Seattle to Paradise in a Tesla Model Y
I recently took delivery of a Tesla Model Y, and I decided to test it out by driving it to Paradise on Mt Rainier. Officially known as the Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise, it is a beautiful tourist destination. At 5,400 ft of elevation, Paradise receives an average of over 50 feet of snow per year, and there was still snow on the ground today, July 3rd. Paradise Inn was originally built in 1916, and although the road is paved, it is a very twisty route with few if any guardrails at the top, and is hung on the side of a volcano. I thought that a day trip to Paradise was an excellent excuse to test out the handling, the range, and the Autopilot system.
To begin, I wanted to make sure that the Model Y AWD Long Range could make it from my home in Seattle, which is at about 475 ft above sea level, to Paradise at 5,400 ft, and back again. I used the Web site called A Better Route Planner to plan the trip.
Not only does the site show chargers along the way, but it lets a user pick the make and model of their electric car so the range is more accurate. It also takes elevation changes into account. The round trip is only 184 miles, but there is a mountain to climb, and the temperature is colder at the visitor’s center. A Better Route Planner estimated that I would have 23% of my battery remaining, even if I left my house at a 90% state of charge. Tesla recommends not charging to 100% very often because it can affect the battery life, but it didn’t look like that was necessary for this trip.
The first part of my journey was on the I-5 freeway. Tesla’s Autopilot works great on an Interstate, even I-5 which is 9 lanes wide as it passes by my house. I don’t have Full Self Driving on my Tesla so I have to do the lane changes myself, but that is no problem. When you put on the blinker, Autopilot drops down to normal, speed matching cruise control, and lets you perform the change. Then you can just re-engage Autopilot and it takes over again.
The real surprise to me is how well it works on smaller, two-lane highways, and also in terrible, bumper to bumper traffic. I previously owned a BMW i3 that had speed matching cruise control, and it would bring the car to a complete stop if the car in front stopped, but then it would turn itself off if traffic didn’t start moving again in about 20 seconds. The Tesla will happily sit there for as long as it takes, apparently. When the car in front moves forward 5 feet, so do you. It couldn’t be easier. Letting the car do all of the boring and annoying stuff is just the best. I was enjoying an audiobook and having a nice day instead of grousing about the line of cars to get into the National Park.
In the 90’s I owned a Series I, Landrover Discovery, and I drove that to Paradise, too. I am pretty sure that I could have driven that vehicle to the top of Rainier without a road, but on the road, it was not happy. The steering was vague, and even though it was not very top-heavy, there was definitely a lot of movement in the corners. It was also very loud and the thirsty V8 engine was infamous for being wildly unreliable. The experience in the Y could not be more different. A lot of reviewers talk about the instant torque, and that’s great, but in the mountains you need a vehicle that goes around corners without making you think that you are about to plunge over a multi-thousand-foot drop, only to be found by archeologists when the glaciers melt. My last car was a Volkswagen GTI with an electronically controlled, limited-slip differential and it was some kind of victory of black magic over physics. For a front-wheel-drive car, it was amazing how great it was in the mountains and was, I think, the best, all-around, gas-powered car that I have ever owned.
The Model Y is better. Yes, it is quite heavy, and it is taller than the Model 3 upon which it is based. I don’t have the Performance edition, but the All-Wheel Drive system, the low center of gravity, and the twin motors are ridiculously good. The car goes where it is pointed with zero drama. The regenerative braking means that I can just lift my right foot and the car will begin to slow — even to a complete stop with enough room. Combine all of that with the lack of a heavy engine up front, and going around a corner in a Model Y is just as precise and quick as the squidgy human behind the steering wheel can stand.
Going up a mountain is one thing, but coming down is the real party piece of a Tesla. You have all of the balance and control that you had going up, but the regenerative braking means that I didn’t touch the mechanical brakes once on the entire decent — and I gained 15 miles in range because the motors slow the car and turn that kinetic energy back into electricity. It’s better than engine breaking a gas car with a manual transmission because you hold the car exactly where you want with the accelerator. Once you drive an AWD Tesla down a big, twisty mountain you will be ruined for other cars, so be warned.
The return trip was easy and uneventful and mostly completed on Autopilot. I ended up with 28% of my battery remaining, not the estimated 23%, and I estimate that the cost of my electricity for the 184-mile round trip was less than $5.50. This car takes care of the boring stuff, encourages and assists you to have fun with the exciting parts, and does it all for less than a big coffee at Starbucks. I have owned a lot of gas cars, but if this is the future of driving, I am all in.
If you want your own Tesla, here is my referal link that will give is both a few miles of Supercharging.