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2012 Tesla Model S
Two years ago, our first-ever Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy award went to the first modern battery-electric car sold in the U.S.
How far we’ve come.
This year, our third annual winner is the 2013 Tesla Model S, a car that takes the all-electric vehicle to a new and far more elevated level.
But that’s far from the only reason it won. The Tesla Model S is an impressive new entry in the luxury sport sedan field for its performance, its looks, its capabilities, and its digital infotainment and control system.
NOTE: In December 2012, we gave this award to the 2013 Tesla Model S based on the availability of a base model with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack at a price of $59,900. That complied with our requirement that the Best Car To Buy Award go to a car priced at $60,000 or less.
In early April 2013, Tesla announced that it had canceled that 40-kWh model, due to lack of demand. According to the company, just 4 percent of its Model S depositors had specified the smallest battery size. The company said that for those customers who had put down deposits on the 40-kWh car, it would sell them a 60-kWh Model S with software that limited the car’s range to the range that the 40-kWh car would have delivered.
Electric power secondary?
Silicon Valley startup carmaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has pulled off an almost inconceivable feat: It’s designed and put into production a car that competes across the board with some of the most storied brands in the industry.
And that car is the first volume production vehicle from a company that didn’t even exist eight years ago.
From styling that many onlookers assumed was the newest, latest, sleekest Jaguar–a compliment indeed for a new carmaker–to smooth, silent acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds (in the Performance version), the Tesla Model S is more than an impressive new green car.
It’s an impressive car. Period. The fact that it’s green is almost secondary.
2012 Tesla Model S
Its 17-inch touchscreen display, for instance, is so fast, so crisp, and so relatively intuitive that it makes all other such control systems seem pathetically outdated.
That even applies to the brand-new Cadillac CUE system, whose deficiencies cost the otherwise excellent 2013 Cadillac ATS the same title from Motor Authority, our sister site.
‘Buff books’ converted
The Tesla Model S has won awards all over the place. It’s attracted 14,000 or more buyers to put down deposits before the company’s built more than 2,000 or 3,000 vehicles.
And it’s completely seduced some of the most hard-core gasoline proponents of all: the “buff book” car magazines whose judgments that it was a car of the year sealed Tesla’s emergence into the ranks of carmakers to whom attention must be paid.
Two of the three versions of the 2013 Tesla Model S have now been certified by the EPA for electric range: 265 miles for the 85-kilowatt-hour version, and just last week, 208 miles for the 60-kWh model.
The third and final version, with a 40-kWh battery pack and a reduced set of features and options, will go into production in the next few months.
Useful real-world range
Electric range, of course, depends greatly on speed, acceleration, driving style, outside temperature, and other factors.
One owner made news last week, for example, when he managed to drive his Model S more than 400 miles on a single charge.
2012 Tesla Model S
The 85-kWh model has a practical real-world range of at least 200 or so miles, no matter how it’s driven.
We’ll see what the comparable figures are for the other two, but even the entry-level Model S is likely to deliver the 120-plus miles that many observers feel is the minimum acceptable for owners to avoid range anxiety.
For longer trips, Tesla is rapidly opening a network of Supercharger quick-charge stations–and the power they provide is absolutely free.
The Tesla sport sedan, mind you, is hardly a cheap car.
Prices for the 2013 Model S start at $59,900 for the lowest-range version and rise in $10,000 increments from there, with the Performance version adding $10,000 more on top of the cost for the 85-kWh version.
On the other hand, almost no advanced automotive technology enters the market at the low end–and electric propulsion is just one reason to buy a Model S.
2012 Tesla Model S
It holds four people comfortably, five people adequately, and Tesla promises a pair of optional child-sized rear-facing jump seats to fit into the load bay at some future point.
Our award is no guarantee that Tesla Motors will survive, that the Model S will provide durable electric transportation for decades to come, or even that battery-electric cars will take noticeable market share any time soon.
