By on February 11, 2014


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Electric vehicles tend to get a pass from many reviewers, who are content to overlook major faults in favor of a great drivetrain. Years back, I did a review of the Nissan Leaf for EcoModder, an eco-enthusiasts site dedicated to fuel-friendly modifications and electric vehicle (EV) projects. In retrospect, I was far more impressed with the fact that it was just an electric car than the car itself. A Leaf is still a rebodied Nissan Versa with illusions of green responsibility. It’s neat, but it’s not that outstanding if you look at it simply as another car.

But that’s a lot of what Tesla has been about, waves of hype and media attention. Personally, I kept a fair amount of distance from the Tesla news and drama. Part of me simply doesn’t care, I am only really curious in the car that comes out of the debacle. And the car happens to be a genuinely good one. The styling is dead sexy, this car has fantastic lines in the glowing “Tesla Red Multi Coat” paint (there’s no sexy name for the color, sadly).

The brakes are mean stompers, aided by the regen braking in the rear. Though very heavy, you almost never feel the weight; it’s too low in the chassis to make itself known in all but the tightest corners. The interior is comfortable, with great visibility. The overall ergonomics are the polarizing aspect inside, with Tesla making a giant leap of faith by forcing a giant touch screen on Model S buyers, but it was hard to find fault with it.

Even though it’s been described again and against, the driving experience – devoid of gasoline, piston-actuated thrust, and multigear transmissions, is startling in how it delivers a near-silent freight train of torque from the rear wheels. What most publications can’t tell you is how you have to alter your own sensory perceptions when driving this car at speed.

We all have a method for gauging velocity without looking at the speedometer. Driving by feel – that is, the sights, sounds, and tactile feedback – is something that even the most marginally interested driver has developed. The more keen among us have an inner monologue based on all of these inputs. For instance,  practically any other road car, you see the “25 MPH” sign in yellow, ratchet down into the right gear for that corner and listen to the engine note fall, feel the chassis bite and the tires dig in to the pavement, and you know you’ve hit the right velocity for this corner.

With the Model S, your only option is through the tires, trying to sense speed with the increasing tire noise. And it’s not a bad thing, because the rest of the driving experience is so unique. Torque, 450 foot pounds of it, is always there. Always. A gasoline engine has to receive your input, open the throttle blades, pull air into the cylinders with fuel, squishbangblow, then transmit that power to the transmission… driveshaft… differential… axles... and you then still have to wait for the engine to hit its powerband. The Tesla bypasses everything and just throws down massive amounts of torque straight to the wheels. Up to its gearing-limited 130 mph top speed, it only begins to lose thrust as it approaches the aerodynamic drag of triple digit speeds.

Thanks to the low center of gravity, the Model S conceals its substantial mass quite well. The only time you get to feel the weight in action is in the tightest of corners, when the chassis’s neutral disposition gives way to mild understeer. The steering ratio is surprisingly quick, with decent road feel. Our P85+ came equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires that offered monumental amounts of grip.

The Model S’ stability control system also deserves a fair amount of credit for not being too intrusive while effectively managing the gratuitous amount of power put down the by EV drivetrain. Most stability systems will hunker a car back down into line,  heavily braking wheels strategically to pull the car back in line. The Tesla system simply feels like it guides the car with an invisible hand. It’s able to adjust torque output with exemplary speed and precision. Expeienced drivers will find it relatively easy to walk up to, but not exceed, the limit of the rear wheels on corner exit. Traction control can be turned off (and exploited pretty easily in the dirt), but stability control cannot.

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Of course, it’s possible to find fault with the car. As someone who had a GameBoy by age five and grew up in the tech-era, I like the large touch screen for most things. And most of the Tesla buyers are from the same era, though a few years older and a few times wealthier. These are buyers who like tech, and it brings a wealth of new options with what you can do with a car’s control systems. But, at times it’s picky and finicky when you attempt to control chassis options.

The ride height is adjustable, but it would mysteriously lock out “low” when parked for photos. While setting the car up for a photo shoot, took five minutes of fiddling to get the running lights and accent to stay on with the driver’s door shut. While auto-on headlights handle daily use just fine, a simple headlight switch would be very welcome. Other operations, like HVAC, nav, and radio all work very well. After an hour or so, I could easily adjust HVAC controls as easily as my own car.

