By on January 29, 2014

Aren’t you sick of reading everywhere about how fast modern cars are? Sure you are. Aren’t you sick of seeing electric sedans run heads-up against the newest Corvette? No? Well then, this is the video for you.

Let’s get this out of the way: although both cars run twelves, the Corvette is faster both times in pure beam-to-beam ET, and it slaughters the Model S P85 in trap speed. Still, this is remarkable for a few reasons. The first reason is that you can buy an electric sedan that runs close to a Corvette. The second reason is that you can buy an automatic transmission ‘Vette that runs flat twelves, looks high-quality both inside and out, and will probably last as long and as well as the typical Camcord.

These are great times to be a car guy. Aren’t you sick of reading that, too?

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57 Comments on “Tesla Model S v. C7 Z51: A Driver’s Race?...”

  • avatar

    In the first video that I saw, the Tesla won by .0235 of a second…but the SOUND of the Corvette was a symphonic aural delight!! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I had a Model S pass me very quickly on the highway, I was already going 75, so the Tesla driver must have floored it, and I heard nothing at all, just saw it zoom pass me in complete silence.

      • 0 avatar

        No offense intended here, but that is interesting since at 75+ mph most of the noise a car makes is wind and tire noise. In this video, the car at speed (looks like about 30-40 mph at one point??) sounds not that different from a regular car:

        That said, it is very cool to encounter these things in parking lots and other places where they are floating around almost silently like golf carts.

  • avatar

    Hmmm How about a long distance drag race, plus a refueling. Aside from electric cars being inefficient, this win has to be down to driver rather than vehicle. I’d say they’re even. Also, the Tesla jumps the green.

    • 0 avatar

      The Corvette did get a poor start, but you can see the Christmas tree for long enough in the video to see the Tesla didn’t pull a red light (there is no DQ on his time-slip at the end either).

      The Tesla driver cuts a way faster RT and I think they must have switched drivers as well as lanes for race 2, as the corvette cuts the way shorter RT the second time.

    • 0 avatar

      You must have an interesting formula for determining efficiency… Gasoline cars can convert up to about 19% of stored energy into forward momentum. Hybrids recapture lots of that to increase overall efficiency. Electric cars convert about 85% of stored energy into forward momentum. So if you mean to say that an electric car is less efficient than, say, a resistance heater, you’re correct. If you’re comparing them to other cars, you’re using the wrong terminology.

      Also: How long of a race do you suggest? If you’re just after outright speed over a distance, it becomes a lot more about bladders than drivetrains.

  • avatar

    It also looked like the Tesla driver got a sooner jump off the line, which has nothing to do with an EV characteristic — just driver response.

    You could put the Tesla motor and a small battery into a go-kart, and it would still beat the ‘Vette to 60 mph. So what? Proves nothing, except that electric motors generate max torque at zero RPM and typically (not invariably) go down from there.

    So, a drag race is irrelevant to the comprehensive driving competence of any car. Let’s see what happens when the Tesla S does around the Nürburgring. That ought to settle the issue.

    (Oh, you mean Elon hasn’t done that already?…..)


    • 0 avatar
      Eric 0

      This is most definitely an EV characteristic. When you depress the accelerator on an IC powered car it takes time for the fuel sending unit to push the gas to the injectors, and then for the Engine to crank up to speed, and finally the car starts to respond, then maybe it decides to change gears.

      I haven’t driven the Model S, but my buddies and I used to race home built electric motorcycles. They didn’t go as fast as the gas ones, but the acceleration was instantaneous, direct and fully addictive. Full instant torque. Every engine, NA, Diesel or whatever is going to feel like it has severe turbo lag when driven after the Tesla. I specifically haven’t test driven one yet because I know it will ruin my 540 for me. Tesla drivers describe the car as telepathic, and that’s consistent with how those bikes felt.

      • 0 avatar

        Hi Eric – – –

        I “walked” through the video one frame at a time.
        There is NO QUESTION that the Tesla lurched before the bottom green light went out.
        …PLUS, the ‘Vette driver just wasn’t “with the program” in this run.
        Yes, EV’s give full torque at zero RPM, but not usually before their supposed to ! (^_^).


        • 0 avatar

          You’re supposed to jump the light, that way the wheels actually clear the optical sensors right after it goes green. No redlight and a short RT = a chance to win.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is most definitely an EV characteristic. When you depress the accelerator on an IC powered car it takes time for the fuel sending unit to push the gas to the injectors, and then for the Engine to crank up to speed, and finally the car starts to respond, then maybe it decides to change gears.”

