2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: So Cool. So Fast. So Devoid of Passion.

June 20, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

A few days ago I took our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S home for the first time. Driving a Model S is an interesting experience.

It's luxurious and upscale, and it feels, well, expensive. And large. And substantial.

And even though the Models S has been out for awhile now, people were giving it second, third and even fourth glances as I motored south on the 405.

The Tesla is also eerily silent. So silent, in fact, that you notice there's quite a bit of wind noise. And because it's so mechanically quiet and stable at speed, you're doing 80 without even trying. Whoops. Better slow back down.

But while the whole thing is impressive, I must admit to feeling that the electric experience isn't really my thing. See, I don't just love cars and sportbikes and dirtbikes and powerboats and snowmobiles for the speed. I also love them for the sounds they make, the mechanical-ness, if you will, of it all.

And this is where the Model S is lacking. It's got no passion.

But then I push the throttle to the floor, again, and the thing rockets forward. Holy crap, it's so stinking fast.

Hmm...maybe I could get used to this. Certainly can't hurt to find out.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 5,143 miles

Comments

  • motorstreet motorstreet Posts:

    This is the problem every electric car faces. Performance numbers make impressive headlines, but they aren't all that important to the driving experience. The Model S might be fast, but it has all the character of a Nissan Leaf. It's just a faster, fancier, and prettier appliance. Unfortunately, Hydrogen fuel cells and Extended Range EV's are also plagued by characterless electric motors.

  • homer281 homer281 Posts:

    I understand that you miss the noise of a gas engine, but to say it is devoid of passion I think dismisses the tremendous effort and passion of the engineers who designed a car from the ground up and started a new car company. Love or hate Elon Musk, there is certainly passion in the way he fights for his car company and I'm sure that's reflected in those that work for Tesla.

  • Ok, now you guys are just making up stuff to complain about.

  • I love the roar of a V8. An F1 engine at redline is heaven! Still, is noise always necessary for passion? Well... would any car enthusiast turn down a ride on the Ferrari Rossa roller coaster in Abu Dhabi because, while it accelerates to 149mph in 4.9 sec, it does so without engine noise? Not likely.

  • homer281 homer281 Posts:

    Maybe you could select a soundtrack and it plays a engine note over the stereo? BMW does it already.

  • se_riously se_riously Posts:

    Somehow, I find this particular blog to be contradictory, especially when "It's got no passion" is paired with "it's so stinking fast" and "people were giving it second, third, and even fourth glances".

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Its not necessarily contradictory. Speed/performance numbers aren't the same as passion. The Miata is slow, but it oozes passion. I get what he's saying about missing the mechanical-ness. I love that nice mechanical action of the shifter going through gates. Does a lack of mechanical-ness always mean it is passionless? No, but if that's what you want, then this car won't excite you that much. Tesla PR people, you may proceed with the thumbs down votes now.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I don't know if passion is the right word. But certainly the noise of an engine is an integral part of actually driving and enjoying the car, preferably with an audible up/downshift It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how the vehicle actually performs either. Just watch the Petrolicious series of videos on youtube and you'll probably get the idea. I don't think the Tesla Model S really appeals to those kinds of people (luxury car buyers, tree huggers and gadget geeks) in the first place though, so I'm not sure if it's a problem.

  • dsm363 dsm363 Posts:

    That's something you get over very quickly. Many owners of M5s, M3s, Corvettes....etc all say the same thing then the instant torque takes over and you forget about all that unnecessary sound.

  • tokyorush tokyorush Posts:

    I used to think exactly this way. My old Merc SL500 had a great rumble, and the noise of the old Audi was part of the experience. But - and I actually think that the author may be thinking this at the end - there IS a passion to the S - at least when you let it open up. In slow traffic, I agree that there is nothing exciting - it's VERY quiet and predictable and has decent feel through the steering, but it is a big heavy car. When you open it up though, it hunkers down and is a bit like driving a go-cart with unlimited torque. Also, the way Tesla does its regen through the gas pedal is like using engine braking in a manual which I find exhilarating. At this point, it's hard for me to drive anything else, and I think that the driving experience at speed is equal to anything I've driven (mind you, I haven't driven a Ferrari or Aston, but certainly = to a 911, M5 or S5 Audi. I'm driving the new Jag in a few weeks and looking forward to the comparison).