In one of the car’s more overlooked quirks, the Model S offers almost no internal storage. There’s door pockets and a glove box, but that’s it. It lacks a center console, and there’s a large and open shelf along the front floor board to the dash, but no cubby holes to keep things organized. Though Tesla was smart enough to fit Michelin Pilot Sport tires, this car REALLY needs better seats. That attention needed at the throttle is hard to summon when you have to use your right knee against the center stack to brace yourself. There is not enough bolster for how capable the car is.

One other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the size of the panel gaps, particularly around the hood. Not many outlets have mentioned this detail, but it’s one that I expect buyers in this price bracket to be cognizant of this if they’re coming from a BMW or Lexus.

But, Tesla is incrementally updating these with new features. And that’s something that really impresses me about the ownership experience. Elon Musk and Tesla genuinely cares about this car and its owners. They listen, they adjust, they accept criticism and do right. Not only does the Model S represent a new frontier for the automotive world , but it also represents a change in the mentality an automaker has towards the satisfaction of its customers. The Model S’ firmware is regularly updated, refining the car every time.

But as it sits, the Tesla Model S represents the best realization of the electric car that we’ve had in a production car. There’s no green illusion: no tree infographics, no ZERO EMISSIONS sticker package. It’s a car that happens to be electric, not just an electric car. And it’s damn good.

Photos: Phillip Thomas

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87 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Tesla Model S P85+...”


  • avatar
    BC

    Don’t get me wrong, this car is a testament to american engineering and I would take one in a hearbeat. But something that I am not sure has ever been addressed is the battery usage. A single laptop battery sucks on my laptop after about a year or two. It wears out and doesn’t hold as much charge. How can a car full of laptop batteries not suffer the same fate? I know hybrids drain power from the battery in a limited range – like from 100% down to approx 55% to ensure the battery lasts. Does the tesla do this as well? I’d imagine the strain on these batteries is significantly more than on a hybrid. In two years, are tesla owners going to flip when they have to drop $30k for battery replacement?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “But something that I am not sure has ever been addressed is the battery usage.”
      Actually, it has. Several times. Tesla warrants the battery for a minimum of 8 years.

      “A single laptop battery sucks on my laptop after about a year or two. It wears out and doesn’t hold as much charge.”
      That’s not the battery’s fault, that’s yours. If you didn’t leave your laptop plugged in full time, you should be able to get 1,000 full cycles out of it–nearly three years if you cycled it every day.

      “How can a car full of laptop batteries not suffer the same fate? I know hybrids drain power from the battery in a limited range – like from 100% down to approx 55% to ensure the battery lasts. Does the tesla do this as well?”
      Based on other articles and Tesla’s own website, the car’s software works to maintain longevity by reconditioning them when it gets the opportunity. This is part of how Tesla is able to warrant the batteries.

      “I’d imagine the strain on these batteries is significantly more than on a hybrid. In two years, are tesla owners going to flip when they have to drop $30k for battery replacement?”
      The first part of this question I’ve already addressed; however, I don’t believe anyone has ever forwarded a price tag that high for battery replacement before. Where did you come up with that figure?

      • 0 avatar
        RogerB34

        Replacement battery warranty doesn’t address the battery reliability issue. True if the battery fails but doesn’t address the decrease in battery performance. “Under the new warranty, Nissan will repair or replace a Leaf’s battery within five years or 60,000 miles if it loses more than 30 percent of its charge capacity. For Leaf owners, that means the warranty kicks in if the 12-bar battery gauge falls under nine bars. The new warranty is the second for the Leaf’s batteries; the first covers defects and flaws for up to eight years or 100,000 miles.”
        The Nissan warranty replacement program is $100 per month. No defined endpoint.
        The Tesla battery would be an expensive replacement.

        • 0 avatar
          kyngfish

          Some batteries are better than others. BC gives the laptop example above. Depending on how much you spend on your laptop, I’ve had batteries that hold 80-90% of their original battery life for 3+ years. I haven’t actually measured this, but it’s an educated guess as someone who travels weekly. My Sony battery was only worth 30 minutes after 1.5 years, whereas my Apple battery is still going really strong after 2 years. My previous Apple being used by my wife is also going pretty strong after 4 years.

