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Autocar UK Tesla Model S review

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Autocar UK - 04 September 2013 PDF Magazines - Download Free Digital Magazines in PDF Format for iPad, Android Tablets and PC

Tesla has come
of age — already

JIM HOLDER EDITOR
[email protected] @Jim_Holder
FIVE YEARS AGO, there was a common theory among a
burst of eco-conscious start-up car companies that two
exceptional circumstances had combined to deliver a
unique opening in the market: the credit crunch meant that
established car makers were struggling, and regulation
makers, wanting to fast-track cleaner technology, were
offering favourable loans and grants to make it happen.
Fast-forward to today and only one of the bright-eyed
newcomers can stand proud. Tesla has not only created a
credible alternative to the mainstream in the Model S but
it has also outdone the establishment by creating by far the
most credible electric car on the market, bar none.
Be clear: Tesla hasn’t shaken up the industry. Nor is it likely
to, given the quality of the opposition and the availability
of appealing alternative powertrains, from combustion
engine to electric, via plug-in hybrid. But the fact that it can
stand comparison with the likes of
an Aston Martin and Porsche (p46)
shows just how seriously we should
take Tesla, its maverick owner Elon
Musk and the firm’s long-term
ambitions to expand.

Assault & B ATTERY What is the Tesla Model S really like? Steve Sutcliffe
lines up an Aston Martin Rapide S and Porsche
Panamera to see — and discovers big surprises en route

