2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: The Rest of the Story

July 21, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

You got the first half of the story from Dan and Kurt.

Here's the rest of the cross country run in our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S:
2013 Tesla Model S Coast-to-Coast Road Trip

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2013 Tesla Model S: Supercharger Network Still Growing

May 26, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

The list of far-flung places we can drive our 2013 Tesla Model S continues to grow as more Supercharger stations are added. There are 94 in the Continental US at the moment, which is two more than I saw when I checked this map last week and about 40 more than there were this past New Year's Day.

The latest Supercharger addition that affects us is the new one in San Juan Capistrano, the place with the mission, the swallows and former President Nixon's western White House. This one puts San Diego within easy range for a round trip with no top-up required to get back home.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Driving Impressions and 20,000-Mile Update

April 16, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

It's a rare day when the keys to our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S end up in my pocket. I have a long commute perfect for adding miles to our long-term cars, and it was during only my second outing with the Tesla that it finally hit the 20,000-mile marker.

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2013 Tesla Model S: When to Choose Max Charge

April 15, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

For the past two and a half years I've been driving a 2011 Nissan Leaf SL and I'm sold on electric cars. But as the months go by, I feel more and more restricted by the range. There are several places I routinely want to go that are about 80 miles away, 160 round trip. So we're not talking full-on road trip, just too far for the Leaf. That's why, when I saw the 2013 Tesla Model S was available, I decided to stay electric but push beyond my normal boundaries. Still, I wanted every bit of security I could get.

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2013 Tesla Model S: I Want a Regen Rheostat

March 28, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

...or maybe it's technically a digital potentiometer. Either way, the default "Standard" and "Low" settings for regenerative braking on the 2013 Tesla Model S just aren't enough.

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2013 Tesla Model S: It's Still Impressive

February 11, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

With new supercharger stations opening daily, our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S has been clocking quite a few miles as of late. It has seen several road trips, and I don't see it in the office nearly as much. I hadn't driven our Tesla in ages, but when I got back into it recently, I remembered exactly how much I love this car.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Road Trip Recharging Strategy

January 10, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

A few commenters were critical of the recharging strategy I employed during my 2,000-mile road trip in our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S. Namely, I'd fill only partway, putting in enough miles to reach the next Supercharger, plus an extra buffer. For this I was chastised as an EV newbie and tut-tutted for not doing complete charges.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Cold Weather Performance

January 8, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

While in Corvallis, OR, during my road trip, I had the opportunity to drive our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S in cold-ish weather. That is, sub- freezing but not single digits. So, brisk rather than brutally cold. Jacket and hat weather.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Beyond 15,000 Miles

January 1, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Our 2013 Tesla Model S sailed past the 15,000-mile mark, exactly 10 months to the day since it joined our long-term test fleet.

On the one hand, this lags slightly behind the pace necessary to reach 20,000 miles in one year, our usual stated goal. Its 12-month total is on track to settle in at 18,000 miles if the current mileage accumulation rate persists.

On the other hand, no other electric car we've hosted in our fleet has come even half this close. This current mileage figure is unprecedented in our experience.

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2013 Tesla Model S: We Bought Snow Tires

December 25, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

We don't plan on shying away from cold and snowy weather when it comes to driving our 2013 Tesla Model S this winter.

In the immediate future I'm driving it north to Oregon over the holidays. And we plan on taking advantage of the cross-country possibilities of the ever-expanding Supercharger network, which is scheduled to establish its first link across the northern plains states in time for this winter's auto show season.

But our P85 Model S Performance rolls on an uncommon tire size: 245/35R21, to be exact. Furthermore, there aren't many places to buy winter tires in Southern California. Tirerack.com is our best source.

Why did we go with Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 winter tires? They were the only ones they had in that size.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Road Trip Dynamics

December 13, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Okay, so what is our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S like to drive on a long freeway road trip, putting aside the particulars of its unconventional refueling?

