2013 Tesla Model S: What's It Like to Live With?
Read daily updates on our long-term road test of the 2013 Tesla Model S and follow along as our editors live with this car for a year.
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.
This, friends, is not the case with the 2013 Tesla Model S. With our Performance model's 85 kWh battery pack, we've got 443 pound-feet of torque available from 0-5,100 rpm and, with the traction control turned off, you get to use them all. Just mash the pedal to the floor as fast as possible and try not to slide into a tree.
No nannies. No careful meting of torque to prevent fun. Just power followed by a deficit of traction and a surfeit of smoke. The only odd part is the noise.
When tires give it up, they stop squealing and just sort of scratch at the pavement, this is normal. Usually, though, you've got to manage the engine speed to avoid the redline and avoid letting the tires catch. Here, you don't. It's only got one speed and torque everywhere. It's almost too easy. I think I see a Burnout Supertest in this car's future.
Thanks, Tesla, for trusting your owners and letting us have some fun.
Like virtually everything else having to do with the 2013 Tesla Model S, the folks at Tesla have decided that a normal key wasn't good enough and have given us this.
Look at it. It's slick, it's shiny and it has no visible buttons. It does, however, just like a fresh baby, have a bunch of soft spots on its dome that are made for pressing.
Pressing the front squishy spot opens the frunk. Double tapping the rear "button" opens the powered trunk (it stops with a single tap) and the top one locks/unlocks the door. Holding the middle button down for a few seconds will open all the windows. Of course, with the Tech Package, the Tesla Model S automatically locks/unlocks the doors, so the key may not ever be necessary.
But, with the exception of the faux buttonlessness of it all, it's kind of old hat. What makes this one unique is that there's no spare key hidden inside.
So what do you do when the battery in the fob eventually dies? Easy, you put the key on the passenger-side windshield wiper and then push the handle in, it'll pop out and let you in. To start the car, dump the key in the cupholder.
I was looking forward to driving our new Tesla Model S into the office this morning. Figured I would sip some coffee in my kitchen for a few minutes while warming up the interior of the Tesla sitting outside via the phone app. No such luck. It wouldn't connect to the car even though it had been working great all weekend. No big deal I figured, there was plenty of time to try it later.
So I grabbed my things, hopped in the car (I had unplugged it the night before as it was already fully charged), pressed the brake to bring it to life — and nothing, or at least nothing from the main touchscreen. The rest of the car was ready to go, but there was a message in the instrument panel that said, "Please wait for touchscreen to power on."
After 5 or 10 minutes of nothing happening I left. It was 5:00 in the morning and I wasn't about to do any more trouble shooting. Maybe it would start up along the way, I hoped. It never did, making for a chilly and silent drive to work. With no main screen, the radio and climate controls wouldn't work. I tried the auxiliary controls on the steering wheel for both and neither worked.
We'll be stopping by the local Tesla service center today to see what's up and keep you posted.
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.
For us, this wasn't a big problem as the Los Angeles service center is only a few miles away. I dropped in at around 4:30 and the two service writers got on it right away. They pulled the fuse for the screen and let it sit for a few minutes so it would reset fully. After putting the fuse back in, the screen didn't immediately return to life, but the technician kept working on it and it eventually started up again.
At that point they started to download the data logs from the car in an attempt to pinpoint the reason for the failure. The service writer said the logs were being sent up to headquarters where company engineers would look them over. This took longer than I expected, as it ended up being over an hour before there was any response. When all was said and done, the service writer said that they wanted to replace the screen entirely, presumably as a precaution against any further problems. I told him I would bring it back the following day.
On the drive home, the screen worked fine and I experienced no additional problems, but we're definitely bringing it back in to have the swap done. More on that later.
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.
Thankfully, the brake lights do indeed turn on when there's enough deceleration, whether or not you're foot is on the brake pedal. If you ease off the accelerator and slow down as a normal gasoline-powered car would, the brake lights stay off. So at least the driver behind you can't blame the Tesla when they're distracted by their phone, nav, dog or latte.
I really like the look of the wood trim in our long-term Tesla. It's got a rough texture with a matte finish, which cuts down on the amount of glare that might sear your retina. In a neat coincidence, I found out a little more about this unique wood trim.
I'm starting a new construction project. No, it's not an addition to the Star Trek-themed bar I built for Riswick. This time, it's a massive entertainment center for myself. I'm buying a truckload of teak from a local shop called House of Hardwood. I just happened to drive our Tesla Model S to consult with the guys in the shop and found out that they're car nuts like the rest of us.
It also turns out that, according to them, someone at Tesla would stop by the shop to check out all sorts of wood species for the Model S. I told one of the workers to check out the Model S interior and tossed him the key fob.
At first they thought it was a type of Wenge, but after closer inspection, they agreed it was a composite of different wood types. Tesla calls it Obeche, "a natural wood product from the African Triplochiton scleroxylon tree. The Obeche Wood décor uses Obeche Wood laminated together in a vertical linear pattern. Obeche Wood is commonly used in the construction of sauna interiors and on premium guitar fret-boards."
Obeche is more of a blonde wood, though, so I'm guessing they stained it to go darker. In any case, I think it looks great. You can order it with a gloss finish, but I'm all over the matte treatment. Personally, I like the Obeche as much as the bamboo trim you can get in an Aston Martin.
As I drive the Tesla Model S, I notice that people stop short, stick next to me in traffic and gaze for long periods of time. Most people probably have no idea what it is, or even that it's electric, and that's a good thing. It's not just a good looking EV. The Model S has got great body lines, a sleek sloping rear window, and really cool wheels. For cars like this to succeed, or for technology to advance in cars, form needs to meet function somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes, as automotive journalists or car enthusiasts, we make concessions (excuses really) for the aesthetics on fuel-efficient or electric cars. We say, "That weird looking headlight is extremely aerodynamic," or "that mirror is funny-looking because it was designed in a wind tunnel." But with the Tesla Model S, no compromises seem to have been made in the design studio. This thing is beautiful.
Besides our ongoing troubles with the touchscreen, our Tesla Model S still has a glow about it. Literally.
The car's cool factor even carries over into the mundane act of recharging. First of all, the charge port is hidden behind the side part of the taillight. You'd never even know it was there, and you'd never guess it was big enough to hide the port. When you plug the charger in, the port begins to pulse with a green glow.
Yes, other EVs show that they're charging with other indicator lights, but this is just another example of Tesla going that little bit further to make the whole experience seem more special.
Not a pod.
This weekend, our long-term Tesla Model S gave me the equivalent of the "blue screen of death" (Bluetooth screen of death?).
All day Friday and Saturday it was working as it should. Saturday night, it decided to stop. Sure, it's not the end of the world, since I rarely get or take actual phone calls and satellite radio is a decent backup to streaming audio. But really, it's times like these that I wish there were a Control-Alt-Delete for the main touchscreen.
Then there was that voice in my head that said, "hey dummy, maybe there is!"
One Google search later and I found the reset procedure for the center screen. All I had to do was hold down the scroll wheel buttons on the steering wheel for a few seconds and the system reboots. After it restarted, the Bluetooth was once again able to initialize. Score!
For some reason, I still couldn't connect to my phone, so I deleted the pairing and went through the process again. It worked like a charm. All is well once again in Tesla land.
It's pretty obvious the Model S jump seats aren't intended for adults. I tried them once while the car was parked and I have to admit, I've been trapped in trunks that were roomier (ahhh, Vegas). Because I don't have kids, I figured I'd have to leave jump seat evaluation to one of our editors that do. But my sister's desperation to have someone watch her three children while she was off skiing in Utah left her no other choice but to have the infamous uncle "Marky" in charge.
So, I took this unusual opportunity to stuff my nieces in the trunk. I have to admit this would be my preferred seat if I were still a kid. Anything different has a great novelty to it. The taller of the two just barely fit, and I was nervous about her head being so close to the glass, but she seemed to be fine.
Driving around, though, I was pretty nervous about getting rear-ended. Fortunately, tailgaters stayed away. The seats themselves are pretty stout, certainly more substantial than the third-row seats in our old Mitsubishi Outlander. Those things felt as strong as a 99-Cent Store beach chair. The child-seat restraints were well placed and had enough range to fit either kid perfectly.
I took the whole gaggle out to dinner that night. Since I'm not well-versed in child care (I can barely maintain myself), I didn't know that a full can of a soft drink would turn the little one into a close approximation of the Great Cornholio. Hilarity ensued as she was rattling off like she was speaking in tongues.
In the end, I did discover one drawback to putting kids in the jump seats. The rear window was plastered with fingerprints. I suppose if a younger uncle Marky was back there, face prints and perhaps "other" prints would be smeared all over the glass, too.
I'd guess these seats were intended for occasional and novelty use, not on an everyday basis. In any case, I think they're pretty cool, though they'd be even better if they were easily removable.
As you can see, the seat belt buckle in our Tesla Model S is a little bit different. Having a black release button might not seem like much, but it's a small sign that Tesla went the extra mile to make the Model S unique.
I've noticed over the years that no matter how expensive the car is, the seatbelts are always the same. Whether it's a $15K Kia or a $150K Mercedes, they always have black nylon seatbelts with an ugly, plastic connector at the end.
