Tesla Model S has received a lot of very excited reviews from major trend setters in the auto sphere and now every single Tesla on the road will carry the message that the world has changed and there is no way back. Era of 19th century technology driven by controlled explosions under the hood is coming to an end.
"Despite all doom and gloom China moves forward into electric space, road will not be always smooth, but watch what these people do - not what they are letting journalists to write about. China has secured supply of Rare Earths and Graphite and now is taking stakes in Lithium developers."
There's no other way to put it: Tesla's Model S luxury sedan is spectacular.
The electric wonder's attributes go far beyond its claim to fame as the longest-range production electric car, EPA rated at 265 miles. (Tesla says it will go 300 miles at a continuous 55 miles per hour.) Most electric cars can't do much more than 100 miles a charge, unless they have backup gas engines, like the Chevrolet Volt. Tesla has no backup.
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Driving the performance version in the hills around Tesla's headquarters, south of San Francisco, was exhilarating. The car is a flat-out joy to drive. And you'll want to run it flat-out. Like Tesla's previous electric roadster, the Model S invites you to experience a rush of acceleration at every on-ramp or empty stretch of back roads. When you do, you'll get what seems like an effortless push-you-back-in-the-seat thrill that extends through the power range. In the performance version, the Model S rockets from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds (although top speed is 125 mph, relatively modest by luxury-car standards). But what's even more impressive is how it keeps going at a breakneck pace. That's important if you're trucking along at 60 mph and suddenly want to punch it up to 80 mph to pass.
The battery pack is built into the floor, giving the Model S an absurdly low center of gravity. That pays off when it comes to cornering, allowing the Model S to hold the road.
It wasn't just the car's performance that amazed us, although that alone probably would have done the trick. It's the car overall.
The exterior design by former Mazda designer Franz von Holzhausen is simply beautiful, the four-door coupe style now linked to Audi A7 and Jaguar XJ. Inside and out, there are little touches that impress everywhere -- from a big space between the front seats where women can place their purses to outside door handles that are flush to the car until they magically appear when a hand brushes against them. There is no scrimping on materials in the cabin. The dashboard is stitched leather and the door pulls are sculpted aluminum.
It's as if every detail of the car became a matter of weeks-long deliberation. Case in point: Instead of a power port that opens like a gas cap, like on a Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf, the Model hides the port behind the left rear taillight. And when you open it, it's not only circled in LED lights, but you can tell how much the car is charged by how many of them are lit.
This luxury doesn't come cheap. The Tesla Model S starts at $57,400, not counting the federal tax credit, for a base-level version that has about the same range as today's electric cars. By the time you get to the longest-range version with all the extras, the "signature performance" version, you're at $105,400. Initially, Tesla is only making the premium version. The wait to buy a Tesla, if you plunked your $5,000 deposit today, would be for delivery next May.
There are so many things to talk about this car, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's try three:
- Charging. Unlike most electric cars where you have to buy a home charger, and have it installed, the Model S' recharger is built in. That saves a lot of money and hassle, although owners will still want to have their garages' electric systems upgraded to 240 volts. Even with that, the 300-mile version will take up to eight hours to recharge.
- The center console screen. Tesla not only now has the largest monitor screen of any car, but just about every control is now situated on it. The screen is 17 inches from top to bottom, bigger than two iPads. There are only two buttons on the dashboard, compared with 80 or more in some luxury cars. One opens the glove box. The other is for the four-way emergency flashers, required by law. Through the touch-screen, you can perform just about any function. And it shows multiple displays, so it's possible to have navigation on the top, and show audio on the bottom. For now, drivers will get full access to the Internet even while they drive. When Drive On got in the car, the full screen version of USATODAY.com was being displayed. So for now, drivers or their passengers can check for restaurants or anything else while they drive. We're not sure how long this feature will last, though, with federal regulators' crackdown on distracted driving.
- Space. The car's battery pack is stashed under the car, which helps lower the center of gravity and opens up a lot of otherwise wasted space. There is no hump down the middle. There's a trunk in front where the engine would normally be. And there is storage behind the rear seat. As for the large space between the front seats, Tesla says it's creating an opportunity for buyers to customize how to use it themselves. There are two cup holders in front, and Tesla is developing a cup holder insert for the back seat, and there's adequate headroom in the back seat for taller people.
There are a few things we didn't like, but they are minor. The rear window is so sloped that it looks distorted through the rear-view mirror. At first, it was confusing to figure out which is the turn-signal stalk. A quick test drive doesn't answer other questions about the Model S, such as the one that's most important: What is it like to live with a car that needs to be plugged in at home every day, or every other day.
All in all, the Model S makes us think it is the electric car by which others will be measured. The question is whether buyers of luxury cars will seriously consider it before buying a conventional car."