The opening moments of
engagement with the Tesla
Model S are fascinating and
go something like this. You
see it for the first time in the
metal and you think: “Wow,
great-looking car. Big but beautifully
proportioned; appears weirdly like a
Maserati from the front.”
Then you’ll approach it physically
and think: “Okay, so how do I open
the door?” Someone who knows
will then inform you that to use one
of the Tesla’s exquisitely crafted
chrome door handles, you must
first press upon it gently, whereby
it will glide serenely out of the
bodywork, enabling you to pull upon
it conventionally and, presto, the
frameless-windowed door will open
and you’ll climb inside.
When you do, the first thing you
will see – pretty much the only thing
you will see – is the enormous iPadlike
touchscreen that dominates
the entire centre console. You will
probably then give this a prod, just
to see what happens, and the car will
come to life, just like that.
Except that there will be no noise –
nothing. The touchscreen will
light up and the instruments in the
dashboard behind the steering wheel
will appear mysteriously out of the
darkness, but there won’t be so much
as a murmur from the car as they do.
At this point, you might notice that
the driver’s seat, although electrically
operated and swathed in leather,
doesn’t seem especially supportive.
You may also think that there is no
gearlever as such. Until you realise
that there is one and it isn’t down
there where it usually sits but up here
instead, Frank Cannon style, just to
the right of the steering wheel.
Eventually, once you’ve sat there
in bewilderment for several minutes,
pressing buttons, scrolling around
the touchscreen, maybe logging on
to the worldwide web and googling
Elon Musk to see how his space
programme is shaping up, you will
make the decision to start driving the
Tesla Model S. And that’s when it gets
very spooky indeed.
Because when you do – when you
first decide to squeeze on the accelerator to make the Model S
move – you will never, ever forget
what happens next. The car will
begin to move, either gradually if
you press the pedal smoothly or very
fast indeed if you are clumsy with
it (which it is easy to be, so light is
the resistance underfoot). And at
that point, your whole perspective
on the business of driving will shift,
instantly, a good 25deg towards
the left-field – to a place in which
everything seems different from the
way it once was.
You will find yourself homing
in on the horizon while making
no noise whatsoever, which is a
deeply odd thing to experience but
also, you will discover, a curiously
beguiling sensation at the same
time. The notion of acceleration
will feel completely different in this
car – that’s what 443lb ft of torque
delivered from zero revs feels like,
basically – and simultaneously you
will realise how soothing the ride
seems, how precise the steering
feels, how strong the sense of thrust
appears, even at 80-90mph and
beyond, and how disarmingly
competent the car is at pretty much
everything it does.
And after an hour or two with the
Model S, you might arrive at a fairly
shocking conclusion: that it is, in
fact, really very good indeed at being
a motor car – at doing the things we
expect a conventionally sporting
luxury saloon to do, but without
burning any fuel in the process.
Which, of course, brings us to the
whole point of the Model S and leads
us to ask: what exactly is this car?
Who will it appeal to? How much
does it really cost, not just to buy but
to run? And what sort of conventional
cars should we be comparing it with?
As you can plainly see, the cars
with which we’ve chosen to compare
this particular Model S – the
most powerful 85kWh Signature
Performance versionm which will
cost about £88k when it goes on sale
in right-hand drive in the UK early
next year – are radically different
from one another in concept.
The Aston Martin Rapide S is a
conventional V12 bruiser that costs
£150k, is laced with luxury and
delivers a typically rousing 550bhp
and 475lb ft of torque from its 5.9-litre
petrol engine. The Porsche, on the
other hand, is powered by a 247bhp,
406lb ft V6 turbodiesel and returns
a claimed 45mpg on the combined
cycle while emitting just 166g of CO2
for every kilometre that it is driven
(against 332g/km for the Aston
and precisely zero from the Tesla’s
tailpipe). It costs £62,922 – less than
half the price of the Aston – and is,
in theory, much more of a real-world
opponent for the Model S.
You might think of the Americanbuilt
Tesla as a rival for more
predictable saloons such as the
Mercedes-Benz S-class, Audi A8,
Jaguar XJ and BMW 7-series (and
indeed, the Model S very nearly
outsold all of those cars combined
in the US during the first three
months of 2013, which is a faintly
extraordinary achievement in itself).
But in this case we wanted to see (a)
just how quick it really is, hence the
Aston, and (b) how much cheaper
and more economical it might be
than a conventional but still sporting
diesel car, hence the Panamera.
The Model S’s three-phase AC
electric motor is rated at 410bhp
and 443lb ft by Tesla, although,
intriguingly, we discovered that it
had a little more than that when we put the car on a rolling road
(see sidebar, overleaf). To gauge how
much pure performance is on offer,
we lined the Model S up, side by side,
with the Aston and basically drag
raced them from a 30mph rolling
start, with the Rapide in second
gear. And the Tesla tore the Aston to
shreds. As in, it left it for dead up to
about 120mph, at which point we
ran out of room.
The difference between them
wasn’t small, either. The Tesla’s
instant and massive acceleration was
simply too much for the Rapide to
deal with. Within a couple of seconds