But the disbelief, criticism, and sneering that often confronts startup companies with radical new ideas has, in the case of Tesla, already given way to grudging acknowledgment even by skeptics that the 2013 Tesla Model S is a viable, well-built, functional, and competent car that’s also fun to drive.
For that reason, there was really little other competition for our Best Car To Buy Award for 2013.
In response to criticism surrounding Tesla’s announcement on its new financing option, CEO Elon Musk has revised the terms by offering a new resale guarantee and longer-term loans, both of which should make owning a Model S a little easier.
“When we first did the financing option, we didn’t get it quite right,” said Musk during a live webcast on the subject. We found Tesla’s claimed savings were too exaggerated when we broke down the numbers last month, but Tesla says they’ll make more sense now. To start, the company now guarantees a resale value of 50 percent after three years (ratings by ALG), up from the previous 43 percent. That figure will be adjusted in the future to keep it above its luxury sedan competition. “If we really believe we’re making the best car, we believe it should have the best resale value,” Musk said. That means Tesla’s guarantee should assure the residual value will be higher than premium sedans from Mercedes-Benz BMW, Audi, Jaguar, and Lexus.
In addition, the company has extended loans to 72 months instead of 63 months. The 12,000-mile annual limit has also been increased to 15,000 miles. Tesla’s True Cost of Ownership Model S Calculator online is a bit more conservative now, as well.
After the first financing option was announced, Tesla has seen more interest in the 60 kW-hr model, but most buyers still go with the 85 kW-hr car. “What we’re saying is you’ll get 20 percent more cash in three years,” Musk said.
With Tesla’s ultimate goal of making the Model S more accessible to interested consumers, we’re thinking the best way to accomplish that goal is to simply introduce a less expensive car.
Toyota recently announced that it will put the RAV4 EV on sale in California on September 24. The electric crossover will come with a starting price of $49,800.
The aforementioned price might scare you, but you have to know that the car, which has been created together with Tesla Motors, is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 rebate via California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. Thus, you end up paying $39,800 for the car. In addition to that, Toyota will also offer a $599 36-month lease option.
Toyota brags that the RAV4 EV only needs 6 hours for a full charge (using a 240V outlet), while the car’s EPA rating shows a range of 107 miles (172 km) per charge. The automotive producer says that it aims to sell 2,600 units of the car by the end of 2014.
By Andrei Tutu
2013 Tesla Model S
To put it mildly, the Tesla Model S has been a resounding success.
The New York Times has called the all-electric luxury sport sedan a game-changer, comparable to the Model T Ford. It’s won virtually every 2012 “Car of the Year” honor, including the only unanimous Motor Trend award in the magazine’s 65-year history.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has a waiting list of nearly 20,000 eager buyers. Its production line is now humming at full capacity. And the 3,000-odd customers who’ve taken delivery of their cars are, for the most part, ecstatic.
But nobody’s perfect.
In fact, it would be something of a miracle if there weren’t at least a few teething troubles from a revolutionary, clean-sheet-of-paper design, built by a fledgling startup company, relying heavily on software, and assembled on a brand-new production line.
The Tesla Model S, too, has had its share of glitches, quirks, and peccadilloes.
In an ordinary car, these minor blips would likely pass unnoticed. But the Model S is no ordinary car.
Under a microscope since the prototype was revealed four years ago, the car has attracted a devoted clique of fanatical followers who pore over every scrap of Model S minutia.
(Count me as one of them; my 2013 Model S, with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, is now due to arrive in just a couple of weeks.)
Here, in any case, are some of the handful of blemishes sighted on the otherwise happy face of the Tesla Model S, as recounted by owners on Tesla Motors’ own online forum.
*Self-opening door locks. Several owners report having returned to their supposedly locked cars to find them unlocked, with one door slightly ajar. This has occurred both after manual remote locking with the key fob, and in the “walkaway” auto-lock mode, where the car locks itself when the key fob recedes to a certain distance.
*Sticking sunroof. Owners have reported difficulties opening the sunroof, which is controlled entirely from the touch screen.