Now, much of this is dictated by safety regulations, so there's probably not much you can do about the seatbelt materials itself, but surely some smart engineers and designers can come up with a more aesthetically pleasing latch design. In Tesla's case, the designers didn't go quite that far, but at least they finally got rid of the big ugly red release button. Not even Bentley does that.
While I agree with my many colleagues that the Tesla Model S is a thoroughly magnificent car, there are some little functionality issues that may start to bug you after its emotional allure begins to fade.
Are they reasons to not buy it? Of course not, but it shows that its means of thrust and giant touchscreen aren't the only things that separate the Tesla from established luxury brands.
For instance, let's say you've picked up the dry cleaning or need to hang up your jacket after a day at the office. Sadly, there are no coat hooks in the back seat. There are also no grab handles in lieu of a coat hook, nor for your rear-seat passengers to hold onto as you vigorously explore the Tesla's impressive corner-taking talents.
It's a little thing to be sure, but it's something you'd have in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
On Friday afternoon I jumped in our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S and headed home for the weekend. The car was fully charged and its instrument cluster told me it was packing 251 miles of range.
I never plugged it in over the weekend, and on Monday morning the Tesla and I arrived back at Edmunds HQ after 87.6 miles of driving. At this point the car's instrument cluster was telling me it was packing only 65 miles of range, so my 88 miles of driving used 186 miles worth of battery range.
Hmmmmm. Admittedly I'm no hypermiler and all of the 88 miles were in the city, but at that rate the car's true range is in the neighborhood of 120 miles.
This past weekend I let three friends drive our long-term Tesla Model S. Joe went first. He owns a 2009 Mercedes SL63 AMG. Then Sam, who drives a 2008 BMW 550i, and finally, Tom who's infatuated with his new 2013 BMW 335i with the M Sport Package.
The Tesla blew them away. They all loved it. Everything about it. They loved its ride, its speed, its handling, its interior, its big touch screen, its styling...everything. They were so impressed all three guys are still taking about it days later.
And now my neighbor Al, who drives a Supercharged 2012 Jaguar XJ, wants to try it. I think I'm going to start charging a few bucks.
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.
I consulted the Tesla's gargantuan display screen to see if anything could be done to remedy the situation. Sure enough, our Tesla offers a couple of brake settings: Standard and Low. The brakes were currently set to Standard. Beneath the brake setting was a prudent admonition, "Standard increases range and extends brake life."
Thanks for the reminder. In my opinion, Standard also sucks much of the fun out of the driving experience, so I decided to throw green caution to the wind and change the setting to Low.
That did the trick. No electric-car tenseness here, just luxury car smoothness all the way.
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.
When I parked the Model S to charge, I remembered the reset procedure I tried when Bluetooth went south. I didn't have time to drive it around after that, so I asked the next driver (Schmidt) to give me a report.
According to him, the map was indeed populating, but it was missing a few squares here and there. Then when I got home, the news was going on about some crazy cyber war that was slowing down networks around the U.S.
That might have been the cause, but I'll know for sure when I get another update.
It's one of those things that once seen, can't be unseen. At least this isn't as horrific as the untold volumes of random Google image searches that have been seared into my consciousness. At the very bottom of the Tesla Model S windshield, there's a distortion that refracts an otherwise clear outward view.
You can see how the paint stripes bend as they approach the bottom of the glass. Now that I know it's there, it's all I see. I'm sure after more time in the Tesla, it won't bother me as much (more time in the seat? Awwww, poor me!)
It was my first time charging our Model S. I pulled up to the charging station and spent a good five minutes circling the car, looking for the door to its charge port. Where could it be?
Then I figured that, like everything else on this high-tech luxury cruiser, the door was probably operated via touchscreen. I was right.
There on the touchscreen display was a control that allowed me to open the door. I tapped my finger on the screen and heard a little pop of surrender, which let me know the cunningly concealed door had finally revealed itself.
Aesthetically, the hidden door is in perfect harmony with the Model S's clean, sleek approach to design.
It seems churlish to complain about something as mundane as rearward visibility when faced with all the splendor and glory of our Tesla Model S.
But the fact is, visibility could be better. That C-pillar is pretty wide, and the rising beltline doesn't help matters.
On the plus side, there are so many pleasant distractions within the Model S's doors, visibility will likely be the last thing on your mind. In the beginning, anyway.
The trend these days is toward huge, panoramic sunroofs with sprawling dimensions that approximate an open-air driving experience.
In this respect, our Tesla Model S is most definitely on-trend. Its generously sized sunroof is a treat not just for front-row passengers, but for those traveling in rear, as well.
With a car this expensive and this beautiful we couldn't bring ourselves to drill holes in the front bumper for the license plate bracket. So we called the Tesla service center in Los Angeles and asked if they could do it. The cheerful receptionist checked with the techs and said to just stop by any old time.
The service center is only accessible down a tight alley so we just parked at a meter and waltzed into the service center unannounced.
The service bay was jammed with Model S's being prepped for delivery. But they honored our request and a tech named Juan came out to the curb to do the job. There were three indentations in the front bumper, to align the frame with the bumper. We averted our eyes as Juan drilled out the depressions. He then carefully mounted the bracket and the license plate.
The holes and plastic inserts were already in place for the rear plate. We were hoping for something more substantial, like a nice Tesla frame. Juan searched around for the frames but the other techs told him the frames are only available at the factory.
We chatted as Juan worked. His admiration for the car was evident. "You know the thing I like about it," he said. "They put the battery on the bottom and totally slammed the car to the ground. That's why the handling is so awesome."
Juan installed the bracket and plates before the 30 minutes were up on the parking meter. It was a good visit with a lot of helpful and friendly folks.
If you take a Tesla Model S to an automatic car wash, leave a little extra time for the staff to freak out.
Since you have to be sitting in the Tesla's seat for it to move forward, someone really has to ride in it. After a bit of conversation, where they tried to decide who would be the rider, I volunteered to be the one sitting in the car.
I enjoyed watching as the jets of water rainbowed down onto the windshield. It's a good idea to set the suspension setting to high, too, to avoid any damage to the tires or wheels.
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.
The cruise control is turned on by pressing in on the stalk to the left of the steering column. Once you turn it on, a glowing green light reminds you it is on. Classy.
There I was, taking the long way to Moab, Utah in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. My first stop was Buttonwillow Raceway to help out at the SCCA road races, but before I got there I peeled off Interstate 5 at Laval Road in Tejon Ranch for some sustenance.
"There's a Tesla Supercharger around here somewhere," I thought to myself.
I found it just behind a Fro-Yo place and the Chipotle Grill. It's in the back corner of the parking lot, in fact. A Panda Express sits next door. There are several others, including an In-n-Out about a quarter mile away if you really want to stretch your legs. A nice motel stands just across the street not 100 yards away if you feel the need to spend the night.
Bottom line: You'll have plenty to eat while your Tesla Model S quietly recharges in something like 30 or 45 minutes. And there are six available spots.
I met a happy Tesla owner from the Bay Area as he strolled out of the Fro-Yo place, the app on his phone having just told him his car was ready. He was headed to L.A. on his first road trip in his 2012 Tesla Model S Signature.
This charge would easily get him up and over the Grapevine and Tejon Summit, and the next public charger at Tesla HQ in Hawthorne would serve him during his visit and get him back here for the trip home. There are no credit card readers on these "pumps." Tesla does not charge for their use.
You can bet I'll try this out soon enough in our own 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.
In so many ways, the Tesla feels like a piece of technology. It's just one that goes very, very fast.
It wasn't glamorous or high tech, but one of the first tasks I had for the 2013 Tesla Model S was toting an unhappy cat, in his carrier, to the veterinarian. The Model S's wide doors and ample interior space for front passengers made it easy to get the carrier, and the 19-pound cat inside, into place.
The car's interior light interior is lovely, but makes me skittish. I put down a towel to ensure that the carrier wouldn't scuff or dirty it.
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?
The car would be more convenient if it had:
- Parking guides in the rearview camera: This is parking aid that the very, very wide Model S lacks.
- Lighted vanity mirrors: Serious, Tesla? You can't expect women to put on lipstick without better lighting. The little LED map lights do not do the job.
- Blind-spot monitoring system: If you can get this in a Mazda 3, why not a Model S?
- Less vulnerable wheels: The wheels on the Model S protrude beyond the sidewall of the tire and are extremely susceptible to curbing. Telsa would do owners a favor by rethinking this design.
I also was going to note that the outside passenger-side mirror doesn't tilt, but by reading through the Model S forum, it seems that the car does indeed have this feature. You just have to program it into your personal driver profile.
Only eagle-eyed readers will spot what's wrong with this photo. Can you?
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.
The next morning, I found this screen displayed. The software updated several things: Owner-scheduled/programmed charging (for those cheaper, nighttime electricity rates), improved range prediction in cold climates, and an adjustment to the climate-controlled cabin temperature.
Yup, our 2013 Tesla Model S is an exceptional car for myriad reasons, but just like any other car, sometimes a vigorous washing or cracked lens allows moisture to get behind or condense onto the lenses of lights. I'm not going to attempt the repair myself. We'll put it on the list for the next scheduled service visit.
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.
I poked around for a few minutes looking for a screen that displays individual tire pressures to no avail. I got out of the car and made a visual check for obvious deflation.
Nope. I was wheeling the car back to staging to put a gauge on each tire when the message simply disappeared from both displays. Huh. I wonder what happened.
