Read the 2013 Tesla Model S's introduction to our long-term fleet.
See all of the long-term 2013 Tesla Model S's updates.
What We Got
When it finally came time to order our 2013 Tesla Model S we had two trim levels to decide between: Base and Performance. The base version started at $59,900 and included 19-inch wheels, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and cloth seats. More importantly, it was powered by the standard 40 kWh battery pack rated at 235 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and had a range of roughly 100 miles on electricity. This wasn't going to be enough power for our daily driving habits.
Instead, we opted for the Performance trim. With that we got the 85 kWh battery, which boosted output to 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It also extended the electric range closer to 265 miles. Adjustable air suspension, traction control and Nappa leather were also part of the $93,750 starting price. Optional equipment was plentiful. We added blue metallic paint ($750), a panoramic sunroof ($1,500), Dolby Pro Logic stereo ($950), rear-facing jump seats ($1,500), a rear parcel shelf ($250), twin chargers ($1,500) to utilize the high-power wall connector ($1,200 plus $35 shipping) and the Tech package ($3,750), which bundled xenon headlights, self-dimming side mirrors, a power liftgate, an HD back-up camera, turn-by-turn navigation and automatic keyless entry.
All in all our Model S stickered at $105,005 when we picked it up at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California. Here's how the ownership experience went.
- "The Model S is comfortable, luxurious and it feels substantial on the road. And it is fast. Like supercar fast.... The Tesla does not like crosswinds. For several miles, keeping the sedan true in the lane was difficult. Nothing severe, but not the kind of dynamic flaw you find in a Mercedes S-Class or a Porsche Panamera." — Scott Oldham
- "This car's ability to dump all that torque from a stop and supply it continuously throughout the quarter-mile is what makes it so unique." — Chris Walton
- "Our Model S can do many things other EVs can't.... Here it's plugged in to the 240V shore power receptacle at an RV park in a space with full hookups. It's made to do this, which is another sign that Tesla is thinking way outside the box that defines other electric vehicles and their limited capabilities." — Dan Edmunds
- "A couple of weekends ago my wife and I dashed out of town to watch the Grand Am races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. And we drove up and back in our Tesla Model S, the only pure electric vehicle on the market that can make the 750-mile round trip in anything approaching a normal time scale." — Dan Edmunds
- "In the Model S, the eight-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." — Ed Hellwig
- "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." — Ed Hellwig
- "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?" — James Riswick
- "The task of transporting a set of wheels for my personal car recently fell to our Tesla Model S. Even with the rear jump seats installed there was plenty of space for four large boxes." — Travis Langness
- "Yesterday I put my 5-year-old in the Tesla's rear jump seat. It was met with a mixed review. There was a moment of hesitation, for both of us, when I closed the hatch. Then, as I climbed in the driver seat to take her for a ride, she said this. 'Daddy, I don't think it's a good idea to put kids in the trunk.'" — Josh Jacquot
- "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." — Mark Takahashi
- "I'm fairly obsessed with the iPhone app for our 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." — Donna DeRosa
- "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." — Travis Langness
- "The primary display screen on our Tesla Model S went blank, again. If you are keeping track, this is the third outage in three months of ownership." — Mike Schmidt
- "Despite the car's breathtaking price tag, the Model S's tire pressure monitor doesn't tell you which tire is low. It just says 'Hey! Go check all the tires!'" — John O'Dell
- "The Tesla's setup bothers me because in Southern California every time you apply the brakes it affects hundreds, if not thousands, of others behind you. I simply don't want to trigger the brake lights every time I lift off the throttle. Let me be clear: I also don't want to be rear-ended." — Josh Jacquot
- "'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.... A Panda Express sits next door... an In-n-Out a quarter-mile away.... You'll have plenty to eat while your Model S quietly recharges in something like 30 or 45 minutes. And there are six available spots." — Dan Edmunds
Maintenance & Repairs
Routine service is due on the Model S every 12,500 miles or 12 months, according to the owner's manual. Tires should be rotated every 6,000 miles.
We expected some hiccups from the Model S. Not only was the car an all-new display of emerging technology, but it was also Tesla's first shot at building a car from the ground up. Our car amassed quite the repair résumé during the last 17 months.
Some notes about this list: 1) It includes everything beyond normal maintenance; 2) we had an early production car, so several of these issues were fixed as running changes on later production models; 3) many of the repairs were performed during the same visit; 4) only two visits required more than an overnight stay.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
EPA estimates for electricity consumption in the Model S were 38 kWh/100 miles, with a range of 265 miles on a full charge. Our best observed range was 230.4 miles and the best projected range was 264.2 miles. The best average energy for a single charge was 238 watt-hours per mile (23.8 kWh/100 miles) and the worst 344 watt-hours per mile (34.0 kWh/100 miles). The energy usage calculations do not include charge losses, which are 25-35 percent based on our experience with the high-powered wall connector (HPWC).
Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our Model S for $103,770 (excluding the charger, which we kept). After 17 months we accumulated 30,251 miles and it was time to sell. At this time, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator could not value the vehicle, as there weren't enough cars on the used market. So we tried our luck with CarMax, who offered $79,000. Research led us to believe the fair market value was higher, so we advertised publicly. Soon thereafter we found a buyer and sold for $83,000, which reflected a 20-percent depreciation.
Pros: Thrilling performance, spacious and comfortable cabin, unmatched electric range, easy-to-use driver interface, plenty of cargo space, free national supercharger network, no routine maintenance costs, strong resale value.
Cons: Extensive list of repairs necessary, interior amenities don't match other luxury sedans in its price range, latest active safety systems not available, needs at least a Level 2 charger to make it useful as a daily driver.
Bottom Line: The Model S is a fast, comfortable and technologically brilliant luxury sedan, but numerous problems with its touchscreen, tires and drivetrain make it hard to recommend.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||None (over 17 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$1,907 for 5 new tires, mounted and balanced|
|Warranty Repairs:||See previous list, "Warranty"|
|Non-Warranty Repairs:||See previous list, "Goodwill"|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||2|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||7|
|Days Out of Service:||9|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||1|
|Best Observed Range:||230.4 miles|
|Best Projected Range:||264.2 mpg|
|Best Average Energy:||23.8 kWh/100 miles|
|Worst Average Energy:||34.4 kWh/100 miles|
|Distance Powered by Superchargers:||11,693 miles|
|Distance Powered by other chargers:||18,558 miles|
|True Market Value at service end:||Not available|
|What it Sold for:||$83,000|
|Depreciation:||$20,770 (20% of paid price)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||30,251 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.