To help members understand the latest automotive technology so they can purchase vehicles that best suit their needs, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center (ARC) began testing and reviewing vehicles over a decade ago in the AAA Green Car Guide, which initially focused entirely on rating fuel-efficient, low-emitting vehicles.
For the 2021 edition, we've expanded the focus of the guide to include testing and ranking cars and light trucks with the latest technology, including having at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature. In addition to vehicle evaluation, the guide covers a number of pertinent automotive topics in detail—for example, the latest advanced safety features, how to properly maintain your vehicle, and the development of autonomous vehicles.
The green cars tested by the ARC are evaluated on the basis of 13 categories: emissions, fuel economy,
crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess, and visibility.
The scores for the categories are totaled, and the cars are ranked from high to low.
Car Guide Winner: 1st Place SUV/Minivan & Overall
2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD
Vehicle Type: SUV/Minivan Electric
Category Ranking: 1
Price as Tested:$53,190
Fuel Type: Electricity
120V Charge Time: 4 miles per hour
240V Charge Time: 31.6 miles per hour
DC Fast Charger: 80 % in 27 minutes
EPA City MPGe: 127
EPA Highway MPGe: 114
EPA Combined MPGe: 121
EPA-Est. Electric Range (mi): 316
Advanced Safety Features
Adaptive Cruise Control [S]
Advanced Headlights [S]
Automatic Emergency Braking [S]
Blind-Spot Warning [S]
Forward-Collision Warning [S]
Lane-Departure Warning [S]
Lane-Keeping Assistance [S]
[S] Standard, [O] Optional
Being a pioneer in the EV industry is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, especially if your cars are on the pricey side. So it makes sense for Tesla to establish itself in the red-hot compact SUV segment. Enter the Model Y. Introduced for 2020, it's essentially an SUV version of the successful Model 3 sedan. It's a sharp-looking car-it looks like it's moving even when it's standing still. And, like the Model 3, the Y has class-leading EV range (more than 300 miles) and lots of advanced technology. It drives like a sports car, with instant acceleration and quick steering, but the ride is stiff. The interior is clean and minimalist, dominated by a huge center screen that handles most vehicle functions-and is potentially distracting to use while the vehicle is in motion. The backseat offers passengers more room than the Model 3's. But the Model Y — as is true with many Teslas — is beset with build-quality problems (but not with its electric powertrains). Our test car had misaligned body panels and a trunk lid that wouldn't open properly. Our experiences weren't unique, either — among automakers, Tesla came in last in a recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey for this reason. Despite these challenges, Tesla still maintains a loyal following and ranked high in our performance testing.