2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Most Annoying Feature

March 11, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Excluding multiple battery failure, the 2013 Tesla Model S's most annoying feature, or lack thereof, is this: no volume knob. Elon and friends have over-thought many aspects of this car, some for good (giganto multimedia display, acceleration as dreamy as a box of Whip-Its) and some for ill.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Steering Wheel Controls

March 3, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

It seems I have something against steering wheel controls lately. I last complained about the button layout in our Mazda 3. This time, it's our 2013 Tesla Model S.

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2013 Tesla Model S: How Much Range Is Lost When Parked?

February 28, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

One of the frequently asked questions I get about electric vehicles goes like this: "What happens to the battery when the car sits parked? How many miles does is lose just sitting there?"

OK, that was two questions, but still.

A couple of weeks ago I deliberately checked out the 2013 Tesla Model S for a trip I took to Puerto Rico to test the upcoming 2014 Mini Cooper.

The Model S was my ride to the airport, and it sat idle in an LAX parking structure for three days while I flew south for the winter. Tesla's handy iPhone app confirmed it had 204 miles of range as I boarded the Wally Park airport shuttle.

How much would it have when I came back?

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2013 Tesla Model S: It Does Have Homelink, But...

February 27, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a few missing features in the 2013 Tesla Model S. As some Model S owners pointed out in the comments, I erroneously included the Homelink universal garage door opener amongst them. I was clearly wrong: the Tesla does in fact have Homelink built into the uber touchscreen that controls everything else in the car. I should've known, despite Homelink in every other car consisting of three physical buttons on the visor, mirror or headliner near the sunroof controls.

However, as it turns out, the problem isn't that the Tesla Model S is missing Homelink, but that it's rather complicated.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Weak Black Levels

February 6, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Savvy TV shoppers may learn about tech terms like luminance, contrast ratio and refresh rates. Then there are black levels, and that's what leads me to the 2013 Tesla Model S.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Missing Common Features

February 5, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

I've previously written about the 2013 Tesla Model S's missing coat hooks and grab handles. I've also expressed my puzzlement about the bowling alley that runs between the front seats.

After driving the Tesla Model S this past weekend, I noticed a few more common equipment omissions. Just like the Mercedes CLA, the Tesla does not have a drop-down rear center armrest. Given the Tesla's higher price and vastly more usable rear seat space, it's an even more glaring omission here.

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2013 Tesla Model S: A Typical Supercharger Dinner

January 17, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

We're headed south on the way home from Oregon. The Supercharger at Vacaville, California is dead ahead. We decided against dinner at our last stop, but we're good and hungry now. And we're in the mood for a break.

I back our 2013 Tesla Model S into one of the eight supercharger slots located along one edge of the lot at Vacaville Premium Outlets, hop out and plug in. Electricity begins flowing before everyone else finishes sorting themselves out and exits the car. Time: 7:32 p.m.; remaining range: 13 miles

After a short discussion we decide to eat at Mel's Diner. It's not on the Vacaville Supercharger webpage that my wife consulted in the car on the way in, but Google says it's just behind the narrow strip of outlet stores to our left.

We do an end-around past the row of shops, traverse Mel's parking lot and go inside. The hostess seats us after a brief wait. Our waiter comes by after a couple of minutes and takes our drink orders while we continue to peruse our menus.

Our drinks arrive a couple of minutes later. At this point I decide to see how the car is doing while my wife and kids order food. Then I ask for a patty melt, medium well, with fries and a side salad.
Time: 7:45 p.m. (13 minutes elapsed); total miles added: 77; new range: 90 miles

The salads arrive. No, that one's mine. She had the ranch.
Time: 7:51 p.m. (19 minutes elapsed); total miles added: 107; new range: 120 miles

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2013 Tesla Model S: Wall Adapter Replacement Program

January 14, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Last Friday, Tesla Motors announced a replacement program for wall charger adapters. Apparently there have been several reports of smoke in the vicinity of the wall plug, and at least one owner was burned when trying to unplug his car when he saw said smoke.

Early media reports were all over the map, with accompanying photos depicting the High Powered Wall Connector (HPWC) or a Tesla Supercharger. Neither is involved. They're fine.