        You’re making it sound as though you’ve driven nothing but throttle-by-wire vehicles with automatic transmissions.

    • 0 avatar

      @NMGOM – The BurgerKing Ring is just as relevant or irrelevant as the drag strip. The point of this video is that electric cars, once disparaged as glorified golf carts, can be fun, fast, and useable.

      @OP – no, I haven’t tired of reading that these are great times to be a car guy. Keep shouting it out because one day, perhaps sooner than we expect, it won’t be true anymore.

  • avatar

    The fact that an over 2-ton sedan is able to run pretty close numbers to a less than 2-ton sports car is impressive regardless of the drive train. Credit where it is due for Tesla putting together a very impressive car.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Great fun for the drag racing crowd, but not very meaningful in the real world (or should I say “roads”) as far as ultimate performance is concerned. Sure, electric motors have a big torque advantage pulling away from a dead stop, but on the fly I’m quite sure the Vette would leave that battery buster in the dust.

  • avatar


    Any chance we could get a few posts that explore the reflexive Luddism of a certain segment of the B&B?

    I mean, maybe I could understand if 1984 had been some halcyon era of automotive perfection, but we have instead spent the past 30 years witnessing massive advances in automobiles on every front. That being the case – why all the Luddism?

    • 0 avatar

      I will second that ‘JMO’, Jack?

      But, we are talking about the B&B, surely the most informed, unprejudiced, critical thinkers on internet auto sites.

      Maybe you should write that post up JMO. Nah! poking at windmills of flawed logic will get you more of the same.

      Did I just attribute logic to the Luddites. No generosity intended. So strike that.

  • avatar

    The Tesla driver got an early start, and the Corvette driver must have been knitting or something.

    Still, the Tesla is one hell of an impressive car.

  • avatar

    How about a Corvette-based successor to the original Roadster, utilizing as much of the Model S drivetrain as possible?

  • avatar

    There are a lot of nice cars if you have a hundred large to spend.

  • avatar

    I saw this earlier on another site, dare I say… Drag Times. My first thought as the Tesla pulled the Vette on the first run, was what the Vette driver was thinking about his situation, must admit to a little laugh at his expense, though, I quite like both cars.

    And yes, Jack, it is great to be a car guy in these times.

    My only regret is that my Dad could not witness these times and a production electric car matching up so well with an American high performance ‘IC’ icon. He was a car guy of the first order, and back in the early fifties was promoting the idea of electric cars. If alive today, a Tesla ‘S’ and a Tesla Roadster, would surely be in his garage.

  • avatar

    I did not realize the Tesla was that quick. Some here have said here the Tesla jumped the light but I think that drag racing has that scenario well though out by now. The Instant torque of the Tesla would make it look like it got the jump but the reality is it is just that fast off the line.
    The only reason the Corvette starts to catch the Tesla is because the Tesla only has one gear and it’s top speed performance is limited as a result.
    Impressive stuff!

  • avatar

    I’m just going to say this – drag racing has got to be THE most pointless thing you can do on wheels. I just don’t get the appeal of it, at all. 1/4 mile in a straight line, as fast as you can? Why? WHO CARES! They should at least make it a 1/4 mile oval to make it more interesting. Better yet, a figure 8! turns in BOTH directions. Wheeee!

    The new Corvette certainly is a huge improvement, but in soo many areas there was nowhere to go but up. Still as desirable to me as an ’05 Crown Victoria.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with krhodes1 on drag racing. Winning a drag race such as this–by the tiniest of margins!–would never make a difference to me. And I can’t imagine feeling deprived by a car with only, say, half the acceleration that these two cars have. I like a car that does everything well. I doubt I’d have more fun in either of these than in an FR-S. (But I’ve driven the FR-S and I haven’t driven either of the other two.)

      Nonetheless, it’s nice that there are a lot of fun-to-drive choices. I don’t need to be reminded it’s a great time to be a car guy; I just hope it continues to be that way.

      • 0 avatar

        In this case, it demonstrates that the Tesla isn’t just a golf cart.

        I have low expectations for both Tesla’s long-term prospects and the future of the electric car (at least in its current lithium ion configuration). But Tesla deserves a lot of credit for doing well with the execution and for not becoming an electric version of the Vector.

      • 0 avatar

        @holzman << "I just hope it continues to be that way."

        I think it's going to get better. If they continue to make progress with "green" gasoline, the ICE will have it's lease on life extended. If Eric Wachsman at the University of Maryland succeeds in developing their 350 degree centigrade gasoline burning solid oxide fuel cell, we could have electric motor driven vehicles that could get fuel at any gas station. So, we may be able to eliminate a number of problems that we currently have with both ICE and electric vehicles in the future – and things will be even better.

