers I’ve used.
Ford announced last week that it will soon make its vehicles compatible with Tesla Superchargers. I can totally see the wisdom in that decision after having used them.
If you are in a Tesla, during your 25 minutes at the Supercharger, you can mess around with the vehicle’s “Toybox,” which includes games and even a virtual fireplace (perfect for date night) or watch a TV show on Netflix. For safety purposes, the Toybox can only be accessed when the Tesla is in park.
Other things I like about the Model Y: The long-range version has a range of 330 miles. It can go from 0-60 in a respectable 4.8 seconds. With the back seats folded down (not quite flat, my one little complaint) it provides 76.2 cu.-ft. of cargo area, more than the Chevy Equinox (63.9 cu.-ft.), Kia Sportage (74.1 cu.-ft.), Ford Escape (65.4 cu.-ft.) and Toyota RAV4 (69.8 cu.-ft.). Like all Tesla models, it's currently eligible for the $7,500 tax credit.
I’m planning to rent another Tesla with FSD so I can put that technology through the paces.
I’ve even added the Model Y as a prospective next vehicle purchase. It could end up as my “favorite child” -- you never know.