And while the issue is related to the home charge cord that comes with the car, the cord itself is fine, too. The issue is instead related to the use of the NEMA 14-50 wall adapter that can be snapped onto the end of it. That's the part that's being replaced.

That's the adapter I was using at Dad's place in Oregon. In fact, I had a minor charge issue myself while I was there. See the next page for more on that.

Tesla says the adapter isn't really at issue. They instead blame the incidents on substandard or faulty home wiring.

"These are very rare events, but occasionally the wiring isn't done right," CEO Elon Musk said. "We want people to have absolute comfort, so we're going to be providing them with an upgraded adapter."

The upgraded adapter, which will be mailed to Tesla owners in the next two weeks, is functionally identical to the one pictured above, but with a thermal fuse imbedded inside to cut power if overheating is detected.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Cheap Electricity on the Oregon Coast

January 14, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Dad has plenty of power in his Oregon coast garage. It's more of a shop, really. Beyond the usual hand tools he's got a mill, a lathe, a humungous 6.5-hp air compressor and a nice welder. And he happens to have a NEMA 14-50 "RV" socket, too, and that made it easy to drive our 2013 Tesla Model S every day during our stay.

Sure, a garden-variety 120-volt, 12-amp garage plug would have worked, but the resulting slow charge rate couldn't possibly fill the battery overnight. The Tesla's unique configurable charge cord with its included NEMA 14-50 wall adapter can access 240-volt power at up to 40 amps. Volts times amps equals watts, so that works out to a very healthy maximum delivery rate of 9.6 kilowatts.

And so we awoke to a full battery every morning. We could drive as much as we liked. Good thing, too, because the weather was gorgeous and the stunning viewpoints are numerous.

But it gets better. Dad's electricity rates are low. He pays just 7.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in summer and 7.94 cents in winter. These rates apply at all hours. Taxes and transmission costs are included, too.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Electric Holiday Road Trip

January 13, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Twice a year my family heads north to Oregon to visit my parents on the spectacular yet remote southern Oregon coast. Each time we take a different car from the long-term fleet, and this time it was the 2103 Tesla Model S sedan.

We couldn't have done this in August because the Tesla Supercharger network hadn't yet been finished north of Sacramento, California. Our long-term 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe was drafted instead.

By November Tesla had added Superchargers all the way north to Canada. Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh beat me to trial-run honors by traveling to Corvallis, Oregon during the Thanksgiving break.

But I was still curious. Would the Tesla Model S and its battery charging requirement significantly alter our usual trip timing, Supercharger network notwithstanding?

There was only one way to find out, but my wife and daughters were not terribly excited about being roped into this experiment. Would I regret this decision after subjecting them to unwanted extra travel time? Would it take forever? Would I never hear the end of it?

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2013 Tesla Model S: Huge Improvements in Release v5.8

January 2, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

For the most part, what your car has in terms of features and controls on the day you buy it is fixed until the day it goes to the scrapyard. Not so with our 2013 Tesla Model S.

Like the apps or operating system of the typical smartphone, new features and enhancements can be pushed out at any time. The car is built to be upgradeable with new software and firmware versions that are pushed out over the 3G network with which the car communicates. Like your smartphone, all you must do is acknowledge and accept the new download...then wait.

Version 5.8 was released last week, and it brought with it numerous upgrades.

Example: This wiper service mode did not previously exist. This "button" I'm pointing to on the screen is all new. The timing was perfect because our Model S needed new wiper blades, and I was able to park the wipers in the up position with this new feature so I could easily remove the blades before taking them inside the local auto parts store.

But this is not the most significant of the v5.8 improvements...

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2013 Tesla Model S: Graphical Brains

December 09, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

This year's L.A. Auto Show added an extra day for something called the Connected Car Expo. The Expo put a spotlight on emerging technology in the automotive industry and I was fortunate enough to be asked to help moderate a few small discussion groups. One of the first attendees I encountered was Samuel Tao, Director of Product Management, Automotive from Nvidia.