2012 Tesla Model S Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S
*Software glitches. Model S software update 4.1 was designed partly to offer a “sleep” mode to reduce power consumption when shut down. But it has proven prone to bugs, with numerous reports of unpredictable glitches with the panoramic roof, door handles, locking, wipers, displays, and controls. (In fact, the two problems listed above are likely software problems, not mechanical.)
Rebooting seems to resolve many of these malfunctions, but for a few owners, rebooting has become almost a daily occurrence.
Laments one owner on the Tesla on-line forum, “You shouldn’t have to look to the east, raise your right hand, do the hokey-pokey, and tap the screen randomly to make something work!!!”
Responded another owner, wearily, “You obviously have no experience with software. The hokey-pokey is a basic required user skill.”
Tesla is currently remotely downloading Model S software version 4.2, to cars in the field. It eliminates the sleep mode that apparently caused most of the problems. “Reduced power sleep mode remains a high priority for future software releases,” says Tesla.
*Fogged windshields. Numerous owners have reported poor defogger/defroster action in cold or humid conditions. Tesla has already come up with a new vent design, and expects to have retrofit kits available at its service centers soon. Estimated installation time is less than an hour.
2012 Tesla Model S Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S
*Balky charge port doors. Owners report that the doors, disguised as part of the left taillight, occasionally don’t open or close properly, and sometimes pop open repeatedly. One poor fellow had his charge cord jam in the socket, immobilizing the car. He had to be rescued by a Tesla service rep.
*Substandard Floor Mats. Even top-of-the-line Model S cars come with no mats for the back seats, and cheap, low-quality mats in the front footwells. “They are the crappiest ever,” complains one owner. If you want nicer ones, Tesla will sell you “premium” mats for the front and rear footwells for $400.
*No regenerative braking in the cold. The recent Midwest cold snap has revealed an odd characteristic of the Model S: In subfreezing temperatures, the regenerative braking doesn’t kick in until the car has been driven 10 or 15 miles.
2013 Tesla Model S
This is apparently because Tesla engineers don’t want a cold battery to receive the sudden charge that occurs when a Model S driver suddenly backs off the throttle, or descends a steep hill. So the regen is automatically disabled or limited until the battery warms up.
This has proven disconcerting to a few owners who weren’t expecting it. “I was caught off guard by this over the weekend,” commented one owner on the Tesla forum. “It’s not hard to adjust to, but with something as important as braking, the car should stop in a consistent, predictable way.”
“It’s a wart on what is otherwise a superior, consistent driving experience,” commented another. And, oddly, the Chevy Volt suffers no such quirk. Its regenerative braking functions consistently in all temperatures.Do Chevy engineers know something that Tesla’s don’t? Or vice versa?
A few Model S owners have suffered more than one of these problems.
One unfortunate buyer who took delivery in late December–when Tesla was rushing to deliver as many cars as possible before year’s end–reported multiple problems with his car’s paint, GPS system, body trim, and door handles.
“I am so frustrated with all of these problems,” he wrote recently on the Tesla forum. “Had I known about this before I made a final order I never would’ve purchased this car. I wish I could take this car back to them now. Be forewarned.”
But the vast majority of Model S owners aren’t suffering any problems, or seem far more willing to cut Tesla some slack and give the company time to work out the few bugs.
One of them summed it up this way: “The car is just too awesome to whine about little problems that will (eventually) be taken care of.”
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland
Attention F10 BMW M5 owners: feeling a bit inadequate now that an electric-powered new kid on the block can beat you from 0-60 mph? Then Switzer might have a remedy. With just a few tweaks, the Ohio-based tuner has boosted the M5’s power figures from the factory-rated 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque to nearly 700 hp and 640 lb-ft (at the crank). Switzer is calling it the “M5 BMW should have built!”