In some ways, it's brilliant. Its instantaneous and seamless flood of torque is just wonderfully, brutally effective when you want to pop into holes in traffic or put some distance between you and a brain-dead I-5 driver. But that's not all. See, in the Tesla you can be stealthy. Hit the throttle in a conventional car and the soaring engine noise tips your hand. Mat the Tesla's accelerator and the car simply shoots forward. Very rapidly, I might add.

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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.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Software 5.8 Update, Low Ride Height Disabled

November 26, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Recently our 2013 Tesla Model S received notification (through its cellular connection) that a software update was available. Just like on a PC, you can download it immediately and install, or schedule a time of your choosing.

As you can see in the photo, the update added a variety of new enhancements. But there's one thing that isn't listed: as of 5.8, Tesla changed the way the vehicle's ride height adjusts lower using the air suspension at high speed.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Mild Driveway Scrape

November 21, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Six inches. That's how much ground clearance our 2013 Tesla Model S has according to the spec sheet. In light of recent events, Tesla is quick to point out this isn't terribly low compared to other cars. That's true on the face of it, but there's always more to this singular number than meets the eye.

The first question is "Where's the low point?" On a 4x4 it's usually the bulbous axle differential housing. Sometimes it's a shock absorber bracket. There's far more clearance under the middle of the vehicle. Sedans are different. The low point is usually some hanging part of the exhaust system. The rocker panel below the door isn't usually the limiting factor, but it's not far off. Still, you've got to get down on hands and knees and peer underneath to identify the point of first contact.

Knowing this, I was surprised when our 2013 Tesla Models S grounded out (mildly) when negotiating the above driveway, which didn't appear to be particularly unusual when I approached. Yes, the sidewalk is a bit higher than the parking lot, but I certainly didn't feel the need to come at it diagonally as I might have if I'd been in a lowered machine.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Is This the Sort of Trailer Hitch He Hit?

November 19, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

We've all heard about the most recent Tesla fire, the one that happened in Tennessee over a week ago. The driver reportedly remains a Tesla fan after hitting a "rusty three-prong trailer hitch" that was "sticking up with the ball up in the air."

As he tells it, he couldn't miss the object, which subsequently passed under the car and made hard contact. "I felt a firm "thud" as the hitch struck the bottom of the car, and it felt as though it even lifted the car up in the air."

But I haven't yet found a photograph of the actual "rusty three-prong trailer hitch" in question.

We do a lot of towing tests here at Edmunds, so we have a collection of hitch equipment in our garage. I went downstairs and inspected what we had to see if any of it made sense.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Looking at the Battery Pack From Below

November 7, 2013

 2013 Tesla Model S

Reports of a third Tesla Model S fire are just filtering in, and the Tesla forums are bogged down with extra traffic, presumably from news media trying to figure out what's going on.

I'm curious, too, so I put our 2013 Model S long-term test car up on our Rotary lift for a look around.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Supercharger Network Now Links San Diego to Vancouver B.C.

November 1, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Three new supercharger stations that just opened in northern California and southern Oregon now make it possible to drive our 2013 Tesla Model S from Mexico to Canada. I'll settle for Christmas with my parents on the Oregon coast, though. All I need now is a set of winter tires.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Monitoring the Rear Wheel Alignment

October 18, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

You've already heard that the rear suspension of our 2013 Tesla Model S went out of alignment. For reasons unknown, the rear wheels slipped from 3/16-inch toe-in to 3/8-inch toe-out, which shredded the inside edge of the rear tires in dramatic fashion. Now it's got brand-new tires and the toe-in has been corrected, but we're still not sure when (or why) things went south.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Tire Wear Post-Mortem

September 27, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

By now you've read all about the rear tires on our 2013 Tesla Model S and a how a TPMS warning alerted us to a leak. Our P245/35R21 Continentals only had 9,550 miles on them at the time, so we expected something like a nail and a $50 repair. The photo above shows just how wrong we were. And both tires looked pretty much the same.

