I had only a short time to get used to my Tesla Model Y before I was in a situation where I had to rent a car and drive it about 100 miles. The rental was an Audi Q8 from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
I can’t review a car based on a 100-mile drive, but this rare glimpse of the “other side” (I’ve driven Teslas for 7 years), helped me think about how Tesla does things compared to other cars.
The Audi Q8 is supposedly a high-end model. I found the controls a maze with stalks sticking out of the steering wheel in every direction. Some of the stalks had multiple controls on them. There were paddles too. I couldn’t find the cruise control (it was on a small down-pointing stalk on the left) and had to look on YouTube to see how it worked. The car had adaptive cruise control, meaning that it maintained a specified distance between cars; two paddles set the distance. There was also a touch screen and voice controls, but I didn’t find any voice commands that worked, and when I tried navigation, I got a message saying it required a subscription the car didn’t have. The gear selector was on the center console and it had a button on it too. There are a total of 3 display screens.
And then there was gas. The car was received with very little gas in it, so I had to fill-up. I took an exit labeled “gas,” and drove a while finding no gas. I tried a second exit and eventually found some gas. I fully expected to need some lever in the cabin to open the gas filler cover, but it didn’t require one. Gas pumps are complicated these days — you have to convince them that you don’t want to join their loyalty program.
The one plus for the Q8 was its blind spot warning system. It was easy to see and it worked well.
Tesla Model Y
There are few controls on a Model Y: two stalks, each with a button on the end, and two scroll buttons on each side of the steering wheel (also a convention horn button).
I’ll readily admit that Tesla has a learning curve. The few controls there are perform multiple functions, but the function makes sense in context. Voice commands are flexible and cover a wide range of functions. It’s also very helpful that the main controls setting provides a search function (voice commands also can search for a setting).
Charging is far more simple than buying gas. The car navigates to the charger automatically and there is nothing required beyond plugging the cable in. Billing is automatic.
The interior of Model Y is definitely spartan, or as I prefer to say “uncluttered.” I found the seats more comfortable in Model Y than the Audi.
Tesla has a blind spot warning system too, but it requires more of the driver to glance over at the touch screen and interpret the side view camera, compared to Audi’s signal light on the side rear view mirror. (The latest Teslas have a blind spot warning system similar to the Audi.) [Update: Tesla is providing an over-the-air update to its older cars to give a prominent red bar on the touch screen for blind spot warning.]
With all that said, I think Model Y is probably harder to control on the first encounter, but much easier long term. And with Tesla’s level of automation, the driver rarely has to access the controls.