Range this, charge times that. Here's something about our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S that has nothing to do with the fact that it's fueled by electrons. Check out its rear-view mirror. See that? It's all mirror. No clunky plastic bezel. No HomeLink buttons or GPS beacon or a full complement of patio furniture or a frickin' laser beam on its head.
It may look all arty, but it's the function of the Model S's mirror that grabs my attention. Every square millimeter of its surface is devoted to its primary function of presenting the view behind you. This way, the mirror obscures the least possible amount of the view through the windshield.
'Course, there is that fat plastic thing right above it...otherwise, this is an example of a detail done right.
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.
Of course, tapping into that thrust consumes range at an alarming rate. Based on a very unscientific test, I determined the Model S's rate of range loss at full whack to be about one mile per second. That is, if you hold the right pedal to the floor for five seconds, you'll lose five miles of range.
Get frisky with the accelerator often during an extended drive and it might wind up even more extended than you'd planned.
I don't understand the Tesla Model S's center console, or rather its lack of one. There's just a carpeted strip on the floor with little walls on the side. It's basically a gutter. Is this appealing?
Now, I can certainly see some appeal, in theory. My mother is the proud owner of the previous-generation Honda CR-V and loves that the open space between its seats is a perfect place to store her purse. She also likes how nice and open it makes the cabin feel.
However, that CR-V still has a large bin to securely store items, especially those of value you'd rather not leave out in the open. The Tesla has only a small shelf under the giant screen and an average-sized glovebox. The armrest also doesn't have any storage. There are two cupholders and that's it. Essentially, common in-car items like sunglasses, garage access cards or your phone go on the floor.
I'm not sure how the gutter is favorable to some sort of clever bin system that would include more and/or better cupholders? At the very least, couldn't such an alternative be an option?
As it is, do owners actually like the gutter? I just don't get it.
The primary display screen on our 2013 Tesla Model S went blank, again. If you are keeping track, this is the third outage in three months of ownership. A recap follows...
Our local Tesla dealer replaced the screen the first time this happened. The second time a reboot put things back on track. This time was much like the second. The car operated fine, but the blank screen was annoying. After the two-button reboot, a trick every Tesla owner should know, the screen returned.
As impressive as our 2013 Tesla Model S is for a pure electric car, it's still a very expensive car in general. And with a price tag of well over $100,000, there are certain expectations that come along with it.
For me, that means a great set of seats, at least for the driver and front passenger. In the Model S, the 8-way adjustable front seats are pleasantly comfortable. They have a good shape, nice materials and a decent amount of adjustment. But as luxury cars go, they're nothing special.
In the Audi A8 L 4.0, which starts at around $88,000, the standard seats have 18-way adjustment and can be upgraded with massage and cooling functions. Not exactly necessary, but nice to have if you're shelling out such money for a car.
The door handles on the 2013 Tesla Model S are one step away from being great. Allow me to explain.
For one, they're well designed. When they're retracted, they blend nicely into the contour of the door. When they're deployed, they have a simple, functional shape that easily fits the biggest hands.
Then there's the feel. They're solid as can be when you grab them, like giant hunks of raw metal. You don't expect that given the car's aluminum bodywork and general preference for keeping things lightweight.
And now the downside. They're really just big beautiful buttons. When you grab them they don't unhook a sturdy latch, they merely fire a small motor that pops the door open similar to the touch pads on a Corvette. The handles themselves don't move at all, except to retract into the door.
I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons why they function the way they do, but I would love it if they worked more like traditional door latches. Not many cars today have a solid feel when you grab the door. Even the most expensive luxury cars often have small plastic handles that convey little in the way of heft. The Model S could have scored a few points in this category over its traditional rivals, but oh well.
As I drove our 2013 Tesla Model S home last night, I passed a Fisker Karma. After passing the Karma and giving a "Yup, we both love the environment and have $100K to spend on it" nod to the driver, I couldn't help thinking about the vastly different directions these companies are heading.
The Karma is on its way out, while the Model S is the favored new kid on the block (at least in Southern California), but why?
Fisker Automotive has been plagued with troubles like battery supply and recalls, the loss of over 300 Karmas during Hurricane Sandy, and the resignation of its founder Henrik Fisker. In April, Fisker reportedly laid off the majority of its workforce. Speculation for the company's future is bleak at best, and prices on used Karmas have plunged.
Tesla Motors, however, seems to be moving swiftly in the opposite direction. Tesla's government loan has been paid back, their supercharger network is poised for rapid expansion, and their sales are exceeding expectations. Around Santa Monica, Model S sedans are seemingly everywhere.
The Model S is a much faster car than the Karma, but it's also tethered by its range. You can drive it fast, but only for so long. The Karma was marketed as the most eco-friendly car on the planet with solar panels on the roof and naturally-fallen leaves in the door panels. Both cars are luxurious, large and (arguably) stylish. So what do you think is so different about these two companies and their flagship cars? Which car would you rather have?
There are many things I like about the main control screen in our Model S. The door lock control screen is not one of them.
It's not the screen itself that's the problem, it's the fact that it's the only means of locking and unlocking the doors other than using the key fob itself.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. One, door lock controls should be on the doors. Putting them anywhere on the dash is nonsensical, or just plain stupid if you prefer. Tesla is not alone in this problem.
The other issue is the fact that the lock/unlock screen is not the default home page. You have to select the control screen first to bring it up, so unlocking the doors is a two-step process. Again, that's ridiculous. Just design a fancy lock/unlock button and stick it next to each door handle, it's not that hard.
After knocking our Tesla Model S for its average seats up front, I figured it was only fair to take a closer look at the rear seats. Turns out, they're pretty solid, and not in an overly firm kind of way.
The best thing the rear seats in the Tesla have going for them is space. There's plenty of it. The Model S is a very wide car and it translates into enough room for true three across seating. In most luxury sedans, the middle is nothing more than a penalty seat.
Space aside, the seats themselves have good contours and firm cushions that are reasonably comfortable. The lack of a center tunnel hump also makes the rear quarters feel more spacious than your typical rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan. Overall, it's an above average setup.
We've officially driven our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S 5,000 miles since we purchased the electric sedan back in January.
Although 5,000 miles in six months is still far behind the mileage accumulation of the more conventional gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks in our fleet (the bulk of which we drive about 20,000 in 12-months), it's far ahead of previous EVs that have spent time in the Edmunds fleet. Other EVs have accumulated mileage at a much slower rate due to their more restrictive range capabilities. We drove our long-term Nissan Leaf, for example, only 3,500 miles during its six month test.
Although, we have driven the Model S to Las Vegas and back, and it was driven to L.A. from the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA, the Tesla spends most of its time driving around the city of Los Angeles and serving commuter duty. And that will continue, however, a few more road trips are being planned.
So far everyone exposed to the Tesla walks away impressed by the vehicle, and reliability has been very good. We've only had one problem. The large screen that makes up the Tesla's center stack called it quits early on. We had it replaced under warranty.
Last Thursday when it was my turn to pick a car for the weekend the Tesla Model S was available. It was the moment I'd been waiting for. I genuinely like this car. I like its speed, styling, the progress it represents and the fact that I can feel genuinely patriotic when I drive it. It's good like that.
But I went home in the Mazda CX-5.
I live 52 miles from the office. Assuming the Tesla was fully charged when I started I'd have at best about 150 miles of range for the weekend. That's pushing it for me. I typically drive 50-60 miles on Saturday and the same on Sunday. Assuming I didn't charge the car at home, that driving behavior would leave me, in theory, 30-50 miles of range when I got back to the office.
But based on Scott's weekend experience, that's far too close for comfort.
Charging at home happens at a rate of about three miles per hour. But that also means I'm committed to leaving the car at home to guarantee sufficient range. It means I can't be spontaneous. It means I have to do some (admittedly basic) math to know if I'm safe to go anywhere. Most importantly, it means I can't yet have the freedom in the world's best electric car that I would have in even the most rudimentary gasoline-powered car.
And I'm just not willing to deal it. Not yet, anyway.
Electric cars, or more specifically, their current limitations, cause me to analyze carefully what it is that drove me to my passion for them. I fell in love with cars because of the freedom they grant. Thinking about it now I realize all that cars have given me: giddiness over getting my driver's license, my first powerslide, my first real passion for doing anything, .my first drive with a female other than my mother.
And it was all predicated on freedom. On the fact that cars let me go where I wanted, when I wanted, at virtually whatever speed I wanted. Electric cars, even this groundbreaking Tesla, still can't do that. At least not in my current situation. And, frankly, it makes me a sad.
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.
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.
Editor Mark Takahashi had the same problem with the navigation screen a few weeks ago when certain areas of the map started going gray but it was a satellite issue, not something we could blame on the Tesla.
The reset took about 30 seconds and everything was back in working order. I've had to perform a hard restart on my iPhone with about the same frequency and it's not terribly annoying. Only thing is, my iPhone didn't cost $100K.
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."
The auto-present door handles and their feather-light operation may have won some over before we even got in. Once inside, they were struck by the simplicity of the cockpit and the big touchscreen. These are, of course, things that impressed me as well.
We drove down the alley and the silence overtook them. I gave the pedal a quick stab and they were left speechless. I gave them a few bursts of acceleration every so often and they reacted with glee. Most of the time, though, we just leisurely strolled around, and my passengers definitely gained an appreciation for the Tesla's luxury capabilities.