          As I think this will become a major knock on Tesla down the road if the battery longevity is an issue, I think it’s safe to say that they did their due diligence. Does that mean there’s no problem? No, but they probably power cycled the batteries a lot to test.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy949

      Tesla does have battery protection schemes in place, and it gives the owner the option to charge to less than 100% if one has a shorter daily commute. Then you can charge to 100% just on occasions when you’re taking a road trip, thus enhancing battery life.

      As for having to replace a battery after 2 years, the Model S has an 8 year battery warranty.

      I recently checked Autotrader to see how resale is holding up on older Tesla Roadsters. I didn’t see a single one listed for under 60K which is pretty good for a 100K car after 6 years. People wouldn’t be likely to pay that much if the batteries were deteriorating as badly as on an old laptop.

    • 0 avatar
      E46M3_333

      .
      The enemies of LiIon batteries are heat, high voltage, low voltage, and mechanical wear of the electrodes associated with cycling. It’s not difficult to achieve 1000 cycles in a lab-controlled cycle life test, particularly if you limit the state-of-charge range to something like 90% on the high end and 10% on the low end. Of course, limiting the SOC range will eat into available capacity.

      Laptops makers love to claim long run time, so they run their cells between 0% and 100% SOC. This, coupled with extended periods at full charge at the high internal system temperatures can result in laptop batteries failing in under two years, even if they have not achieved 500 cycles.

      Only Tesla’s battery engineers can say with certainty what SOC range they are operating their cells over. I suspect it’s something like 90% to 10%, and it may vary with temperature. I have no doubt they have tested packs to 1K cycles in the lab with greater than 80% remaining capacity. Trouble is, cycle life in the lab is merely a proxy for field use. Only time will tell how long the packs will actually last.

      Replacement cost can mitigated to an extent by the modular nature of the battery. I believe there’s a way to only replace defective “sub-packs” within the main battery. I suspect that’s the aim of their new recycling plant that was recently announced.
      .
      .

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        There’s a difference between claiming long run time vs long operational life. Still, I’ve got a laptop I purchased back in 2001 that’s still running on its original batteries and giving me about 70% of their original run-time. The reasoning is that I don’t leave it plugged in full time and only charge the batteries before I know I’m going to use it–after checking to see how much charge they have remaining.

        It’s all in how you use those batteries that you affect their operational lifespans.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      With four hours of hooning, I had only depleted 1/3 of the battery, despite the energy usage chart being maxed out almost all of the time.

      Tesla also offers an 8-year warranty on the battery.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “A Leaf is still a rebodied Nissan Versa with illusions of green responsibility.”

    Not sure how you figure this, since the Versa and Leaf share no parts that I know of. But yes, as a car, the Leaf is unremarkable compared to its peers.

    My only concern with the Model S is the mysterious early failure of some drivetrain components (probably motor bearings) that have resulted in complete drivetrain replacements, with no explanation from Tesla. Edmunds’ long-term S had this experience.

    But I’m really looking forward to the Model E.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      When I went to the Leaf event years ago, I was told the Versa donated its platform to the Leaf. The mechanical prototypes were Versa platform, as well. Nissan curiously doesn’t list the Leaf under its B-chassis, but that may be Special Snowflake Syndrome.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        The Leaf doesn’t share brake components, body panels, seats, nor drivetrain with the Versa. It does share some brake components with bigger cars like the Rogue and some Infiniti products.

        It may share some minor items with the Versa (seat adjusters? I don’t know), but the Leaf’s large battery and added weight mean the lightweight Versa platform probably couldn’t offer much except parts used during prototyping. Early test mules of Nissan’s EV drivetrain don’t look anything like the Leaf, so maybe they have some Versa in them.

        • 0 avatar
          Phillip Thomas

          It may not share an exact unibody, but I’d go so far as to say suspension pickup points and design are nearly identical. The rear trailing dead-beam is visually identical:

          Leaf: http://boronextrication.com/files/2010/11/nissan_leaf_firefighter_extrication_bottom-vehcile.jpg

          http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/track-tests/2011-nissan-leaf-suspension-walkaround.html

          http://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/nissan/leaf/2011/fe/2011_nissan_leaf_det_fe_8231211_600.jpg

          Versa: http://images.autoserviceprofessional.com/post/M-NISS02-2-1.jpg

          http://www.autoserviceprofessional.com/article/92193/pulling-nissan-versa

          Notice the same H-shapped trailing dead beam, quarter-moon spring pockets with shock mounts aft of the spring pocket.