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2013 Tesla Model S: HPWC Default Charge Rate 80 Amps Again

December 06, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Since the April-May timeframe all Tesla Model S sedans like ours have been operating under firmware restrictions that dialed back the default charging rate of Tesla's HPWC (High Power Wall Connector) to 60 amps instead of the 80 amps they were designed to deliver.

This was done because fuses were popping left and right inside the early HPWCs. Tesla sent out the charging restriction in one of their periodic over-the-air firmware updates as a temporary fix while they worked out a hardware solution.

All of this went down without a recall because the fault was not onboard the car itself. And a large number of Model S owners were oblivious because they do not own or use a Tesla HPWC for charging.

Because ours was one of many HPWCs affected, the 60-amp default remained in effect even after our replacement unit with uprated fuses was installed. We've been able to charge at 80 amps, but only after manually punching up the charge rate to 80 amps after first pushing past an "Are you sure?" screen each and every time.

Until last week.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Charging at an RV Park

October 17, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our 2013 Tesla Model S can do many things other EVs can't, and you're looking at one of them. Here it's plugged in to the 240V shore power receptacle at an RV park in a space with full hookups. It's made to do this, which is another sign that Tesla is thinking way outside the box that defines other electric vehicles and their limited capabilities.

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2013 Tesla Model S: How Quickly Does a Supercharger Charge?

October 7, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

A couple of months ago I made a lame attempt to measure how quickly a Tesla Supercharger dumps electricity into a 2013 Tesla Model S battery. I was hoping to figure out how much downtime to expect on a long trip because I'm planning to take our Model S on my annual year-end holiday trip to Oregon as soon as the Supercharger network expands and connects the dots.

But my visit to the Hawthorne Supercharger at Tesla HQ was a spur of the moment decision. I hadn't really worked out a procedure before I arrived. And my results were inconclusive because of the comings and goings of other cars charging in adjacent spots.

Since then I've worked out a simple method, and a couple weeks ago I tried it on a short weekend trip to Monterey. The site was the new Supercharger in Buellton, California, and I was able to get clean data because no other Tesla vehicles were charging while our car was there.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Weekend Road Trip to Monterey, Return Trip

October 2, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The reason Tracy and I went to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was simple: We had tickets to the Grand Am race weekend. It's a great event. The racing is excellent and the crowds aren't nearly as intense as they are on a MotoGP weekend. It's easier to get around in town on Cannery Row, too.

Our hotel's Level 2 charger was a decided advantage, a necessity in fact. We needed the extra juice to make it to the track each day. And we needed to replace some of the miles we used getting to the track so we could get far enough down the road to reach the Supercharger network.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Weekend Road Trip to Monterey, Part One

October 1, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

A couple of weekends ago my wife and I dashed out of town to watch the Grand Am races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. And we drove up and back in our 2013 Tesla Model S, the only pure electric vehicle on the market that can make the 750-mile round trip in anything approaching a normal time scale.

Best part: Fuel for the trip cost us exactly zero dollars and zero cents.

Tesla Superchargers at Tejon Ranch and Atascadero got us up there, and the one in Buellton got us home. In between, overnight charges on our hotels' free Level 2 charger kept the Model S topped up for our daily runs to the track.

Here's how it went on the trip north.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Power Window Poltergeist?

September 18, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

What the...? This is the second time this has happened. The morning of our recent Monterey road trip I walked out to our 2013 Tesla Model S to find all four windows fully open.

After I checked the interior for cats, my next thought was directed at Mike Magrath and his itchy trigger finger. He has the Tesla app and this car's login profile on his iPhone, too, and he's been known to remotely honk a horn or three at inopportune moments. He must be up to his old tricks again.

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2013 Tesla Model S: High Power Wall Connector Is Up and Running

September 13, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

As of last week, our Tesla HPWC (High Power Wall Connector) is finally up and running. And it's fast. It can send electricity into our 2013 Tesla Model S's battery some 2.7 times faster than standard Level 2 charging equipment. That's because it's built to draw 80 amps through a 100-amp circuit instead of the usual 30 amps through a 40-amp breaker.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Regenerative Braking

August 20, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Last week's two-night adventure in our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S proved fruitful in demonstrating one of the car's better features: adjustable regenerative braking and one way it could be improved.