As soon as I saw this photo I knew the missed rotation had little to do with what went wrong. It was obviously a wheel misalignment issue, and I asked John to make sure to get an alignment printout so I could see what had gone wrong.

Look at the tire again, ignoring, if you can, the mangled inside edge. Concentrate on the face of it. The tire looks to be somewhat evenly worn across its width, with maybe a little less tread depth at the inner wear bar than the outer one.

It appears that things were reasonably OK for a decent amount of time, and then something went horribly wrong. At some point the extreme inside edge began wearing at an entirely different angle, as if the tires suddenly got thrust into some kind of weird pencil sharpener.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Chickening Out

August 15, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The Monterey Bay Historics weekend is fast approaching and I've been on the fence on what car to take. Scott's already called the SLS AMG which would, obviously, be my first pick. It's a great drive and the SLS is perfect for those roads. Most everything else we have will hold all of my luggage, get more than 11 mpg and just be too easy.

"What about the Tesla?" I thought.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Crash Test Scores

August 12, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The 2013 Tesla Model S electric sedan has earned the highest five-star rating on crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received perfect scores in the frontal, side and rollover crash tests.

Click through to see video of the crash tests from the NHTSA Web site...

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2013 Tesla Model S Performance: My First Time

July 11, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I don't know why it has taken me this long to drive our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S. But somehow it worked out that way. I had Dan give me a run-down so I wouldn't screw anything up.

Despite reading all of the posts in our long-term section, driving this car is new to me. So bear with me if I repeat observations that other editors have made.

Let's start at the beginning. I didn't have to use the key fob to open the door. As my hand got close to the recessed door handle, it popped out for my use. As I slid into the driver seat, the car started. Dan told me the car starts when your body hits the seat. You turn the car off the same way. Get out and it shuts off.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Impresses Everyone

June 24, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I was hanging out at my local cheese store one morning and we were talking about the Tesla that I parked in the back. I was trying to describe why I liked it so much. I tried equating its acceleration with a strong gust of wind propelling you, or a flood of torque that is eerily silent. Nothing seemed to convey what I was trying to explain. Finally I just said, "You know what? Let's pile in and go for a spin."

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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.

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2013 Tesla Model S: One Mile Per Second

May 15, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S hauls the mail. The thrust available underfoot when trundling along at city speeds is immense. When you floor it from a low speed, the Tesla delivers an instant, seamless wallop of potent, even giddying, acceleration.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Charge and Chat

April 29, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I had our 2013 Tesla Model S recently, and if I had just done around-town trips, I probably could have gotten by without charging the car. But in addition to the usual errands, we had plans for dinner and a jazz concert in Hollywood. That's 60 or so miles of driving. And then there were the "vampire losses," the 8-10 miles of range drop that happen overnight when the car is not charging. Added up, and it was definitely time for a fill-up.

Fortunately, one of Tesla's six supercharger stations is at Hawthorne Airport, a general-aviation field that's about 16 miles from my house. We pulled in with 86 miles of range remaining.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Track Test

April 24, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

We finally took our 2013 Tesla Model S, which we bought and paid for, to the track.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Vegas Road Trip Wrap-Up

April 24, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I drove to Las Vegas in our Tesla Model S, in and out of various hotels and restaurants, and back home across the desert. All told, I covered 820 miles and, of course, it was all under electric power. Sure, there was a little anxiety at first. But that feeling is quickly offset by other advantages. Namely, the car drives like a dream: fast, quiet and ultra-responsive.

But there were a few features that I really didn't like. And some lingering insecurities.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Free Gas

April 23, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

What if you went to a mall and there was a gas pump with a sign saying, "Go ahead and fill up! It's free!" That's what it was like to drive the Tesla to Las Vegas. Free fuel in Barstow. Free fuel in Las Vegas.

And how much is that worth? Gas for a 2013 BMW 7 Series getting 22 mpg combined and requiring premium at $4.17 a gallon would be $123 for the 650-mile trip. For the Tesla, fuel costs would be $0. But there is the time and hassle of charging.