    • 0 avatar
      Don Mynack

      “I just don’t get the appeal of it, at all. 1/4 mile in a straight line, as fast as you can? Why? WHO CARES!”

      That’s because you drive a Fiat.

  • avatar

    So much butt-hurt in the comments here. Can’t we all at least agree that it’s amazing we can buy an electric car off the lot that’s somewhat efficient and can go toe-to-toe with a new Corvette in a stoplight drag? This technology is ahead of its time for the consumer market. Cars in the future may not have that “aural bliss” I cherish every day, however it’s comforting to know we will still have the choice to own a fast electric. Speed is speed, and the weight issues will be solved eventually.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Tesla gets 89 MPGe, so unless you’re drag racing all day, it will be an easier car to live with – like taking you and 3 friends to dinner. It may also be cheaper to insure.

    And don’t tell me that drivers of $100k cars don’t car about gas money – if each is driven 800 miles/month, the Vette will cost about $130 more to operate.

  • avatar

    In the first run I was wondering if the Tesla was going to be able to stop. I guess the driver was taking it easy on the brakes.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Wow, even if the Tesla did leave the line slightly sooner, it took most of the quarter mile for the Corvette to even begin gaining on it. In any stoplight/onramp faceoff, the Corvette is going to run out of runway before it can gain an advantage.

  • avatar

    What you see here is two of the absolute best cars in the world…one a technological powerhouse/future machine from a freaking start-up company, and the other an affordable, reliable, engine-screaming supercar from an old hand–that is full of plenty of it’s own technological supremacy. Both are American, also, which not long ago many people would not have predicted. There’s something to celebrate for those who pull for the home team.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to post this very same point, but you beat me to it. Both these vehicles list for under $75K base price – wow. And then add that both are from American firms and know-how? Double wow!

  • avatar

    This is a steam-vs-diesel contest and though it took a couple of decades, we know who won that. If and when Tesla offers a reasonably priced car the writing will be on the wall. Batteries might not be the ultimate solution (hydrogen? fuel cells? Mr. Fusion?) but the winner’s not always the ultimate choice. Just look at Beta vs. VHS. Maybe Tesla should get the porn industry on board.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I’ve had two ‘vettes (’67 427 coupe and an 05 C6). Loved ’em both, and they were the ONLY GM cars that didn’t strand me, lose multiple parts, rattle (nope, the ’67 was tight, tight, tight), and rust.

    However, I’d love to have a Tesla…I’ve seen them in person and they are very impressive. However, they suffer the prime problems of all electrics…recharging times and recharging locations.

    No need to defend the ‘vette in a drag. Electric notors start off at max torque…which places them at a distinct advantage during the first moments of a drag.

  • avatar

    What this video tells me is…. the Model S P85 will outrun 99% of cars in normal driving scenarios… especially out of a dig and up to speed limits….

    Just think about this video. Elon might just unveil a 100kwH battery pack that CAN BE retrofitted to existing Model S cars…. minimal labour cost and a boost to both performance and range

  • avatar

    Too bad there is nowhere you can actually legally exceed 100 mph in Anerica besides a track. The Performance model is only good for a 1/4th mile race and torally unnecessary.

  • avatar

    The Tesla Model S has something else in common with the Corvette. It has joined the Corvette as a high performance car most often seen glued to the slow lane on the highway. The theory for why Corvettes reside there has always been that the drivers are on their last license point or that cops take a special glee in nailing them for speeding. For the Model S, it is a matter of range v. speed. San Diego has to be one of Tesla’s best markets, so I see them every day. I’ve yet to be passed by one, or to have caught one on the freeway with a speed differential of less than 20 mph. They’re driven in the manner of the first Prius’s, hypermiling in the name of not running out of juice.

    While the graph on Tesla’s site gives a good correlation of the effects of keeping up with traffic on range, it is worth reading the conditions they modeled for, as they are not remotely-real world for the purpose of exaggerating the car’s capabilities.

  • avatar

    Remember that the Tesla is a second generation car from a tiny automaker. By the time it gets to generation seven, like the Corvette, it should be a very nice car in all respects. Also, people are criticizing the buyers of these cars. It it were not for “early adopters”, no new technology would ever succeed. It takes trial and error to perfect any technological advance. Will electric cars ever be “better” than internal combustion vehicles? Probably, but it will take time and effort by the electric car companies. The internal combustion engine has come so far in the past few years, but there is a limit on how far it can go. The electric car has more potential for improvement than the gas powered car.

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