The list of modifications is relatively short. A new engine control unit squeezes more boost from the twin turbos in the M5’s 4.4-liter V-8. Next, a Switzer exhaust and high-flow air filter round off the P700 package. The tuner didn’t provide any acceleration times, but we’re guessing it should shave off a couple tenths from the 3.7-second 0-60 mph run we recently achieved in an M5 (with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox). Better yet, Switzer says the new exhaust provides an aural benefit, with just enough punch to enter the cabin naturally, which means owners could theoretically disconnect the artificial engine noise currently produced through the M5’s stereo speakers.
The upgrade package is priced at $6995. Switzer will release more M5-specific items this summer, including wheels and carbon-nano brake pads. The P700 BMW M5 sounds promising and we’re eager to see how it performs against its German rivals and the surprisingly quick Tesla Model S.
Tesla claims it has 250 patents covering its Model S sedan, with more pending. The electric motor sits between the rear wheels, contributing greatly to the car’s 47/53-percent front/rear weight distribution.
Tesla offers three lithium-ion battery packs for the Model S — 40-kW-hr, 60-kW-hr, and 85-kW-hr — that are claimed to provide ranges of 140, 200, and 265 miles, respectively. The base 85-kW-hr powertrain delivers a stout 362 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, while the performance version makes 416 hp and 443 lb-ft.
Read more about the Model S: 2012 Tesla Model S Test and Range Verification
Guest judge Wayne Cherry, a former GM design boss, summed up the exterior design theme of the Model S as “somewhat safe and conservative.” His only criticism? “The front end is a missed opportunity to establish brand identity.”
A number of the interior design solutions need more polish. However, all judges were impressed with the Tesla’s unique user interface, courtesy of the giant touch screen in the center of the car that controls everything from the air-conditioning to the nav system to the sound system to the car’s steering, suspension, and brake regeneration settings.
For the 313 miles of road loops during the COTY evaluation, where the car was driven at normal speeds by all the judges with the air-conditioning running, it averaged 74.5 mpg-e. Impressive numbers, especially considering the 4766-pound Tesla Model S Signature Performance version will nail 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and the quarter in 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph, with a top speed of 133 mph.
Other Car of the Year Contender WOT Posts:
BMW 3 Series
CODA EV Sedan
Toyota Prius C
To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!
Modern cars lose around 12% to 17% of the engine's power through the gearbox, differentials, axles and whatnot. The percentage is higher for automatic gearboxes, and lower for manuals. However, some cars don`t have actual gearboxes, at all, and they are all the better for it.
The all-electric Tesla Model S does away with the gearbox, and the result is a lot more of the engine's power going to the rear wheels. The Model S was recently put on the dyne by Dragtimes, and what they found was highly-impressive.
The car is rated at 416 hp when it leaves the factory, so with a loss of 15%, the figure would drop to around 355 hp. However, the dyne test revealed that, in fact, the Tesla puts down a lot of its power – 386 hp, to be precise, which is a very good achievement for a production car (less than 10% loss).
The simplicity of the electric drivetrain is an advantage here, as it does`t have to move all sorts of pulleys and gears around, sapping precious horsepower in the process. This is why the Model S, which is a heavy car by regular car standards, can sprint from 0-100 km/h or 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds, which is exactly the same as the BMW F10 M5, which has a twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 560 hp. As always, the Model S continues to impress…
There’s nothing not to love about the Tesla Roadster, as it is a unique offering, on a market where most manufacturers claim their cars are green, when in fact they are not. The Roadster is a true sports car, in every sense of the word, featuring a bonded aluminium chassis also used on the Lotus Elise and Exige which gives it great handling, and a very powerful electric motor which leaves even some supercars behind on acceleration.
However, one thing the Roadster is not is practical – it has no real boot to speak of, nor does it have space to store stuff inside. It is great at what it does, but it is not a true all-rounder. Now, though, Tesla are offering a buyback program, where Roadster owners can trade in their cars, which will be used as credit for a brand-new Model S.
The Roadsters would then be sold on through Tesla stores, as second hand cars, but with manufacturer warranties and the guarantee that they are in top notch condition – lots of manufacturers do this nowadays, it isn`t really something new.