One of them is a spokesperson for another car brand and can't officially comment, but he was visibly taken by this car. And that's the thing about the Tesla. Even the most jaded of drivers "get" this car. It doesn't take any championing on my part to win them over. I've yet to meet someone who is unimpressed by it.
Is it perfect? No, of course not. Nothing is. But it sure is close.
The task of transporting a set of wheels for my personal car recently fell to our 2013 Tesla Model S. Even with the rear jump seats installed there was plenty of space for four large boxes.
Later, on my drive home from the gym (with my duffel bag in the front trunk), I stopped for groceries and there was plenty of room left for those, too.
With the rear seats folded down, the Model S has a combined 63 cubic feet of cargo space, which is on par with some small SUVs. If you've got stuff that needs moving, the Tesla Model S can be your huckleberry.
Seems I'm in the minority regarding the door handles of our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S. You see, I cannot stand them. That motorized feature is goofy and unnecessary, serving only to provide a gee-whiz impression the first time you use them and after that the novelty is gone and then they're simply a potential trouble spot. They lack tactility, as there's a delay between when you tug and when the solenoid fires, so the door feels as though it sticks slightly. Not a lux vibe, that.
But worst of all, they conduct heat like you would not believe. The other day, after sitting in the morning sun for just a couple of hours, the handle grew so hot it was essentially untouchable. Yowza!
The Tesla's door handles strike me as one of those ideas that wasn't really thought through.
Our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S has a boomy cabin. It may be noticeable only because otherwise this is an uncommonly quiet car, but boom it does, each time a tire thumps against a bump in the pavement.
I'm no NVH engineer but I suspect the Model S's large interior volume (it is a hatchback, after all, so the cargo volume is contiguous with the passenger volume) presents a greater challenge in terms of quelling cabin boom.
Your High Power Wall Connector (HPWC) did not ship with a cable organizer. Once the cable organizer part is available in February, we will ship you one.
"As an alternative to installing the cable organizer next to your HPWC, Tesla recommends coiling the cable around the exterior of the HPWC. The shape of the connector is designed to secure the coiled cable against the mounting surface."
This was a note we received from Tesla — in late April. That's when our HPWC arrived, a couple of months after we got the car. Model S cars may be speedy, but the shipping of parts that go with them is another story. We finally got the cable organizer this week, four months after the promised delivery date.
Prior to the part's arrival, I was thinking we'd use a wall-mounted garden hose rack from Home Depot, but Model S owners are more resourceful than I am. A number of Model S owners have crafted their own cable organizers in the meantime. This $6 part from Panduit is a popular option with some forum members.
We'll eventually use the Tesla organizer. But for now, there's an issue with the High Power Wall Connector that has put the process on hold. Dan Edmunds will have more on this later. Plus, we're still cutting through the red tape of installing an electric car charger device in a large business complex.
Tesla Motors wants the ability to sell cars directly to consumers in all U.S. states without a dealer network.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that an "anonymous Tesla enthusiast" started a petition to put before President Obama. The petition has passed the required 100,000-signature threshold to merit a response from the White House.
States laws vary on the subject but, to simplify a complicated subject, franchise dealers are protected by state laws that prohibit manufacturers from selling and servicing automobiles directly.
What do you think should happen? Would you sign the petition ?
Our 2013 Tesla Model S gets much more attention than any car in our fleet. I easily get ten times more questions about the Tesla than even our immaculate 1987 Buick GN or the shouty-SLS. You simply can't get out of it without someone saying something, snapping a photo, or turning to their friends and pointing out what's just pulled up.
Click through to read a few of the interesting remarks I heard during a few days in the Model S.
While taking some friends for a spin:
"Oh my god! My dad needs to buy one of these! This thing is awesome!"
"It's so nice in here. Can we just drive around forever?"
"You weren't kidding. It's like that roller coaster at Disneyland that rockets you forward from a stop. That's a perfect description."
While driving around to the shops:
"Wow, that thing is gorgeous. What is that?"
"Did you just put the groceries in the front? Where's the engine?"
"I'm from England and I'm seeing those cars everywhere. It looks like the Jag. What is it? A Tesla? Well, it looks amazing."
So if you purchase a Model S, know that you'll get a few questions about it.
Love 'em or hate 'em, the door handles on the 2013 Tesla Model S are unique and add to the space-age vibe of the car.
Click through for an 11-second video of the driver door handle in action.
What is your verdict, yea or nay?
I'm fairly obsessed with the iPhone app for our 2013 Tesla Model S. Every once in a while I just check in to see how the car is doing. It's like having a baby monitor for your car.
I noticed that it loses some estimated range just being parked overnight. Not sure if it is consuming a small amount of energy while it rests or if it adjusting itself based on my driving style from my latest trip. Either way, I check the app occasionally to see where I stand.
One sunny afternoon I noticed that the app said the interior temperature of the car was 117 degrees F. Yikes.
So, using the app I vented the sunroof to let some of the heat escape. (It's also fun to be able to honk the horn when my neighbor's kids get too close to the car. Tee hee.)
I checked back about 30 minutes later and the app said the car's interior was 116 degrees. Nothing stops the relentless Southern California sunshine.
Before I went out later that afternoon, I used the app to turn on the climate control system and watched as the interior temp quickly dropped.
The car was comfortably cool when I slid into the driver seat three minutes later.
Two of my friend's birthdays are one day apart in July. So, I piled the gang into our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S and drove them to a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner.
I asked for a review of the back seat after having three adults sitting across. The tallest of the group is 6'1" and he was sitting behind the front passenger seat. He said there was plenty of hip and elbow room but the way the ceiling is shaped, he had to tilt his head to the side to avoid it touching the top. He added that if he was sitting in the middle, under the glass sunroof, he would've been fine.
All of the three rear seat passengers were happy with the materials and comfort of the seats. It was a very hot night so I had turned the climate system on a few minutes before we got into the car. All were happy with the level of air conditioning that reached the back.
|Rear hip room||54.7 inches|
|Rear leg room||35.4 inches|
|Rear head room||35.3 inches|
|Rear shoulder room||55.0 inches|
|Total Seating (not counting the jump seats)||5|
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.
You can see the mountainous orange peak from when I drove up the hill. Then you can see the deep green valley of my trip back down the hill, using the regenerative braking in the Model S most of the way down.
The estimated range (which you can't see in this photo) at the time I started my downhill trip was 124 miles. That number stayed put until I got to the bottom of the hill. I gained no estimated range back but I didn't "consume" any either, according to the Tesla's display.
I remember taking this exact trip when we had our Mini E test car, and I had gained 7 miles of range on the trip down. These are all estimates, of course, based on how the car is rating your driving at the time.
According to this analysis, if I could drive downhill all the time, I'd have a projected range of 999 miles ;)
Dan Edmunds approaches me once a year to reserve a car for his annual family tour of the northwestern states. This year he asked for our 2013 Tesla Model S. A week or so later he changed his mind, citing the lack of supercharging stations along his route. The extra time required to refill at civilian charging stations didn't fit into his time schedule.
Now Tesla has announced an extension of its supercharger network in the Pacific Northwest. Dan may want to rethink his plans.
New charging stations opened in Washington State. Tesla owners now have access to free supercharging stations from Vancouver, BC to Burlington, WA to Seattle, WA to Centralia, WA to Portland, OR. There is still a gap between Portland and Folsom, CA, a span of about 600 miles. But according to the Tesla website, the supercharger build-out will link those areas by the end of this year.
The Tesla supercharger network is almost ready for an Edmunds road trip.
A few nights ago the Oldham's pushed aside our daily intake of skinless grilled chicken breasts and kale smoothies and hit the drive-thru at the local Jack in the Box where breakfast is served 24/7 and the new slogan is Go Big or Go Hungry.
We went big.
And on the way home I discovered two things. 1) My desire for fatty fried foods is far greater than my paternal instinct. 2) The Tesla Model S is without rear seat cupholders.
"Daddy, there's nowhere to put my drink," said little Oldham #1. "Yeah, there aren't any cupholders back here," confirmed little Oldham #2.
With my bunnies fed and my belly full I took to the socialsphere and I tweeted @elonmusk about the issue. He replied quickly and politely, "Coming out soon and will be available as a retrofit."
So there. We'll follow up when that happens. In the meantime, I highly recommend the Big Waffle Stack. Just make sure you have time to take a nap after you inhale it.
Clean air stickers on our filthy 2013 Tesla Model S. First stop is the car wash. Next stop is the HOV-lane to bypass as much traffic as possible. We may even wait until rush hour just so it feels more satisfying.
This 11-second video I made of the Tesla Model S door handles got lots of comments and questions on YouTube and Reddit.
The Reddit community mostly asked about their operation in icy weather conditions (which I can't test at the moment) and also wanted to know what happens if you get your fingers stuck in there when it closes.
So, I tested it. I can tell you this before you watch the video. The door handles do not detect an "intruder" and pop back out automatically. They continue to close.
Click through for the video...
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?
In a word: Excellent.
Medium- and high-pitch frequencies are crisp and clear, while bass is strong and consistent up and down the volume range. There is no speaker distortion (regardless of genre, making it more impressive), even when you turn the stereo up to the maximum. Roll down all four windows, slide back the panoramic roof and you'll be able to entertain (or annoy) the whole neighborhood.
Since we waved goodbye to our long-term Infiniti JX35 and its optional 15-speaker Bose sound system, this is without a doubt the best stereo in our fleet.