  • avatar

    The Green movement is a cavalcade of liberal minstrels trying to control energy usage in a futile effort.

    Everytime you plug in a laptop, cellphone, big screen, etc, that energy is most likely coming from a fossil fuel. An electric car does not and CAN NOT escape this fact.

    Even nuclear power requires a significant amount of fossil fuel use to mine, store and SECURE the facilities and waste.

    As for the car: the interior is boring and far upstaged by cars costing half as much. The interior of this car needs an upgrade pronto.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Pardon me, but WTF does any of this have to do with being a liberal? Take your political trash somewhere else and focus on topic at hand. Please.

      • 0 avatar
        cartunez

        Don’t take offense but usually liberals are on the “green” bandwagon. Personally the advances being made with the ICE are kicking the whole green movement in the ASSets from where I am sitting. We won’t even discuss the mercury aspects of the batteries.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          WHAT mercury aspects of the batteries? Lithium batteries such as those used in cars don’t use mercury, they use Lithium–a powder capable of holding an electrical charge usually sandwiched with a polymer film and aluminized anode. New lithium batteries are more like capacitors than actual batteries, since they don’t really generate any charge of their own.

        • 0 avatar
          Stumpaster

          Usually urban blacks drive rear wheel drive American sedans with unnecessarily large engines, blacked out windows and oversized wheels.

          How far do we want to take this one? I am outta here before I get banned.

          • 0 avatar
            VenomV12

            Ha ha ha, +1

          • 0 avatar
            ellomdian

            Just be glad he hasn’t slipped in the anecdote about the Ghibli loaner last week, and how it just doesn’t compare to the CTS-V/300/V6-turbos are a direct cause of the downfall of society ALUMINUM BRAGHHH!!!

            I have to wonder at this point if BTRS is even sober most of the time. He sounds like that drunk uncle/grandpa you cringe when you hear him at family events.

            OBAMA! KENYAN MUSLIM! COMMUNISTS! LIBERALS DESTROYING AMERICA!

          • 0 avatar
            E46M3_333

            I can only hope that someday I achieve a station in life where I can reward myself with a Chrysler 300. For now, I’ll have to settle for BMWs.
            .
            .

          • 0 avatar

            Stumpaster

            Don’t forget our unnecessarily large subwoofers in the trunk, the marijuana in the glove compartment and the exotic girl in the passenger seat.

            I’d be offended if I wasn’t so busy doing burnouts.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “Don’t take offense but usually liberals are on the “green” bandwagon.”

          Feel free to consider us loons who, for some strange reason, think it’s a generally bad idea to sh!t where you live.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            There are off-the-shelf, automatic “buts” posted all over the internet whenever there is a posive review of something that may disrupt the (profitable) status quo.
            “Oh, solar is great, but the cost of solar panels is still way too high to make it economically feasible!”
            “The batteries are $30,000 to replace, and will die a week after the warranty runs out!”
            “Batteries are toxic and contain mercury, lead, plutonium and baby harp whale carcasses!”
            “Liberals! Scary! Owl lovers! Boogie men! Bad, bad, bad hippie progressive communists who think trees are actually good for something besides making two-by-fours and toilet paper!”

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      What you are forgetting is that whatever the source of the energy, electric cars use a whole lot less of compared to an equivalent ICE car. Roughly half as much. And electrical energy is almost always domestically sourced, whereas gas and diesel not so much. So there are two big energy advantages of electric. And as a propulsion system, electric is just better that ICE. The immediately available torque just can’t be matched. There are plenty of downsides, but energy consumption and driving dynamics are not among them.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      BTS, there are lots of places on the internet that cater to turning every issue into politics; hopefully TTAC will not become one of them.

      Plus, you are making those of us with libertarian leanings look bad.

      Just stop.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I think your definition of the “Green movement” is too narrow, but it’s true that anyone who thinks they’re “going green” or “saving the planet” simply by buying an EV or hybrid is kidding themselves.