I began experimenting with the two modes (Standard and Low) on my way home from work and it was immediately clear that the "Standard" setting is far more aggressive. Enough so, in fact, that I began to wonder if the brakes lights were triggered simply by lifting off the throttle. So, I did an experiment to find out.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Audio Review

August 9, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our 2013 Tesla Model S is equipped with the optional $950 Sound Studio package. It includes a 12-speaker, 580-watt stereo with Dolby Pro Logic 7.1 surround sound, a music storage hard drive and XM satellite radio preparation.

The voice command connected to the internet radio will play virtually any song you can think of (provided it's in the Stitcher database), and the touchscreen certainly isn't lacking in square-footage, but what's the sound quality like?

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2013 Tesla Model S: Revised High Powered Wall Connector In-Hand

July 31, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Just over a month ago we found out that our as-yet-uninstalled Tesla HPWC (High Powered Wall Connector) contained a flaw that would prevent it from working at the 80-amp charge rate it's supposed to. Internal fuses were blowing in customer units in the field, leading Tesla to send out a software update to all vehicles to prevent them from drawing more than 60 amps until they had a fix.

We learned about all this through a Tesla message board, but we'd heard nothing from Tesla directly. So we put our installation plans on hold and gave them a call to find out when we might get our hands on a revised one.

It arrived on my desk while I was on a business trip last week, about 4 weeks after I put in the call.

Here's what a new HPWC with "the fix" looks like inside.

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2013 Tesla Model S Performance: Uphill, Downhill

July 19, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Here's a shot of the Energy Consumption screen after driving up and down a steep hill in Palos Verdes, CA.

The normal fully charged estimated range offered by the Tesla Model S is based on maintaining an average of 300 Wh/mi (Watt-hours per mile), the gray line you see going across the screen. Most of my driving style rests above that line, not usually as high as the average in this photo showing 439.

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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: Supercharger Charging: How Fast Is Fast?

July 9, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I've been very interested in the ins and outs of rapid charging at a Tesla Supercharger station ever since they first announced the build-out of the Supercharger network. I've become even more interested of late, because I'm considering taking the 2013 Tesla Model S on my next bi-annual trip to the remote Oregon Coast to visit my parents.

The Supercharger network will loom large during this journey, and I need to know exactly what I can expect in terms of downtime at each stop.

Tesla's claims for charging speed are not absolute. Weasel-words like "up to" and "as fast as" pepper the discussion. One says a Supercharger will "provide half a charge in about 20 minutes." At the Supercharger unveiling they said they could "provide 3 hours of driving in as little as 30 minutes."

These claims are astounding, even if they prove to be half true in less-than-perfect conditions. But they didn't give me the specificity I needed to plan my trip.

So I headed to the nearby Hawthorne supercharger with our 2013 Tesla Model S, arriving with just 29 miles in the tank. My plan was to take screen grabs from the Tesla iPhone app at intervals as it charged, then put everything in Excel and graph them when I got home.

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2013 Tesla Model S: High Power Wall Connector Flaw

July 2, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

More than one person has quizzed me about it over the last couple of weeks, including my boss's boss, whose title is a three-letter acronym beginning with "C" and ending with "O".

"Why is that still sitting on your desk?" they ask, pointing at the white cardboard box containing the HPWC (High Power Wall Connector) we bought with our 2013 Tesla Model S.

"Uhhh...it's complicated?"

A Tesla HPWC draws 240V single-phase power at 80 amps through a 100-amp circuit breaker, enough juice to refill an empty 85kWh Model S battery and restore its 265 miles of maximum driving range in just over four hours. Put another way, a Model S charges at up to 62 mph through a HPWC, as in 62 miles of driving for every hour on the plug.

Our Coulomb Level 2 charge station draws 30 amps through a 40-amp circuit, plenty for all other EVs on the market. But it takes over a dozen hours to refill an empty Model S. Slow as this sounds, it would do until we got our HPWC installed. Many Edmunds staffers drive less than 50 miles overnight, which the Coulomb can deal with in less than 3 hours.