Join us today (Monday 8/12) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time / 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time for a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).
We'll be taking questions about our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S.
We won't have the exact link until a few minutes before the event starts but you should be able to find it on reddit's AMA main page. I'll post the exact link when I have it.
The chat will include Scott Oldham, Dan Edmunds, Mike Magrath and me.
We look forward to seeing you on reddit. Announce yourself as a regular LTRTBer so we can say a special hello.
Here is the reddit link to the AMA.
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...
NHTSA 2013 Tesla Model S Frontal Crash Test
NHTSA 2013 Tesla Model S Side Crash Test
NHTSA 2013 Tesla Model S Pole Crash Test
If for no other reason, I love the Model S for this single piece of packaging brilliance. That, I submit, is a real center storage bin.
For once, the lack of a center tunnel is being fully utilized.
In a recent update we noted how the 2013 Tesla Model S earned a top five-star rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's battery of tests.
Interestingly, Tesla posted a press release about those results a few days ago. Basically, Tesla claims that the Model S not only gets a five-star rating, it has the best scores of any car sold, period.
Now, it's true that no car can earn better than a published NHTSA five-star rating. So in that sense, the Model S is equal to any other car with five stars across the board, such as a Honda Odyssey or Volvo S60.
But Tesla says that detailed, behind-the-scenes crash information is provided to automakers, and from that information, it's possible to extrapolate how five-star cars compare to each other. And from this, Tesla says in its press release that the Model S does better, or has the lowest likelihood of injury, of any car sold.
From our standpoint, Tesla's claims are unverifiable. But I found the overall information in Tesla's press release to be quite interesting nonetheless.
You can read the full release here.
According to the Tesla Motors Web site, this is what its supercharger map will look like come this winter. So, anyone fancy a drive to Mt. Rushmore? Perhaps we could drive to the Detroit Auto Show in January and I can carry onto my home and native land in Toronto. Of course, it'll require driving through tropical South Dakota in January, but sure beats gasoline, right?
We'll have to wait until 2014 to have supercharger coverage on the cross-country routes of I-40 and I-70. By 2015, it seems the entire lower 48, plus southern Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia will be covered.
With the mirrors folded in on our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S, it is 77.3 inches wide. That is only 3 inches shy of being as wide as our long-term Chevy Silverado.
In its class, the Model S is 2 inches wider than a BMW 7 Series, 3 inches wider than the Mercedes CLS-Class, and 4 inches wider than the Lexus LS 460.
As a result, the Tesla requires extra attention in the tight confines of parking garages or curb-side. Since he is incapable of telling a lie, Sir Mix-a-Lot would be forced to say he likes our 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.
But then I studied the app on my smartphone once more. I can honk the horn, flash the lights, tilt open the sunroof, lock or unlock the doors, open the charge port door or manipulate the climate control system. And I can do all this from anywhere in the world, in fact, if the app can connect to the Web. So can Mike.
But there is no button for rolling down any windows. He's off the hook.
So now I'm back to square one. What the...?
We received an unexpected gift from Tesla recently. It is a $100 discount card to buy 7 For All Mankind jeans. I wondered if this was meant to smooth things over after our tire incident, but there was no note attached.
You must spend $250 however, in order for the $100 discount to kick in. I hadn't heard of the brand, and I wondered how much one could get for $250. After a quick visit to the company Web site, I learned it's not very much.
As one of my more fashion-oriented colleagues pointed out, this is a designer brand. A pair of jeans advertised on the gift card was selling for $198. A men's button-down shirt went for about $150. Makes sense, I suppose. If you can drop a hundred large on a car, chances are, you don't have to shop at the Gap.
In any case, you won't see me sporting $200 jeans anytime soon. I gave the gift card to my editor in chief, as any ethical journalist would do. Mr. Oldham will then dispense the card as he sees fit.
Would you buy the jeans or re-gift it? I've already seen one person selling his card on eBay. Asking price was $10.
We took delivery of our 2013 Tesla Model S on February 19th. Seven months and seven days later we have driven the car over 10,000 miles.
There have been a few problems along the way. Problems with the car's interior screen as well as its sunroof and its accelerated tire wear, all of which we have documented. Also, our Tesla charger didn't exactly arrive on time. It was months behind the car in fact.
But there's no denying that we like driving this sedan. It continues to impress from behind the wheel, as well as the passenger seat.
When I first saw our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S, I didn't pay much attention to the color. I liked the design, and that's what caught my attention.
Now that I've spent more time with our Tesla and seen this electric car all around L.A. in varying color combos (black-on-black with tinted windows is my favorite so far), I'm wondering what the best color combo would be. Would you get the Blue Metallic or opt for something else?
I used to drive our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S to work and feel different, unique and even kinda special. I used to wave when I saw another Tesla owner, and because there were so few Model S sedans on the road, I'd get a wave back. While the electric supercar sedan still gets plenty of attention, it definitely seems like less of an oddity lately.
Maybe it's the more frequent availability of supercharger stations in SoCal, or frequent locations with basic plug-in chargers. Maybe Californians just want the newest, hottest car on the market and that is driving sales, but I see Model S sedans around Los Angeles's West Side several times a day. I saw this one being delivered last week in Santa Monica, and three others on my scant five-mile commute.
In the second quarter of the 2013 fiscal year, the Tesla Model S outsold the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. In the month of June alone, it outsold all three, combined. The Model S is on its way to becoming downright common in this town. Do you think its success will spread, especially as Tesla expands its Supercharger network? How long before the Model S turns up in middle America?
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.
So I recently hoisted the car up on our Rotary 2-post lift to add witness marks to the toe-link adjustment cams. I plan on lifting our Model S every 1,000 miles or so to see if it creeps again. I don't expect to see anything, but, then again, I didn't expect we'd be wasting our breath talking about chewed-up tires before we hit 10,000 miles, either.
When I shift our 2013 Tesla Model S into park, the driver door opens automatically. The door doesn't open fully, just to the first detent. This is not the first time it's happened.
We waited before taking this into the dealer to see if we could repeat the problem. But so far, the only possible similarity between events is that the car was wet following rain or early morning condensation. No more waiting. We've schedule an appointment to have the issue addressed.
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.
Previously, I could drive our Model S on the Supercharger network no farther north than 100 miles north of Sacramento, CA. But three new stations in Corning, CA, Mt. Shasta, CA and Grant's Pass, OR now make it possible to bridge the gap to existing Superchargers in the northwest and make it all the way to Canada.
I'll turn off at Grant's Pass, though, and head for the coast where my parents live. I just need to work out where I'm going to charge when I get there. Probably an RV park someplace.
"Our 2013 Tesla Model S is making an ominous noise under acceleration and deceleration. It originates from the rear of the car and seems to be getting worse." That was our last post addressing this mystery.
Here is how it was fixed...
"We replaced the entire drive unit," began our service advisor. "Tesla doesn't want us diagnosing the problem here, so I can't answer your question of exactly what happened. It gets put into a box and shipped off. Sorry I don't have any more information."
If you like to say, "I don't care how you fix it. Just fix it." Then you'll be completely satisfied with this solution. We don't say that. So at this point we have messages out to contacts at Tesla directly to see if we can learn anything more. We'll keep you posted when (if?) we learn something.
While it was at the dealer we also asked to have the magic driver door looked over. The fix here was to replace the driver door handle mechanism.
We're not sure what to think about the fact that both of these repairs were completed with just one overnight stay. Maybe the dealer is really on the ball. Maybe the supply chain is short. Or maybe the parts are readily available because they've seen these before. The car is back on the road again, regardless.
The driver door handle on our 2013 Tesla Model S wouldn't retract yesterday. Normally, as you walk away from the car the handles retract and the doors lock. I initially thought this was related to our recent service. This was the handle mechanism the dealer replaced.
I walked back to the car and pressed the key fob button to manually unlock the doors. Then I manually locked the doors. This time all handles retracted properly. It seemed to be a one-time thing, as the issue has not returned since.
This has been mentioned before, but it jumped out at me again after not driving our Tesla Model S for a while. Compared to most other sedans in its class, the rearward visibility in our Model S is terrible.
To many this may not be cause for concern. I see such drivers every day on the highway and clearly the cars behind them don't factor into how they drive. With that in mind I try to do my best when it comes to accommodating others on the road. Being able to see them helps.
As you can see, the Model S doesn't help much in this regard. The window is comically small, not to mention the fact that its aggressive angle makes for considerable distortion. And check out those C-pillars, they're kind of hard to miss. Granted, I use my side mirrors for making most judgments about lane changes and such, but it's never comforting to check your rear-view mirror and see nothing but roof.
Our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S had a disconcerting, warbly-grindy noise. Subsequently, its electric drive unit was identified by the dealer as the source of the noise (bearings? Motor?), and so was replaced under warranty.
I can report that the noise is now gone. The car is back to its usual, uncommonly silent self, nearly as quiet when in motion as it is when parked at the curb.
I'm going to make a guess here, but it seems entirely possible that parking your Tesla Model S at a shiny new Tesla supercharger station could be a great way to meet people you'd like to date.
That is, of course, assuming you're in a position to want to date somebody. But would you not agree that these stations are ripe with opportunity? You pull up. A couple minutes later a rather attractive man or woman (whatever suits your fancy) pulls up in the next bay. Now, you've both dropped close to $100,000 on your very much niche-oriented car. I think you've got something in common. You wave and smile, she waves and smiles back. While your car is charging, you walk over to the Starbucks nearby to grab a cappuccino. She naturally follows suit. You have a moment there.