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2013 Tesla Model S: 2-Speed Cruise

April 22, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I'm a big fan of cruise control for two reasons: it reduces fatigue on long drives and it helps keep you at a legal speed. On my trip to Las Vegas I discovered that our Tesla Model S has a super cruise control system. The graphics are great and the system actually offers two speeds. One bump gives you the customary 1 mph increase/decrease. But if you push it through a detent, you get an approximately 5 mph plus or minus jump.

There was one other feature of the cruise control that I liked.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Supercharged

April 19, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I felt a little apprehensive when I left my house early on a Sunday morning. I had to reach Tesla's supercharger in Barstow 128 miles away over the Cajon Pass, elevation 4,190 feet. I dialed down the cruise control to 65 mph as I climbed the long grade. But other than that, I cruised at 70 mph.

It was a good thing I read the Tesla forums because there were no signs directing me to the superchargers. They were, as other owners had posted, behind the Chili's restaurant. I pulled in, hooked up and checked the charge screen: jackpot! I was getting 300 miles of charge every hour.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Las Vegas Road Trip

April 18, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I was psyched to get the chance to be the first Edmunds editor to drive our Model S to Las Vegas. But then reality set in.

Las Vegas is 275 miles from my house. The Tesla only goes 265 miles max, and probably more like 240. Okay, I'll stop in Barstow for an hour to juice up at one of the super chargers. But what if they're full? And what happens when I get to Vegas and need to charge? And what about valets driving this quirky luxury car?

Lots of questions. Some anxiety. But I'm going anyway and I'll embrace the adventure.

Then I hit my first problem.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Getting Low with the Brakes

April 4, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

As I pulled out of our parking structure in our breathtakingly lovely Tesla Model S, I noticed something that wasn't pleasing to me. The car's regenerative brakes felt a bit anxious and slot-car-like, in a way that called to mind the intrusive braking seen in some less expensive electric cars.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Active Air Suspension

March 27, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our 2013 Tesla Model S is equipped with the Performance trim package which features active air suspension. The system uses pneumatic springs to lower the vehicle automatically as it accelerates. This improves aerodynamics and increases range (even if just slightly) but you also have the option to change it manually, which is a great addition to the car's versatility.

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2013 Tesla Model S: All-Electric Weekend

March 7, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I spent the last weekend in the 2013 Tesla Model S and it has quickly become my favorite car in the fleet. It's fast, quiet, high tech, comfortable and looks great from every angle. Here are three things I noticed about the Tesla as I drove it.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Brake Light Actuation

March 05, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our long-term Tesla Model S has a pretty aggressive regenerative braking system. When you hop off the accelerator pedal, the deceleration is as strong as easing into the brakes. It takes a little getting used to, but with smooth inputs, you won't be getting your passengers carsick. But the sharp deceleration had me a bit nervous about getting rear-ended.

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2013 Tesla Model S: First Road Trip

March 1, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

We pulled our Model S out of the Tesla factory customer delivery center into a light rain with its range reading 249 miles. The Harris Ranch Supercharger, according to the sedan's navigation system, was just 153 miles away.

Range anxiety? Not even a little.

Southbound on Interstate 5 and it's easy to become enamored with Elon Musk's creation. The Model S is comfortable, luxurious and it feels substantial on the road. And it is fast. Like supercar fast. Still, we controlled ourselves and cruised around the 70 mph speed limit.

After 130 relaxed miles we got a warning message, both on the gauge cluster and the large screen center stack: "Service Tire Pressure System Contact Tesla Service."

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2013 Tesla Model S: Burnouts? Burnouts!

February 22, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The thing about most electric vehicles is that they're incredibly conservative. Sure, they've got a bazillion pound-feet of torque, but they're so conservatively tuned that you get like, 9, from a stop and even then, if you get any wheelspin, the electronic nannies put you straight in the corner.

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