      To truly “go green” is to become fully conscious of WHERE one’s energy comes from and HOW one uses it, and to take steps to maximize energy efficiency while maintaining a comfortable quality of life. This isn’t easy—or cheap—but it’s far from impossible.

      Whatever political rancor may exist in America, the fact is that as a nation we ARE being FAR more efficient/less wasteful with our energy use than in the past. As education on the matter improves, waste due to ignorance (or simply for the sake of waste) is being greatly reduced.

      Combined with the recent explosion of independent American energy sources thanks to fracking and such (ND could hold its own in OPEC at this point), America is creating more of its own energy and using it more responsibly. That’s a good thing.

      I don’t have a problem with people driving an efficient car as a symbol of their overarching dedication to energy efficiency in their lives. My problem is when that car and that car alone is the only gesture made towards that goal, when the car itself isn’t enough.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank GOD for coal and oil- otherwise I would have frozen this winter.

        It’s time to put down the self-serving, ludicrous green movement.

        • 0 avatar
          glwillia

          Thank god for coal and oil? Go spend a year in Beijing and see if you still feel the same way.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Speaking as an engineering-minded environmentalist, the point isn’t to villify coal and oil.

          The point is to use them where they count, and to eliminate waste while still living a decent life.

          Speaking for myself, burnouts are a waste. Avoiding death by hypothermia is not a waste, though the amount of undesirable and expensive inputs (such as coal, oil, and NG) can often be reduced in perpetuity by improved insulation and other fairly basic fixes to a building.

          This stuff is neither rocket science nor political ideology. It’s just waste-not-wont-not attitude of our grandparents, with a little engineering thrown in. Applied to the mechanics of running a household or small business. Nothing to see here, except for boring practical adulthood.

          P.S. Now, I personally am willing to be fascinated by and willing to pay the early adopter premium on immature green technologies earlier than the mainstream greens because I’m a geek who likes to try new things. But the main thrust of the real green movement is totally boring grownup stuff like building efficiency, deciding how many kids to have, deciding which minivan to own for household schlepping.

      • 0 avatar

        That last point is a good one (so are some of the others). Personal transportation vehicles represent about 15% of greenhouse emissions in the US. Meat eating represents more than that.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          Agreed. Not to mention, the batteries for these and other electric cars are mined in China, a country with NO environment protection laws.

          Also, B&B please be sure to try to burn as much natural gas as possible. Wyoming is in a bit of a slump right now and it would really help our economy out.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You absolutely sure about that? How are they mined? Exactly where in China are they mined? Or is the lithium really mined right here in the good ol’ US of A?

            Don’t listen to hearsay–you’ll hear whatever someone else wants you to believe. Sometimes a little Science TV is a good thing for learning facts over fiction.

        • 0 avatar
          E46M3_333

          Banning meat eating is on their list too. One thing at a time…

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Agreed on the last point, but I’d make a couple of counterpoints:

        1) Anything that can be done to prevent pollution is a positive in my book, even if it’s one action out of ten possible actions. You don’t necessarily have to go “all the way green” to have a positive impact.

        2) There are a ton of reasons to buy this car that have nothing to do with being an environmentalist – let’s face it, the thing rocks no matter how you slice it. But if it brings non-”green” buyers into the fold, so much the better.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          The government is selling us the info that our cars pollute the air. In reality this is not true, especially today. There are much bigger polluters including power plants that must charge your Tesla. Also, all sorts of manufacturers. But if the governments will start going after them, the people will go hungry and wars may start. So they found a scapegoat – you! The truth is that if tomorrow, 50% of cars will be electric, we will not have enough electricity. Don’t expect electric car to be mainstream in your lifetime. Even if consumers wanted to, it is impossible, just like it is impossible for everyone drive E85.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Keep believing that, slavuta; you’ll feel that much more a fool as the market slowly changes over to electrics in one form or another.

            What you choose to ignore is that not only do cars have pollution control gear on them, so do power plants. The pollution output of the typical coal-fired plant is less than 1/10th of 1% of their un-filtered history. That’s still worse than many like, but it’s a sight better than China’s uncontrolled burning of all types of fuels. The real problem is that we’re going to run out of petrochemicals long before we run out of coal, so we need to get an alternative motive system operating before we lose oil.