See, it's eHarmony, sponsored by Tesla. For free, no less.
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.
Using the Model S's touchscreen, you can adjust the ride height if the car is fitted with the optional air suspension. The main modes are Very High, High, Standard and Low. The Low mode automatically engages at highway speeds (60 mph and above) to improve aerodynamic efficiency. Or, at least that's the way it used to work. While the option for Low still appears on the screen, its functionality is largely disabled as of the 5.8 update.
Having read about this on the Tesla forums, it seems some owners initially suspected that the change was due to Tesla being proactive about the car's recent news exposure regarding striking road debris and catching fire. However, other owners have determined that it's potentially a software bug, as Low now only engages at speeds above 97 mph. (60 mph converts to 97 kph.)
I've verified that Low on our car no longer engages in the way Tesla originally said it is supposed to. But I haven't driven it at speeds above 97 mph to check that aspect, either.
A lot of cars turn heads on the road but I've noticed that our 2013 Tesla Model S tends to attract attention from people who look like they could genuinely afford to buy one. That guy in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class who's crawling down the 10 freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the lane next to me? Yeah, he's swiveling his head to get a look. Eyes on the road, buddy. People with means can be a pretty jaded bunch so it speaks well of the Model S that it's able to stand out and catch the eye of this hard-to-impress demographic.
In her recent "Drive By Numbers" column, senior analyst Jessica Caldwell presents some research that supports the idea that the Tesla Model S is seen as a desirable new toy by the wealthiest car shoppers. According to her analysis, the Model S is the most registered vehicle in 8 of the 25 wealthiest ZIP codes in the US. For example, it's the most popular vehicle in Atherton, CA, where the median home price is a hefty $6,665,231.
Buying patterns among the very wealthy can often forecast mass-market trends, and if that holds true in this situation, the future of the Model S looks quite rosy indeed. Get the full story in Jessica's column.
With the holidays just around the corner we figured it was time to start putting together a gift guide that will help you select automotive-themed tokens of affection for your nearest and dearest. This year we decided to go big or go home.
In addition to more practical selections like utensil sets for tailgaters and a deluxe road safety kit, we've included some high-dollar items for those with very deep pockets. For example, there's a Ferrari surfboard that will set you back almost two grand, and a Lamborghini Murcielago desk that, at over $10,000, doesn't come cheap.
But the priciest item in our gift guide is the Tesla Model S. The Model S is proving to be a fast favorite with wealthy car shoppers. If you've got folks on your list with stratospheric earnings (and if you yourself are similarly loaded), consider stuffing a stocking or two with this handsome example of electric transportation.
Our full 2013 holiday gift guide is located here.
Let's clear this up right away: I don't have any Adam and the Ants on my iPhone. I only have two of their albums on vinyl at home.
I first ran into the problem I'm about to describe when we tested Elon Musk's own Tesla Model S last year. It started soon after I paired my iPhone, being extremely careful not to delete Elon's in the process, and began streaming audio.
As I do today, I listened to a combination of music and podcasts. The system was great at displaying the appropriate album art when songs were playing, but it never could sort out podcasts. The screen was never blank; it always put up something. But it was always some album I didn't recognize from my own playlist.
I chalked it up to some weird prototype glitch.
Fast-forward to our own 2013 Tesla Model S and it's the same story. Music is fine, but a podcast playback never brings along the matching podcast logo from my phone like many other cars manage to do in streaming mode. Instead the Model S seems to be searching the cloud for the corresponding album art.
In this case it went out in search of Adam Carolla and came back with the next closest thing: Adam Ant.
Yeah, they're pretty much the same guy.
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.
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.
Nvidia is well known for making high-end graphics processors for PCs. As we got to talking about how Nvidia fits into the automotive space, Samuel mentioned that they make the graphics chip for Audi, Lamborghini and the Tesla Model S.
Then he pulled the above-pictured visual computing module out of his pocket and placed it on the table. He said that's the one that runs the Model S's massive touchscreen. At that point, I was wondering what else he had in his pockets, but I didn't ask.
He also mentioned that there are actually two of these processors in the Tesla. The other one handles the gauge cluster. They went with two separate units for the sake of back-up redundancy. I mentioned our earlier issues with the screen needing a restart, but we haven't had any issues since then. He didn't seem all that surprised, but was glad it was working as it should.
A lot of times it's easy to think that a manufacturer produces everything in house. As with most carmakers, Tesla seeks specialists in the field to utilize systems that have already been proven.
Over the holiday I drove our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S on its longest road trip yet, a 2,000-mile jaunt to Corvallis, OR, and back to Los Angeles. It dawned on me the week prior (before I'd decided which car to take) to my departure that my route would take me right along the path of Superchargers along Interstate 5.
Ah, the 5: a dreary slog of primarily two-lane, boring, straight interstate littered with drivers so oblivious they'd be hilarious were they not so aggravating. Alas, it's the most direct route between the origin and destination, and this trip is long enough that it's going to be plenty time-consuming even without sightseeing forays along the way.
In light of that route, the choice of the Tesla was kind of a natural. Sort of. I mean, there would be a lot of progress-unfriendly stopping to recharge and such, but I always tend to gravitate towards unusual vehicles for long road trips (Audi R8, Dodge Viper).
So in the coming days I'll share, in no particular order and with little rhyme and/or reason, various observations, musings, likes and dislikes from the trip. If there's something specific you'd like to know about taking an EV on a trip such as this, feel free to voice it in the comments here.
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.
Of course, this ability must be deployed with great care on a trip like this due to the seriously deleterious effect it has on range. But, man, it sure is a nice thing to have in your pocket.
The ride in Standard ride height is supple and dispatches bumps quite effectively. In Low, the ride gets too busy as the suspension seems to bounce off its bump stops. The steering is quite good, too, as it's precise and has natural weighting around center. For a first-effort car by a new automaker, this is pretty astonishing stuff.
When the sun is in just the right (wrong) position in the sky, our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S throws a big-time glare right in your face. The source? The flat, highly polished chrome-like arm that anchors the side-view mirror to the car. This is no little dazzle, either. It's really obnoxious. I noticed this on the return leg of my road trip as I was heading south on I-5.
Like the goofy door handles, this mirror-finished surface is one of those form-over-function gaffes that I suspect will go away in future Teslas as the new company figures out the right way to make cars.
During my road trip, I drove over some coarse pavement. At the time, I thought what I was feeling through the seat of my pants and the steering wheel rim was simply road texture.
But many, many miles later it occurred to me that it might not be the pavement that was causing what I was feeling. It was, in fact, the car.
Here's what it was doing. Every ten seconds or so while traveling at about 70 mph, I'd notice a vibration (if you can call it that) that would increase in amplitude and then fade away to nothing. About ten seconds later, it'd be back. This shimmy continued, never worsening or improving, irrespective of pavement. It was most noticeable on smooth tarmac, almost certainly because rougher pavement would mask it.
Mind you, this is a subtle shimmy. Very subtle. More like a faint zizz that comes and goes. My passenger didn't notice it until I pointed it out. Then, it couldn't be un-felt.
I'm not sure what's causing it. Could be something as simple as an out-of-balance tire, though the periodic nature of this shimmy is unlike any tire balance-related shake I've ever experienced.
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.
For its part, Tesla offers a winter wheel/tire package centered around a downgrade to 19-inch rolling stick. But when we went looking they were sold out. And they charge a cool $4,000 for mounted and balanced assemblies.
Tirerack charges $333 each for these 21-inch Pirelli snow and winter tires. With tax and standard shipping (in 24 hours, no less), our rubber cost us just over $1,400. Add in another $100 for dismounting, remounting and balancing and we're still way ahead.
I'm a big advocate of tire switching for maximum performance all year, especially for anyone that deals with snow or cold temperatures regularly in winter. Summer tires are simply dangerous in places where it gets cold and snowy.
But we don't quite fit that mold. After all, it was 88 degrees here in mid-December, and it will never get bitterly cold in the L.A. basin all winter. But our hand was forced in the case of the Model S because nobody makes a 245/35R21 all-season tire. As for chains, which don't fit the bill for constant winter use and pair best with all-season tires anyway, Tesla only sells them for their 19-inch Model S wheels and tires.
Any Model S owner that plans to drive to Tahoe or Mammoth to ski needs to think long and hard and digest all of this. Might I suggest my snow-versus-summer-versus all-season tire performance test as required reading.
Ruh roh. In Corvallis, OR, at the halfway point of my road trip, my attentive friend at Spriso Motorsports pointed out that the driver-side rear tire of our long-term 2012 Tesla Model S had a little bump in the sidewall. The bubble appears far more prominent in the purposefully lit, super-ultra macro photo above than it did in real life. Guy's got some eyeballs on him.
This is normally the kind of thing that should be addressed promptly. Always one to push my luck, I instead decided to keep an eye on it and make an audible if it appeared to worsen over the course of my trip. Yeah, I'm nutty like that. On the plus side, the bubble didn't change at all over the course of the trip. And with plenty of time to kill during the frequent stops at the Superchargers, I had to do something to keep myself occupied...
The combination of the Tesla's extremely short sidewalls and impossibly heavy 21-inch wheels make its tires more susceptible to this kind of sidewall damage from sharp-edged potholes or impacts.