it was several car lengths ahead, and
it continued to haul cleanly away
until we ran out of straight at the test
track. That was surprise number one.
Number two of many came later in
the day when we realised that, having
driven all three cars at the same sorts
of speeds for pretty much identical
mileage, the Aston’s fuel tank was
emptying at virtually the same rate
as the Tesla’s 85kWh battery pack.
At the end of the day, to fill the Aston
back up from almost empty cost £102.
To recharge the Model S overnight
cost around £4 at the standard offpeak
rate of electricity.
True, it took six hours to recharge
the Tesla, as opposed to two minutes
to fill the Aston – the charge time will
drop to about half an hour with one of
Tesla’s ‘supercharge’ points – but the
point was clear.
Even the Porsche needed £35 of
diesel to refill, although this did then
give it a theoretical range of over
700 miles, more than twice what the
Aston or Tesla can manage on one
tank or charge in the real world.
Then again, the Model S
completely annihilates the Panamera
in a straight line. The Porsche
feels like a slightly baggy, woefully
underpowered favourite armchair
beside the Tesla. Even in the corners,
it can’t do much about the American
car’s extra zip and composure.
The Panamera rides well for a
Porsche, and it has decent steering
and a nice amount of feel from the
rear axle. It also weighs the least of
these three, at 1880kg versus 1990kg
for the Aston and 2106kg for the
Tesla. But in reality, it doesn’t feel
that way at all. On the move, be that
at speed with commitment through
The Tesla tore the
Aston to shreds. As in, it left
it for dead up to about 120mph
The Tesla has the largest wheels, at 21in The Porsche’s seem modest, at ‘just’ 18in Aston: 20in wheels and biggest brakes
The Tesla has even
more low-down pull
than the Porsche
a corner or just ambling along, the
Panamera feels the heaviest car here.
It needs to be persuaded to change
direction, whereas the Model S –
and to a lesser extent the Aston –
seems lighter and nimbler on its
feet, somehow. The Aston has the
sweetest steering, with lots of feel
and precision to the front end. But the
Tesla steers rather well, too, even if
it doesn’t have the last degree of feel
that the Aston has.
And what of the way that they
stop, often the bane of electric
vehicles because of the effects of their
regenerative braking systems? The
Porsche and Aston both stop as well
as you’d expect – better, indeed, than
most folks would believe, considering
that they both weigh the thick end of
two tonnes. But the Tesla stops every
bit as well, despite weighing a little
bit more. And the best part is that you
can tailor the amount of regenerative
braking there is by scrolling around
on the touchscreen.
Select Low mode and the brakes feel pretty much like those on
a normal car. Switch to Normal
and only then do you get the weird
dragging sensation when you lift
off the accelerator, as the batteries
harness energy from the brakes. You
get used to it, though. After a while,
in fact, it becomes part of the appeal
of driving the Model S, working out
just how seldom you need to use the
brakes to slow down or come to a halt.
Out on the road, the Model S
rides well, handles at least as tidily
as the Porsche and Aston at high
but not insane speeds (another
major surprise) and feels – apart
from its lack of engine noise and
extraordinary low and mid-range
thrust – much like a normal kind of
car. Unless you’re a passenger, that
is, in which case it feels enormous,
never more so than in the rear seats.
There is massively more room in
every direction in the back of the
Model S than there is in the other
two. It feels like a proper limo in the
back, whereas in the others, Aston
especially, legroom and headroom
aren’t exactly generous, despite both
being slightly longer than the Tesla.
And that’s before you even mention
the two rear-facing child seats that
are engineered cleverly into the
Tesla’s boot floor. And if you think
that means there’s no boot space left,
think again – because there’s another
decent-sized boot in the car’s nose (no
engine, remember). And when I say
decent, it’s bigger than the Aston’s
one and only boot by a country mile.
The one area in which the Model S
can’t and doesn’t even try to compete
with the likes of the Aston is on
luxury feel. The quality of leather,
for instance, is entirely different. In
the Aston, you can almost hear the
interior mooing on occasions, so
pungent is the smell and the feel
of soft hide. In the Model S, there
is leather and lots of it, but beside
the Rapide’s it feels a bit like highquality
plastic.
That’s not to say that the Tesla
lacks build quality in any way,
because it doesn’t. Apart from a
couple of inconsistent shutlines
around the tailgate, it feels like, and
is, an extremely well made product.
But what it doesn’t do, anywhere,
is go over the top. No attempt has
been made to make it feel overtly
luxurious. That’s the Aston’s party
trick, and it’s probably the key reason
why the Rapide costs what it costs
and appeals to whom it appeals.
The Porsche is somewhere in
between. It’s neither outrageously
luxuriant like the Aston nor
deliberately functional like the Tesla
inside, and it has a kind of quiet
appeal to it as a result. But the star of
this show, the car that will leave you
feeling flummoxed and delighted
and strangely optimistic about life,
all at the same time, is the Tesla.
The Model S is, quite simply, a
landmark moment in our motoring
lives. Some of the things that it can
do are extraordinary. And none of
the things that it does are ordinary.
If this is at least part of what our
motoring landscape will look like in
future, then the future looks good.
No, it looks fantastic.
 