            Meanwhile, there are many other types of energy that can be used to generate electricity–including three different nuclear options. And that assumes we won’t discover even more efficient methods.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Wow, Big Trucks…10 responses to this troll post. Well done. Feeling better about yourself now?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    “In one of the car’s more overlooked quirks, the Model S offers almost no internal storage. There’s door pockets and a glove box, but that’s it.”

    That’s strange. Didn’t somebody post a negative comment about the Tesla Model S on another thread claiming it did NOT have door pockets?

    I do have to agree though. Why no center console? Not only does it make for useful storage, but it’s a nice arm rest while you’re driving, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      There’s only an arm rest, which is floor-mounted but not open for storage. The armrest slides back to reveal the cup holders.

      Yeah, you’re right. It’s been a month since I was with the car, long story.. I remembered there being a small tray along the bottom edge of the door panel, but it appears that I was wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      There are no door pockets, I was just at the Tesla store in Boca Raton a few days ago and reconfirmed my original statement. The center console storage is equally poor and there is no sunglass storage. The interior is spartan and I am not impressed with the E-Class window controls and the S-Class stalk for that kind of money. I drive an S-Class and this car has no business costing S-Class money with that interior. My father has an A8 and when he finally got a chance to see a Tesla all he could say was the interior looked cheap, spartan and unfinished. We both agreed that fully loaded this car should really sit at about $65,000 plus or minus. I like the spirit of the Tesla but interior is in dire need of catching up to its price.

      I just got done driving about 3,000 miles and spent about $400 on fuel. The reality is that is you can spend six figures on a car, the fuel bill is not a major concern and I would rather have the comfort and amenities of a true six figure car and the flexibility to deviate from a pre-determined route and not have to sit for a half an hour or more to charge my car ever 250 or so miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Phillip Thomas

        The only real reason it looks ‘spartan’ is because the touch screen UI takes places of 99% of the controls. Otherwise, the car isn’t lacking features and is only in its year and a half or so of production; improvements in both software and ‘hard ware’ are incrementally added often.

        The Tesla Model S is not an economical choice by any means. It’s a statement, it’s something /different/, and it’s a unique offering for big sedans.

        Some people simply want it. Enthusiasts cars are rarely an exercise of rational thought. The main point here is the car doesn’t feel like an experiment, like some slapped together kit. It’s a very cohesive car, though quirky in some details (interior storage stands out).

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    its still a rich man’s car with rich man’s problems. wake me when one one is available that isnt the leaf becomes affordable.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      Musk has put the word out they’re developing a $30,000 model: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-s-goes-awd-comes-with-cheaper-batteries-upgraded-firmware/#more-738425

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “Electric vehicles tend to get a pass from many reviewers, who are content to overlook major faults in favor of a great drivetrain.”

    I’ve noticed this too. With all the hoopla about the car being proclaimed to the “the best we’ve ever tested”, I was supremely disappointed by the sparse interior, uncomfortable seating and lack of features. Perhaps some buyers value the novelty of the drivetrain more than the above, but the “less for more” approach to the rest of the car is what turns off mainstream buyers of 100k luxury cars.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Range?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Lots of variants of the first sentence, here’s one:

    “[Insert your favorite Kentucky-built sports car here] tend to get a pass from many reviewers, who are content to overlook major faults in favor of a great drivetrain.”

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    2 things. I believe the Model S’s top speed is limited by gearing rather than aerodynamics. With that much torque and it’s aerodynamic shape, adding the weight and extra complexity of an extra gear or two would see the car get much higher speeds. Battery life would be challenged then so this is not a bad decision to limit the top speed.
    Difficulty getting the lights to stay on while the car is parked is most likely by design, so not a fault, as such. It is battery powered after all.
    Good review though and some interesting alternate view points raised.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      While I can’t refute your first argument completely, it’s worth noting that as an electric motor’s speed goes up, its torque goes down; it gives its highest torque at 0 (zero) rpm and lowest torque at maximum revolutions. Something like the old Powerglide two-speed tranny could see this easily exceeding 150mph and maybe even save on battery at highway speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      You are correct, Editor made a mistake. Fixing it now.

