In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

In-vehicle touch screen display, which offers everything from a full web browser to a back-up cam.

Chassis.

Chassis.

In the factory.

2012-11-02

The Tesla Model S: Automobile Of The Year

Does the ringing endorsement of the electric automaker’s newest model from the mainstream auto press mean we’re about to see a change in the stigmatization of EVs?

Much political hay has been made over Tesla’s extensive government loans; Mitt Romney went so far as to call the electric vehicle startup a "loser" because of production delays on the Model S sedan, which I had the opportunity to test drive this past summer. But make no mistake: This car is a big deal. And this week, Automobile Magazine named the Model S its 2013 Automobile of the Year. If you’re not familiar with the inner workings of the car world, know that this, too, is a big deal.

What does the magazine think is so great about the vehicle? Part of it is the 265-mile range--impressive for an electric car (even with the least expensive battery option, it still gets over three times the range of the electric Nissan Leaf). The Tesla supercharger network doesn’t hurt. Neither does the vehicle’s sleek interior design, which features an iPad-like 17-inch touch screen that controls almost everything in the car.

But in the end, it was the vehicle’s impressive performance that pushed it to victory. After I had my turn in the Model S, I concluded that it was the most fun car I’d ever driven. "It’s the performance that won us over," writes Automobile Editor-in-Chief Jean Jennings in the periodical’s article about the Model S. "The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses."

It’s hard to overstate how important it is that the Model S can compete with and even surpass the performance of its gasoline-powered counterparts. If electric vehicles are to be taken seriously, they need to match up in performance and range to traditional vehicles. No electric car can yet be recharged as fast as a regular car can get a tank full of gas, but Tesla’s fast charger network and big batteries are a start.

Now if only the automaker could come out with a vehicle that costs less than $58,570 for the cheapest model, it could truly revolutionize the automotive world.

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7 Comments

  • Barry Quinn

    Its technology in desperate need of a real design language. If you love cars you know this car owes much of its aesthetic to the Jaguar XF. It reads as a cheap car treading on the hard won design language of an existing car. The Fisker on the other hand is a car with the confidence to own its own design language.

    Also, why does this electric car have a grille on the front like a gas powered car? What is it cooling up there? My guess is its been done to make it look like a regular car. If true, thats awful, especially since every other manufacturer is trying to reduce frontal area.

    Speaking of reducing has anyone mentioned the weight of this car? I have read it tips the scales at 4700+ pounds, that is huge weight considering a Porsche Panamera tips the scales at 4100+. The car is also wider and longer than the Porsche. Thats a huge car!!! (it is possible the new details show a smaller lighter car).

    Its a great start, but I fear the desire for this car to be the NEXT thing to save the auto industry is making people soft on the critique of the car.

  • Michael Glenn

    I assume the grill is for air conditioning. If the award was just for outside appearance, I agree, even for all its beauty it's not a new external design. I don't believe however, the award is the prettiest new body. 

    You have a beautiful, functional sedan that can potentially run on clean electricity which performs at the same level as a BMW M5. 

    But yeah, it's 600 pounds heavier than a Porsche Panamera as you say. If it performs well, so what? I feel like we're being trolled. 

  • Tom

    This is the first time I've heard an opinion that the Model S does not look great and is not an amazingly innovative automobile. I have to think you are in the minority.

  • Ben

    Have you looked at the Fisker? The Karma also has a grill. And it weights 5300 pounds! Dude, if you are going to make an example at least do some due diligence before spouting that fresh egg that just smeared your face.

    The issue with these all-electrics is battery size and weight.  Battery technology has a ways to go before it can help reduce curb weight (unless of course you want to sacrifice range for weight.)

  • bwj

    Beautiful car. However, we need the corresponding infrastructure to be put in place rapidly, so these can be adopted on a large scale. If the only place you can charge one is in a suburban garage, it limits its use and impact. We also need to work on cleaning up the power grid. Fueling electric cars with coal-based electricity isn't much better than using oil—it's most likely worse.

  • Matt_PrecisonMetalCrafts

    Inspiring vehicle and Company.  I love that this company has put everything on the line to develop this car.  As an owner of a job shop with machining, welding and complete fabrication in Southern California i admire everything this company does and the craftsmanship in this vehicle.