  • A lot of old cavalry guys loved the peacefulness and companionship associated with horseback riding, while thrilling to the shear kinetic fury of controlling a half ton of galloping bone and sinew during a massed cavalry charge. Once those old guys were all killed off by machine guns everyone learned to love loud, toxic smoke belching, and wholly indifferent battle tanks.

  • 7driver 7driver Posts:

    Sounds like it's just a different kind of passion, like the difference between a Piper Cub versus a high performance sailplane. Or a Hobie Cat versus a Bayliner.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Electric cars can sound kinda cool in their own way. I had one drive past me today and the growing whine as it accelerated sounded kinda alright. And on the extreme other end, listen to Toyota's TS030 as it starts on electric power only on pit lane then kicks in the gas engine. Nothing but awesomeness there and I can get very passionate about that. I suspect once electric cars are common and diverse enough to have different noticeably different sounding motors we can get just as passionate about them. Certainly I could get more passionate about a real electric motor hum than I could over some fake mechanical engine noises recorded and piped in.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    stovt001, thumbs up on your post. For some folks the model S has passion, but for others it just lacks something. Doesn't mean it's not a great car but Tesla evangelists take anything that is not blind devotion as a knock on the car. When I think about what got me into cars at a very early age(first picture of me was in a pedal car) it was the total experience. They way the car sounds, the smells, the feel of controlling a mechanical object, the Tesla lacks most of those things. It is fast, it is good looking and I would certainly buy one as a daily commuter (assuming I could afford to spend that much) but I would have something with a manual transmission in the garage for when I wanted to DRIVE.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    The only reason people associate "passion" with sound is because for the past 100 years that's all we've known. The reality is we really don't like the sound cars make. Otherwise why would we spend millions of dollars building walls along freeways in urban areas to block the sound of cars. If car sounds were so "passionate" then we would pipe them in elevators, day spas and libraries. Instead, we like a world of quiet natural sounds like birds chirping and the rustling of grass in the wind. Once you actually own an electric car (like I have for four years now) you begin to appreciate driving down the boulevard silently and being able to overhear the conversation of the bicyclists riding next to you or the grin your passengers have on their face as you effortlessly press the accelerator to the floor and they giggle with excitement not knowing it was coming. I call that passion.

  • wtjordan wtjordan Posts:

    Some people love steam locomotives for the passion they ooze; billowing smoke, pistons clanking, steam hissing, whistle screaming. Now steam locomotives are relics for special excursions and museums exhibits. It took about 25 years for steam locomotives to go from the workhorse of America’s transportation system to a museum relic. The clock for internal combustion powered automobiles has started.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    "That's why I will never give up my chainsaw; it has too much PASSION!" As drcomputer stated above, the sound of an engine doesn't give a vehicle any special quality, it's just what we're used to. People will miss engine notes the way they missed the sound of wind blowing through sails or the buzz of a turboprop. Hopefully, like those people of yore, they will eventually suck it up and move on.

  • shepski shepski Posts:

    Any car without a manual transmission is devoid of the essential part of automotive "passion" for me, at which point I could care less whether it makes great ICE sounds or not. In fact, I would imagine that the silence of this thing - especially coupled with its insane torque - would only enhance the feeling of luxury.

  • kevininsd kevininsd Posts:

    "So Devoid of Passion" ... yet you go on to use adjectives such as "substantial", "rockets forward", "Holy crap, it's so stinking fast"... Hypocrite much? Any true gear-head I know doesn't give a poop about any lack of sound if they got an increase in performance and handling. Thus by your own admission, the sound is more important to you than the substantial performance of this amazing car. Therefore, you cannot be a true gear-head. Thus you have self revoked your gear-head card. Please turn it in along with your man card. Since you are more concerned about the aesthetics, might I suggest blogging about interior design or womens shoes?

  • As a four-time ex-Ferrari owner, I believe the Model S Performance does deliver passion. It just delivers it in a different way than we're used to. Going up through the gears in a high-end Italian sports car certainly has it's place. It has a lot to do with anticipation. At each redline gearshift, the emotions get cranked up a little further. The sound of a Ferrari adds to the illusion of speed. My 456GT used to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but the Model S is a full second faster to sixty. The Model S delivers its passion in the form of warp-like acceleration and powered cornering. I just love the way the car pulls away from a stop, even under modest throttle. Powering through hard corners, even at 30 mph is just a hoot. I can't get over it. The car's balance and power delivery are elegantly aligned.

  • plazman plazman Posts:

    Alright grandpa.

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