      It’s worth noting that the owner claims Tesla is working on an Autobahn package with a taller final drive ratio.

  • avatar
    Vega

    “If not for aerodynamic drag, it could far exceed its 130 mph VMax”

    Ummmm, that’s true for every car. If not for aerodynamic drag, there would be a lot of 200mph 4 cylinder cars out there.

  • avatar
    walker42

    The Leaf is not a rebodied Versa where did you get that from?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      See my comments above. “Rebodying” a car means the body is different, but the platform remains the same. That’s simply not true for the Leaf, but the Versa might have played a role during development.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        But don’t they build the Leaf, the Cube, and the Versa on the same assembly line?

        I thought a platform was bigger than just the parts in the car…. That it included the factory architecture and the supply chain.

        If the Leaf is built on the same assembly line, then there must be some similarities, at least at the big picture level.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      Nissan, about four years ago at a Nissan Leaf event.

  • avatar
    stckshft

    Was this a press car? I could have driven this particular car at a launch event for a competing manufacturer.

    My take was the torque is incredible! It’s instantaneous! It pulls like a GE freight train up to 100mph. I kept mashing the ‘foot feed’ down and giggling like a teenager.

    The bad: most of the switchgear is M-B parts bin. The car I drove had quite a bit of wind noise in the rear seat area from the large glass roof. The large ipad like center stack is cool but it’s missing a genuine center console and thus lacking some inside storage. The large glass center stack also has sharp edges on the lower corners and as such dug into my right knee when driving. I’m right at 6’0.

    Overall I was impressed with what the young company has accomplished so far. Given another ten years they could be genuine contender in the automotive landscape with several platforms.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Seeing as how Tesla sold more EVs than anyone else in Q4-2013, I’d say they’re a contender. The pure EV market is really held by Nissan and Tesla at this point – nobody else is even close.

      More platforms will help (X, E), but they’re already being cross-shopped by consumers looking to spend $70k+ on a car, and the Model S already outsells many other well-known nameplates (Porsche 911, Audi A7, A8, Mercedes CLS).

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> More platforms will help (X, E),

        I noticed that they recently registered “Model Y” as a trademark. Don’t know which vehicle will get that particular name. They’ve had a predictable naming convention up until now, I wonder what will be next.

      • 0 avatar
        stckshft

        The CLS is getting long in the tooth. Most folks I know wouldn’t cross shop the 911 with a Tesla. Perhaps the orthodontist special Panamera. The thing is the fit and finish on the large Audi sedans is top notch. If one is to compare Tesla vs. Audi on that aspect alone clearly Tesla has some catching up to do. I realize it takes time to get Tier I and II suppliers on board and to cultivate a good working relationship.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          I think we agree that Tesla’s done a pretty good job so far. But obviously Model S buyers aren’t prioritizing fit and finish vs. an Audi when they buy a Tesla. They’re looking for an experience that no other car offers.

          I am similarly amused when people speak this way about Kia or Hyundai:
          1. “Once they have a track record, maybe I’ll consider one”.
          2. “Their driving dynamics aren’t up to Lexus or Mazda standards”.

          Such straw man arguments indicate no intention to ever buy the product, or to ever take it seriously.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Every.single.time I see an A7, I want it.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillip Thomas

      Privately owned car. Tesla asks for a $2,500 deposit if I want to drive anything with their name on the title.

      I’m not worried about a few parts-bin switches from a Benz, who cares? It’s not Kia switch gear, and I think John Hennessey had the right idea when someone asked why they used the Elise a base for the Venom. To (heavily) paraphrase John, “We could spend a few million developing an interior from scratch, testing everything and making sure it all works. Or we can build a 1100 horse power super car and leave the door panels to someone else”

      You get the gist.

      I am 6′ 2″, and while having to use the center stack for support, I didn’t have any problems with the edge cutting into me.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I like the review, but my big question is: what kind of range did you get?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I.

    Want.

    One.

    Period.

  • avatar
    z9

    Thanks for the review. The red color is really something special, even in the photos, and I consider myself a hater of red cars.

