2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Welcoming the Electric Future

December 03, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Recently I was chatting with a friend who wanted to know what I thought of our 2013 Tesla Model S, so I ran through some high points. He seemed impressed, but concluded that he "couldn't ever own a car that doesn't have a cool-sounding engine, like a V8."

I get where he was coming from. Sound can be a key element of a car's personality, particularly if you're a car enthusiast. But having spent multiple days in our Model S, I've come to greatly appreciate the opposite: the silence.

After a while, it's just really nice having a car that's quiet at stoplights, in neighborhoods and around town. No engine rumbling, no gear shifting, no exhaust. It's relaxing.

This became clear to me on a weekend morning. I was out with my family in the Model S. My wife was up front, and my two kids were in back. We were just rolling along in town, windows open, enjoying the nice fall day. We came up on an old 1970s Plymouth Barracuda convertible. A nice classic car, no doubt, but the guy had loud aftermarket pipes on it, and the thing was running so rich, and the exhaust so potent, that I had to power up the Tesla's windows and quickly (and quietly) zip past him.

It was a contrast in old versus new. Maybe you do give up a little personality with electric. But for everything else, it's a future I'm looking forward to.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Comments

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I don't know how you equate "cool sounding V8" with one that has loud open exhausts and in the process of fouling its spark plugs.

  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    At least Tesla didn't do what BMW and others have done which is make a synthetic engine noise through the speakers. Having a quiet car is a very sought after thing, especially in a luxury vehicle.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    There is an obvious natural and instinctual craving for speed and power. The noise element has simply been a byproduct of that and we've been trained to associate the two. Enough time with electric cars like the Model S and I imagine we can re-train our brains to enjoy the speed and power without the noise.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    My Leaf is the same way. It is socially awkward to sit at red lights with a car full of passengers and have no underlying rumble of an ICE engine. eventually people get used to it. I like the silence a lot.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    One benefit would be that it would be easier to hear motorcycles when they are coming close. But depending on your audio volume, silence means something different in the electric car. I kind of enjoy the contrasts in driving my quieter cars from time to time. I don't enjoy the 4-cyl soundtrack in my quiter car over the 6-cyl one. But I definitely enjoy the Miata's soundtrack when I want to go louder. I don't think I will be owning any more 8-cyl vehicles, so I am out of luck there.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    It's funny that we spend millions of dollars a year building sound walls on freeways to keep the noise down and yet those same people complain that we can't have cars be too quiet because what about deaf people and pedestrians who might not hear an EV coming down the road. I'd much rather have the old retired guy who lives down the street from me start up an electric motor cycle on Saturday morning than hear the loud and annoying rumble of his Harley.

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    When I'm going fast I'd rather the car not deafen me. I use my hearing to pick up cues from road noise, tire noise, and subtler engine noise. Or listen to my tunes or talk to my passengers. It's about being able to hold a conversation while going 95mph, not waking up the whole neighborhood. I'd rather be "fast with class" than "fast like an [non-permissible content removed]."

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I for one welcome our new electric overlords! Seriously, I kinda like the subtle whine of electric motors. Just like gas engines I've noticed they have their own unique signatures and some sound better than others. But if they really want to be awesome, they just need to emulate the Toyota TS030 in its pit-lane electric only mode. That thing sounds like a TIE fighter. WE just bought a hybrid and I'm really liking the smooth silence in EV mode. That's offset by the crude thrashiness of an atkinson cycle 4 cyl matched to a CVT unfortunately.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    This is actually an aspect of the Model S I don't love. I'll take any opportunity to drive the car, but I truly miss the sound of a good V8. At first, the alien-sounding whir from the electric motor was pretty cool, but it is entirely one dimensional. An IC engine has so many facets depending on how the car is being driven. Plus, the lack of engine noise really makes you notice other noises. The Model S is impressively quiet, but road and wind noise dominate the experience because there is no engine noise to balance it out. I know IC engines have an expiration date and Tesla has proven that an EV can be a fantastic car, but that doesn't mean I won't still miss the sound.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    drcomputer, I couldn't agree more about the Harleys. From the factory they're usually tolerable, but EVERYBODY seems to just want to make them louder.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @legacygt: I think the issue is that you are associating the two to begin with. There are a lot of vehicles that aren't very fast but sound very nice (Fiat 500 Abarth, older Hondas). They're "experience" vehicles, not performance vehicles. If th

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Kind of a silly post. Any of the cars the S competes with are all but silent "at stoplights, in neighborhoods and around town," and those are the cars you compare it with, not with a poorly-jetted 70's Barracuda. An A8 for example is putting out like 39 decibels at idle - if the HVAC system is on - at all - you are hearing that rather than the engine. At highway speeds, you are hearing wind noise and tire noise - not the engine.

  • temoore_ temoore_ Posts:

    Taking up a car guy perspective, and considering a little "race" off the line at a traffic light (no laws against acceleration, right!?): which car yields the most pride of ownership? The one that moves quickest or the one that makes the most noise? Even for a teen, it's no contest, really. Most of us would rather be quick, even if obtrusive has its occasional attractions.

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