As an aside, I think the likelihood that this sidewall issue had anything to do with the Tesla's shimmy is nil. But you never know. We'll get the tire replaced and see if the shimmy changes. But in the meantime, Dan is riding on snow tires during his holiday road trip.
Car keys have a tough life. They spend the bulk of their time rustling around in pockets and purses. They rattle up against adjacent house keys on the same ring. And they sometimes get dropped.
Modern push-start smart-entry key systems have evolved away from serrated teeth. As a result they stay firmly planted in one's pocket or purse more of the time. But they still endure a lot of handling and jostling.
The "key" to our 2013 Model S is of this basic type, but like everything else on the Tesla it's a bit different. It's smooth and seamless. You can't see the three embedded buttons for the frunk, doors and hatch.
That's how it started, anyway. With use, circumferential seams began to emerge. The one for the doors split all the way around and fell off, revealing the actual button below.
At first, some in the office thought it was a new, improved key with a visible unlock button. They said they disliked not knowing exactly where to squeeze the "old" one to achieve the desired result. They even went so far as to say the red ring was a cool touch.
It didn't take long for the little black disk to fracture and fall off, especially considering that the doors automatically unlock and extend their handles with no need for a button press. Most staffers limit their button use to making sure the car is locked as they walk away. Or maybe they'll press the button to find the car in a crowded parking lot now and again.
I still have the black plastic dot. It fell off in my pocket and I saved it. I thought about super-gluing it back on, but quickly dismissed the idea because I figured I'd dribble some into the works or get it on crooked. It'd never look as good as the pristine spare pictured above on the right, the one that's been kept unused in a lock box for safekeeping.
Even knowing what really happened, few are bothered by this development. They kind of prefer it this way. Do you care? Or would you put the spare into circulation?
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.
We had a 2011 Nissan Leaf for 6 months, in which time we drove it 3,551 miles, an annual rate of 7,600 miles. The pitiful Mitsubishi MiEV accumulated just 1,980 miles and lots of dust during its 6.5-month stay. Before them we put 7,683 miles on a 2009 Mini E.
Range has almost everything to do with it, and at 260-plus the Model S has no equal. More range equals more hand-raisers when the keys are being bandied about. It also helps that the Tesla Model S is quick, fun and has great cargo and passenger flexibility.
The flip-side of range is charging flexibility, and the Model S has that in spades, too. The usual 120V Level One and SAE J-1772 Level Two methods are here, of course. But Tesla is way ahead of the curve with additional 50-amp "NEMA 14-50" RV park compatibility and low installation cost home charging using the supplied cord, their own high-speed 100-amp HPWC for garage installation and the ungodly-fast and ever-expanding Supercharger network built to make cross-country travel a reality.
And this last point is why our Tesla may just make it to 20,000 miles in one year after all. The reality of the Supercharger network allows me to take the Tesla Model S on my annual Holiday trip to Oregon to see my folks. The newly-opened northern California and southern Oregon Superchargers will pair nicely with the NEMA 14-50 dad has in his garage to support his welder.
Though it has grown quickly to 45 stations (at the time of this writing), the Supercharger network didn't exist when we took delivery of our car. If it had been in place throughout we'd be at 20,000 miles already.
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.
I stayed at a hotel 1.4 miles away from my sister's house and made several trips to and fro over the course of my multi-day stay. In this weather, the trip regularly consumed 3 to 4 miles of rated range each way when starting off cold. But I had no concerns about range on this part of the trip because I'd done a more-or-less complete charge in Eugene (45 miles away) that I planned on riding out for the duration of my Corvallis stay. So this unexpected extra consumption was inconsequential other than the additional minutes it took to replenish them (and on a related note, driving a Tesla fast on the freeway can be slower in the long run for this reason).
Another cold-weather observation. When warming up, the Tesla shows hash marks on the power and regen meters (these also appear when the battery is low on charge, as I found when I first pulled into the Eugene Supercharger). Basically, it's still warming up, and the juice is restricted. I'm not one to hammer a cold car, so the limited power was fine. But the limited regen was a big surprise the first time I lifted to slow down. Normally in this car you get a big hit of regen and slow down dramatically, especially since I use the more aggressive of the two regen settings. When you lift while the car is cold, it barely slows at all.
Interestingly, on the return trip to Eugene from Corvallis (my sole "long" trip in cold weather that started out with a stone-cold Tesla), regen remained limited even after driving 20 miles.
This photo was taken at Harris Ranch on the return leg of my 2,000-mile road trip in our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S.
As you can see, the next Tesla to pull up to this bank of Superchargers is pretty much boned. All of the chargers are taken, and none of the other vehicle owners are in sight. They're off snoozing or eating or playing jai-alai somewhere, apparently oblivious to the plight befalling the next Tesla driver seeking a juice fix.
When I drove up, two chargers of the five were available. Halfway through my (partial) charge, another car took the sole remaining charger. At no point during my charge were the other three chargers vacated.
This wait-so-you-can-wait-more situation is likely to become more commonplace as more Teslas hit the streets, though additional Superchargers along popular routes will help.
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.
The Tesla also lacks a Homelink universal garage door opener and a hard-wire iPhone/iPod music interface. The latter is especially annoying since the car has a pair of USB ports, which in virtually every car, indicates you can control your iWhatever with the car's own controls.
Instead, you're left with Bluetooth Audio (no AUX jack either) and the need to select tracks or podcasts with the phone itself. That'll probably get you pulled over in California and other states, since looking at your phone to select something is obviously exponentially more dangerous than looking at the 40-inch flatscreen embedded in the dash.
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.
At night, I noticed that the screens (both the instrument panel and the big central touchscreen) never attain a good solid level of blackness. Where it's supposed to be black, it's really a dark-ish gray. As a self-professed TV nerd, this bothers me. No, it's not a deal breaker, but it does make it just a little bit harder to read things at a quick glance.
You can see it in the rather poor image above. Those darkest areas on screen should be black. I tried adjusting the screen brightness but what I may have needed was a contrast adjustment. Then again, it's probably the screen itself, as the picture elements simply can't block all of the backlighting.
Yes, I've gotten to that point with the Tesla. Nitpicking. The rest of the car is great. I mean that. I love driving this car.
When the carpool stickers for our 2013 Tesla Model S finally arrived last summer I was thrilled. With a 35-mile commute each way down one of the busiest freeways in L.A., I saw myself shaving a nice chunk off of it each night as I breezed by in the far left lane.
The reality has been completely different.
I'm not sure whether it's the sheer number of "carpool exempt" cars (Tesla, Prius, Volt, etc.) or an increased number of real carpoolers, but the far left lane is now nearly as crowded as every other lane on the 405, at least during rush hour. In fact, a fellow editor with the same commute even passed me the other night while driving in the standard lanes.
Now, I still like the fact that I can use the carpool lane while driving the Tesla and the fact that it's about hundred times better than a Prius doesn't hurt either. But the days of carpool sticker nirvana are over in L.A. and I don't see it going back anytime soon.
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.
The interior is still fantastic. While there are minor gripes about panel fitment, the door panel design is stunning, and I find the massive center screen massively pleasing to look at and touch.
The exterior is still gorgeous, too. The character lines are as appealing as they were when the Model S was new, and in my mind they will look good for a long time (unlike some over-styled EVs of the past).
Most of all, the acceleration continues to delight me. The readily available torque in the Tesla Model S entertains everyone that sits in the passenger seat and quickly leaves surrounding traffic in the rear view.
Some cars lose their luster once the new-car smell is gone, and even this $100K electric supercar sedan is subject to some of that. But after nearly a year in our fleet, the Model S still gets my vehement seal of approval.
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.
As you may know, Tesla sourced some of the buttons and controls from Mercedes-Benz. Smart move, because they feel premium with a satisfying heft and click. I'm guessing the buttons on the steering wheel weren't, though, because they feel light and wobbly. The scrolling wheel selector between them feels premium, at least.
Definitely not a deal breaker, just more nitpicking.
Tesla says that its Model S is the only car with an HQ backup screen. That much is true, but something on that HQ screen is missing.
There are no distance lines to let you know how far you are from the car behind you. There is also no projected path for the Model S when it is in reverse.
Nearly all lesser priced cars have backup screens with these features. The Tesla Model S is a big car. When I'm parking this car I need all the help I can get. I discovered that other Tesla owners are concerned about this lacking feature. There is speculation in the Tesla forums that the Model S will add this feature in a future software update.
Excluding multiple drive unit 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.
When you absolutely must pummel your eardrums to the first wails of "Immigrant Song" for example, it's very soft-rock to reach down for a twist of the old touch-sensitive volume icon. Cadillac and Ford fare only marginally better here, too. Even the iPhone has tactile volume control.
Sure, there's the left-thumb dial on the steering wheel. There's also cholera, Bieber, and cesium-laced bluefin.
...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.
If you've never driven an EV before, the hardest thing to get used to is the regenerative braking. It's not like it is on your hybrid. When you let off the throttle in an EV it feels like someone turned on a gravity pump that exclusively targets your vehicle. Or like you're driving through deep sand. So, after a few miles you've figured this out and you stop getting out of the gas and into the brakes and start letting off the gas slowly, letting the regen do the dirty work and using the brake pedal only for the last 5-0 mph mark.