That's great, but why is it still sitting on your desk, Dan?

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2013 Tesla Model S: Navigation's On the Fritz Again

June 21, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

If you're counting, this is the fourth time we've had to reset the touchscreen in our Tesla Model S not including the screen replacement in March. This time, it was because the web-based navigation system was missing large portions of its map, no matter where I drove.

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2013 Tesla Model S: TPMS Gets Confused

May 13, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

We recently performed the first track-test of our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S, and during the 60-0 mph braking test, this message flashed up on the screen and on the instrument panel as well.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Software Update

May 9, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I sat in the car. It awoke and alerted me that it wanted a new software update. Neato. Even neater, you don't need to visit the dealer/service technician and it does it wirelessly. Because it requires the car be parked for up to two hours, the car allows the update to be scheduled during the wee hours of the night. I assume it all worked at 1:00 a.m. as it was programmed to do.

Click through to see what the software update entailed.

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2013 Tesla Model S: What's Missing?

May 3, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The 2013 Tesla Model S has so much going for it that it seems nitpicky to talk about what it doesn't have in the way of small amenities. But when you, or Edmunds.com, have paid more than $100,000 for a car, shouldn't it have what many luxury cars have?

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2013 Tesla Model S: Software Update in Store

April 30, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

On Monday morning, after a weekend with our 2013 Tesla Model S, this screen was waiting for me. As soon as we complete the update, which takes about two hours, we'll let you know what changes it brings about, if any.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Navigation Outage

April 8, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

It started slow. The Tesla's web-based navigation seemed to miss a couple of sections as it updated. Then more gray squares kept appearing as I made my way home. On the drive into Edmunds HQ in the morning, the whole navigation map was one big gray square.

Sigh.

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2013 Tesla Model S: It's Better Than Television

April 1, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

It's a typical Tuesday night and I have no pants. Well, I have pants, but they're piled up in the laundry basket and I'm running low on work-appropriate clothes.

Weeknight laundry gives me a chance to relax on the couch and catch up on my DVR, but tonight I'm not even remotely interested in what the 500 channels on my TV have to offer. I have our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S and I've decided I'm going to squeeze in a drive before my pants dry.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Bluetooth Inoperative

March 21, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

This weekend, our long-term Tesla Model S gave me the equivalent of the "blue screen of death" (Bluetooth screen of death?).

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2013 Tesla Model S: New Touchscreen Bug Surfaces

March 8, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Really? I thought we were done with this. I'm looking at the new replacement touchscreen on our 2013 Tesla Model S and I can hardly believe my eyes.

Oh, it works. It hasn't burnt out (or whatever) again. But just look at the camera image.

Don't see it? Look closer. The image is misaligned, out of its designated window. And its new unauthorized position has it partially obscuring important virtual touchscreen buttons. Plus it looks gross.

Only the camera does this. If I turn it off and choose any other display screen it all works normally.

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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: Plays Any Song by Voice Activation?

March 2, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

In a recent interview/product show-off with Bloomberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a feature of the Model S even we as owners didn't know about: Press and hold the voice button, and the Tesla Model S will play any song you ask it for.

Of course, the Tesla doesn't have the world's largest hard drive, rather, the Model S is constantly connected to the Internet where it can take advantage of Stitcher Internet radio. It works great when Elon is demo'ing it for a smitten TV reporter. Does it work as well when we try?

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2013 Tesla Model S: New Touchscreen is Working Fine

February 27, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Not sure why, but Tesla wanted to replace the touchscreen in our Model S even though it was working fine after some time with the technicians. Seemed a little over cautious but we weren't about to argue. I dropped our Model S off at the Tesla service center around 9:30 in the morning with a promise to have it back sometime midday.

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2013 Tesla Model S: Touchscreen Getting Replaced

February 26, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

After yesterday's meltdown of the touchscreen in our new Tesla Model S, we ended the day at the local service center. This was after talking to a tech on the phone who asked us to try a hard reset of the screen by pressing the two roller buttons on the steering wheel. It didn't work, so a dealer visit was the next option.

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