PV4EV

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 26, 2011
571
784
Area 51(a) / UK
Thats actually a very very good write up for UK based magazine !


Sadly, Top Gear will fake it being rolled into a hangar or complain that it cant complete an F1 race or something daft. Although I suspect James May would totally geddit and should review it somehow.

Also today the UKs Daily Wail newspaper ran an article about the £5k EV grant being withdrawn. You only have to read the hundreds of idiotic comments to realise there is an uphill battle going on trying to get people to understand what EVs can do .. Just read the comments below this article :-

£5k electric car grants to be scrapped after experts find incentive did little to help environment | Mail Online
 

brianman

Burrito Founder
Nov 10, 2011
17,610
3,207
deliberately functional
This is a great characterization of what, I think, Tesla means by "premium" rather than "luxury".

- - - Updated - - -

And the Tesla tore the Aston to shreds. As in, it left it for dead up to about 120mph, at which point we ran out of room. The difference between them
wasn’t small, either. The Tesla’s instant and massive acceleration was simply too much for the Rapide to deal with. Within a couple of seconds it was several car lengths ahead, and it continued to haul cleanly away until we ran out of straight at the test track.

Then again, the Model S completely annihilates the Panamera in a straight line. The Porsche feels like a slightly baggy, woefully underpowered favourite armchair beside the Tesla. Even in the corners, it can’t do much about the American car’s extra zip and composure.

The Tesla tore the Aston to shreds.
They double-dipped on the Aston quote and much of the review sounds like "and the Porsche was also present". Stunning that they stated this so bluntly.

- - - Updated - - -

Unless you’re a passenger, that is, in which case it feels enormous, never more so than in the rear seats. There is massively more room in every direction in the back of the Model S than there is in the other two. It feels like a proper limo in the back, whereas in the others, Aston
especially, legroom and headroom aren’t exactly generous, despite both being slightly longer than the Tesla.

The one area in which the Model S can’t and doesn’t even try to compete with the likes of the Aston is on luxury feel. The quality of leather, for instance, is entirely different. In the Aston, you can almost hear the interior mooing on occasions, so pungent is the smell and the feel of soft hide. In the Model S, there is leather and lots of it, but beside the Rapide’s it feels a bit like highquality plastic. That’s not to say that the Tesla lacks build quality in any way,
because it doesn’t. Apart from a couple of inconsistent shutlines around the tailgate, it feels like, and is, an extremely well made product. But what it doesn’t do, anywhere, is go over the top. No attempt has been made to make it feel overtly luxurious. That’s the Aston’s party trick, and it’s probably the key reason why the Rapide costs what it costs and appeals to whom it appeals.
If you care about passenger comfort and safety, buy the Model S.
If you want to impress your rich friends that you'd prefer a rolling sofa to a performance vehicle, buy the Aston.

Or am I drawing the wrong conclusion?
 

charliestyr

EVangelist
Jul 1, 2012
134
2
UK
Wow, a great little comparison test. Still surprised that's a UK write up :)

Also today the UKs Daily Wail newspaper ran an article about the £5k EV grant being withdrawn. You only have to read the hundreds of idiotic comments to realise there is an uphill battle going on trying to get people to understand what EVs can do .. Just read the comments below this article :-

£5k electric car grants to be scrapped after experts find incentive did little to help environment | Mail Online

It's not worth the time to read those comments. They're invariably ridiculous and end with something along the lines of "just wait for hydrogen" "hydrogen is the future" etc, always make me feel more sad and filled with despair about the UK market for EVs, definitely a long way to go!!
 

PV4EV

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 26, 2011
571
784
Area 51(a) / UK
Wow, a great little comparison test. Still surprised that's a UK write up :)



It's not worth the time to read those comments. They're invariably ridiculous and end with something along the lines of "just wait for hydrogen" "hydrogen is the future" etc, always make me feel more sad and filled with despair about the UK market for EVs, definitely a long way to go!!


You mean a Hydrogen Fool Cell car . . .

I've bought the Autocar magazine and would happily scan and upload the full review with photos, but its probably a copyright issue ..
 

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