At least, this is the way it should work. Unfortunately, our Tesla's regen isn't quite strong enough in normal to work this way on crowded freeways and the low mode isn't low enough. They work fine, but I want more. I want control.
The solution, then, is a fairly simple rheostat that could control the regen from 100-0 depending on my mood / driving style. (Hey, look, Tesla even gave me a handy dial right on the steering wheel!) With two settings already available, this could be done with a software update looking exactly like the sunroof slider if they're not cool with the wheel button.
Sure, some people wouldn't use it, but then again, some people don't use the paddles and manual mode on their cars and we still get that.
With well over 20,000 miles on the odometer, our 2013 Tesla Model S has some solid wear on it. At this point I would expect a few squeaks and creaks to pop up in the interior, but the noise I heard last night wasn't like that at all.
The noise I heard was coming from the steering rack, but only as it approached full lock. It was a loud creak, too, not a faint tick that turning up the radio would cure.
Wind the wheel one way and it was "creak, creak, creak." Wind it the other way, same thing. I have no idea what could be causing the noise, but it sounds pretty awful coming from a car this expensive.
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.
On the surface, driving the Model S like a normal car is a non-event. A recent software update added a crawl feature that rolls the car forward when the brake pedal is released, just as in a normal automatic transmission-equipped car. Turn off the aggressive regenerative braking and it stops like everything else on the road. The only things you'll miss are engine noise and gear changes. You'll quickly find that depriving yourself of engine roar leads to a casual violation of local speed limits. Keeping an eye on the speedo is a must.
Willfully give it the beans and the Model S responds like the wolf in sheep's clothing that it is. Mashing the accelerator thrusts the Tesla forward like the train of an LIM-launched roller coaster. The instantaneous 443 lb-ft of torque is alarming for first timers, but is also endlessly entertaining when giving out rides. You're going to get some hop-ons, because everyone you've ever known will want a go at the Model S. You will be helpless to resist because it's just so damn fun to experience their shock at how quick the car is.
For newbies, range is the only thing that is cause for concern. Gunning the Model S eats into its fuel reserves, so don't drive like a maniac and you will find the Tesla's distance-to-empty estimation to be pretty spot-on. More importantly, you won't be forced to be timid with the throttle later on to make up for the lost range.
As much as I like driving the Model S, to own the car is to come to terms with its shortcomings. Some idiosyncrasies, like the distortion around the edges of the windshield, can be downplayed due to Tesla's relative inexperience in building cars. More troublesome are the drive unit troubles, the most recent being a failure that left Matt Jones stranded on Highway 101 in Los Angeles. We have contacted Tesla to explain this most recent issue, but they have yet to respond.
I'm kind of a neat freak about having clean glass. Since the touchscreen in our 2013 Tesla Model S is nearly as big as a home TV, it quickly gets decorated with nasty looking fingerprints and smears.
As Dan Edmunds noted, a software update earlier this year introduced a new feature to help clean the touchscreen. The screen is locked and darkened while you clean the screen rather than scrambling all the information that is currently being displayed. I found that if you use a clean microfiber towel, you don't need any cleaning fluid. In fact, they advise not to use any cleaning fluid or abrasive towels.
If the Tesla Model S was mine (and I wish it were) I'd keep a microfiber towel in the car and clean the screen every couple of days.
Americans hate high gas prices. Hate, hate, hate them. Presidencies have been toppled by the inability to provide cheap gas. Just ask Jimmy Carter. So you would think Americans would embrace EVs. Not so. Or at least, not yet. Maybe the problem is no one puts a real dollar sign on the savings.
Here are the numbers I based my calculations on:
Average cost of electricity in California: 16 cents per kilowatthour (kWh).
Average cost of premium gas in California in 2013: $4.09
Miles driven: 23,000
Fuel efficiency of the BMW 7 Series: 19 mpg
Fuel efficiency for Tesla: 3 miles/kilowatthour
And here are the results:
Cost of electricity to drive the Tesla 23,000 miles: $1,226
Cost of premium gas to drive BMW 7 Series 23,000 miles: $4,951
Money saved on fuel by driving Tesla: $3,724
Obviously, there are many factors that could change the result of these calculations. But most of the variables play in favor of the Tesla. For example, there are many free public charging stations where there is no cost for electricity. The electricity from Tesla's superchargers is also free. And many people who get a Tesla become enraptured with solar power and have panels installed on their houses. This drops the cost of electricity well below the 16-cent average. Additionally, some utilities reduce rates for charging EVs at night. Southern California Edison, for example, charges only 11 cents kWh for charging after midnight.
Also keep in mind that these figures are just for 23,000 miles. Over 100,000 miles the savings in fuel costs is $16,192.
And this is just the savings in money. Don't even get me started on how much time you save by charging while you work, or sleep, rather than standing there in the gas station, staring at the spinning numbers on the pump.
When you drive the 2013 Tesla Model S you'd better be ready for questions. Over the past year driving this EV, and the three years driving my 2011 Nissan Leaf SL, I've fielded hundreds of questions. They almost always come in the same order. The #1 most common question is — you guessed it — "How far will it go on a full charge?"
The #2 most common question might surprise you.
#2: "After the battery runs out, does the motor switch on?" No, I say. There's no motor. So then, that leads to the next question.
#3: "So what happens when the battery runs out? Are you just dead in the water?" I usually answer that you are not exactly "dead in the water," but you are in the same situation as you would be if you ran out of gas. Now, this triggers the next question.
#4: "How long does it take to recharge?" I have a problem with this question. It assumes you always run it down to zero and charge from an empty battery. I don't do this for the same reason people don't use up all the gas in their tank before filling up. So full recharge time is something that almost never happens. Instead, I'm charging when the battery is a quarter full to half full.
Last weekend, I still had about 65 miles of range on the Tesla but I decided to recharge anyway on my 240-volt home charger. I plugged in at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night and it was fully recharged mid-morning Sunday.
Yes, that's a long time but, to be honest, I didn't need it any sooner. So, while a fast recharge time might be important sometimes (i.e. while on the way to Las Vegas when, by the way, you can use the much faster supercharger) most of the time it is a meaningless number. Of course, people can imagine all sorts of scenarios when it might be important. But all I'm saying is that, to me, in three years of EV driving, it hasn't really been important.
To round out this list, I'll leave question #5 up to other EV drivers who might read this and feel like chiming in. If no one does, I'll post something in the comments.
We thought we would bide our time while waiting for the debut of the Tesla Model X by keeping our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S a while longer. But we have pretty much covered all the bases on this car and quite frankly, we're getting that itch to buy something new. We were pretty sure that selling this car would replenish our coffers. But we weren't exactly sure how much we'd get. No one had any pricing data on the car.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Our long-term Chevrolet Volt and Fiat 500 were in the same uncharted waters back when we sold them. Would we get top dollar for our Model S? Take a wild guess before you hit the jump.
"Hold on sir," said the greeter at CarMax. "I'm checking with my manager to see if we can appraise this car."
This was the first time I've heard this at CarMax, but my worry was short lived. The manager came over quickly and said they could appraise it, but it would take twice as long (about an hour) since they had to do "a lot of research."
During the appraisal, I learned that CarMax wasn't going to resell the Model S on its lot. "Our insurance company won't let us sell this car until there are more out there," said the appraiser. My guess is that CarMax needs to work out the details of servicing the vehicle and offering an extended warranty. Instead, CarMax would list the Model S for sale at its own auction.
Roughly an hour later, I had an offer in hand. CarMax offered us $79,000. For reference, back in February 2013, we paid $103,770 (I'm discounting the $1,235 we paid for the wall charger, since it wasn't part of the vehicle). This is about a 24-percent depreciation, and slightly over with our fleet average of 22 percent.
We're still debating whether to take the offer, sell it private party. Or we may keep the Model S a while longer.
What would you do? Take the CarMax offer or sell it on your own?
Back in January, we made a $40,000 deposit for a Tesla Model X Signature. We hadn't heard much from Tesla since then, even after it was quietly delayed into 2015. That changed when we received the following e-mail.
Dear Model X reservation holders,
Falcon wing doors, all-wheel drive, and the most stylish way to combine an SUV's utility with a sports car's performance. Model X will be a production car that exceeds the promises made when we first showed the concept.
In the fall, we'll start building Model X prototypes on a newly expanded and integrated production line at our factory in Fremont, CA. The first Model X cars for you, our reservation holders, will be produced starting in early 2015.
We're pleased to confirm that the falcon wing doors will be a defining feature of this exceptional car. Not only do these doors look amazing, but they also make getting in and out of the Model X so much easier than would a conventional front-hinged door. You can even do it standing up.
We'll also deliver a level of functionality and practicality that will exceed what you saw on the concept vehicle. We can confirm that all-wheel drive will come standard for Model X, and you'll have the option to add a third row of seats to carry more passengers. You'll also be able to fold down the second and third rows to create a flat platform for storage. When it comes to charging and long distance drives, Model X will be able to take full advantage of our rapidly growing Supercharger network.
These features combine to offer power, speed, and space — all packaged in an all-electric vehicle that looks and drives like it comes from the future.
We'll have more to say about Model X in the coming months, so stay tuned for updates. Thank you for your confidence in Tesla.
So the "falcon doors" are not just something fancy for the prototype. They will be the signature detail of our signature edition. Time will tell if these will be as practical in the real world.
What do you think of the falcon doors?