2013 Tesla Model S: Driving Impressions and 20,000-Mile Update
April 16, 2014
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.
Cameron Rogers, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 20,007 miles