    After 14,000+ miles in my Model S, sadly not that color red, I would observe that it is really a car for suburban and freeway driving. This is how it is used in our household and for that it has been perfect. I have also made a long distance trip using superchargers that basically felt like magic. If Tesla releases a rumored new software update that can predict energy use taking wind and elevation into account, it will be a little less challenging to trade charging time versus risk when traveling between charging stations.

    However, driving the car in an urban area is another story. It is truly a big beast and shaped in a way that makes it a challenge to park. Urban parking garages built in the pre-SUV era become extremely tense adventures. If you are not careful the car will bottom out at the rear in many situations. At least now you can order your Model S with parking sensors and power folding mirrors. I am sure drivers of full-size SUVs are familiar with these issues. I just never thought I would be in the same, uh, boat as those drivers.

    Current battery technology dictates that to get the kind of range that is the car’s major selling point, the vehicle will be have to be very large. As the review observes, the Model S does not feel large to drive from the perspective of vehicle dynamics. (It doesn’t feel small either.) However, at some point you’ll be confronted by the physical size of the thing. I hope smaller batteries with similar range characteristics will be available in the future.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “A gasoline engine has to receive your input, open the throttle blades, pull air into the cylinders with fuel, squishbangblow, then transmit that power to the transmission… driveshaft… differential… axles… and you then still have to wait for the engine to hit its powerband.”

    The Tesla drivetrain likely does feel much more responsive than that of the typical horribly unresponsive emission-tuned throttle-by-wire vehicle, but I think you’re grossly exaggerating the physical delays involved here. With a cable-operated throttle, its movement is effectively synchronous to the pedal movement. So no perceptible delay there. Both the air and fuel going into the engine have minimal inertia, so ignore that. Since the engine and wheels are solidly mechanically coupled (assuming no unlocked torque converter in the way), the only delay in power transfer from crankshaft to wheels would be due to slip along the gear tooth faces and flex in the drivetrain components. Tire sidewall flex would be a much larger factor here, so the effect would be negligible. Drive a pure race car with a manual transmission and minimal flywheel weight and you’ll see that the lag is imperceptible.

    Here is how I would write that paragraph:

    A modern gasoline engine control unit has to receive your request, analyze the situation using all its sensory inputs, and then open the throttle blades after an acceptable delay to accommodate emissions concerns; and you then still have to wait for the engine to hit its powerband if you weren’t already in the right gear.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “One other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the size of the panel gaps, particularly around the hood.”

    Thank you. I mention this with each Tesla article on TTAC, and everyone always ignores me. It shows up especially in lighter colors, and in non-pro photos on ebay.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    After spending a day with the Tesla, I think that the battery is the only question mark on this car in a sense that if a poor man should buy it?

    Well, think that Tesla is a computer and electric motor, with almost none of corrosive parts. So, buying one and driving it for something like 25-30 years can go far financially. Lets say you build one for 75K. How much is the luxury tax? Ok, the government money will compensate for it. In CA government gives 15K in West Virginia 12.5. Talking of discounts for rich, huh. Anyway, lets forget lux tax fro a moment

    Tesla 75K
    - Fuel – minimum $1000 savings every year (vs compact car). In 25 years $25,000 or more!
    Price now $50K
    No oil changes, which in average $30x2per year x25 = $1500 or more
    Tesla now is $48,500
    Some people have to pay for emission tests and this is another $750 or more. How about spark plugs, air filter, coolant, transmission maint.
    So lets say, with the savings your real price is $47K

    This is like 2 Accords that you drove for 12.5 years each. Probably, 2 Accords will cost even more.
    So, you see, Tesla would be pretty good deal if not the battery factor and your will to drive same car for the long time. Because Tesla is genius. It has 5 parts and non of them a as vulnerable as ICE and Transmission.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    Sooo, looking at it as “just another car”… If we forget the green green environment blah blah altogether — what drivetrain could we shove under this thing, to make it a REAL car?

    I was thinking, Tesla S65 AMG, Tesla M60i… (Why even consider lowly V8s, when there ARE V12s to be had?) But no, of course, now I’ve got it: Those V12s already exist in four-door form.

    What the world lacks, though, is a TesLagonda.

  • avatar
    mrcool1122

    “this car REALLY needs better seats.”

    I agree, this is the only thing I’d change about mine. It’s probably the one thing that really prevents me from chucking it around with abandon.


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