According to Tesla’s director of finance, Tom von Reichbauer, “Someone who couldn’t reach all the way to a Roadster before, now may be able to get one at a lower price [. . .] We’re able to set what I think are pretty competitive prices for these cars.”
Story via sfgate.com
Famed electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, scanned image from postcard c. 1890.
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, has quite a lot on his mind these days.
Among his tasks: making sure production of the 2012 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan ramps up quickly enough, while maintaining superb quality, to let Tesla build 5,000 units before the end of the year.
But Musk still took time recently to support the effort by a nonprofit to purchase the laboratory building in which famed electrical engineer Nikola Tesla experimented and establish a Nikola Tesla Museum in Shoreham, New York.
It all started with a post on the popular Oatmeal site that supported the fundraising effort to buy the property, then known as Wardenclyffe.
Shoreham is located east of New York City on Long Island, perhaps better known locally as the site of a never-finished nuclear plant that ultimately bankrupted the local electric utility.
The cost of the Tesla property is $1.6 million, and New York State has offered a grant that will match independently raised funds, dollar for dollar, up to $850,000.
The fundraising effort on IndieGogo has thus far raised almost $500,000 of the necessary $850,000. But, inevitably, there’s a villain in the story.
Another potential purchaser has an offer on the table and plans to turn the property into a retail location–potentially demolishing Tesla’s laboratory building to do so.
Since Tesla Motors [NYSE:NSDQ] is named after Nikola Tesla, it seemed a natural fit to Jalopnik’s Matt Hardigree.
He connected Oatmeal’s Matthew Inman to Musk via e-mail, and Musk agreed to donate to the effort personally.
Musk did note that a donation wouldn’t be an appropriate use of Tesla Motors funds at this point, since all its cash needs to be “reserved for operation of the business.”
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with Tesla Roadster
You can see the entire correspondence, which is pretty amusing, on Jalopnik.
So, well done, Hardigree. Well done, Mr. Musk.
Now it’s up to you. The closing lines of the Oatmeal post: “Internet, this is where you come in. Let’s build a goddamn museum!”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
You can donate here: IndieGogo Tesla Museum.
FYI, according to the IndieGogo site, the campaign is linked directly to the bank account of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization registered with the State of New York.
UPDATE: Tesla boardmember and Model S driver Steve Jurvetson points out that a new graphic novel about Tesla, titled The Inventor – Nikola Tesla, will be published by Halloween. Chapter One is available online for a limited time.
Tesla will turn over the keys to the first 2012 Model S customer cars at the end of this week, and the Environmental Protection Agency released final fuel economy equivalent and total range numbers not a moment too soon.
The Model S had already been crash-tested and cleared for public sale, and we were waiting for confirmation from the EPA. And now we have it: top-spec Tesla Model Ss with an 85 kWh battery will get the equivalent of 89 miles per gallon. That may be 10 fewer miles per gallon equivalent than the 2012 Nissan Leaf, currently the country’s most popular battery electric vehicle, but the Model S does have a bigger interior and a lot more power: it hits 60 mph in between 4.4 and 6.5 seconds, depending on specification, compared to the Leaf’s 9.7 second sprint.
While Tesla has long said that it was shooting for its 85-kWh models to travel a full 300 miles on one charge, the final EPA-estimated range is 265 miles. As we previously reported, Tesla says this is the result of differing testing methods: Tesla’s range estimates are at 55 mph, while the EPA’s methodology combines city and highway driving and is much more rigorous.
With the 85-kWh model getting an estimated 265 miles of range, it’s still anyone’s guess as to what less-expensive models will do. The Model S’ initial 1000-car production run will all be 85-kWh Signature Series models, but later models will have available 40- or 60-kWh battery packs that will allow the Model S to go a Tesla-estimated 160 or 230 miles, respectively. Neither Tesla nor the EPA have released those numbers, but expect EPA testing to temper those estimates a bit.
Still, the Model S easily takes the crown of the electric-only car with the furthest range, dwarfing the Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf, with their respective ranges of 98 and 100 miles.
By Ben Timmins