Tesla Model S – “Automobile of the Year”
Start-up companies sometimes set out to do something different, and the outcome is never for certain. Some never even get off the ground, and others are spectacular failures. Tesla Motors, against all odds, has managed to do what few others have done, which is to succeed, at least so far. The 2012 Tesla Model S was meant to do away with the niche Roadster image, and deliver a viable electric vehicle [EV] that consumers would find attractive and exciting.
True, Tesla Motors has done much to do to improve the image of EVs as viable transportation, including free charging networks and offering industry-leading range, performance, and recharge times. At the moment there are over 13,000 reservations, which cost at least $5,000 each, for the Tesla Model S, but less than 300 have been delivered so far. Tesla will have to get their manufacturing up to speed if they’re going to satisfy their waiting customers.
One thing that Tesla has on its shelves is plenty of accolades, and Automobile Magazine just gave them something that certainly isn’t expected with a start-up automaker, much less an EV, and certainly not in its debut year. The Tesla Model S is an all-electric luxury sedan with an EPA-estimated range of up to 265 miles. The leather interior is accented by a high-tech touch-screen control panel, and is nothing less than a concept come-to-life. This year, Automobile Magazine [AM] has named the 2012 Tesla Model S “Automobile of the Year.”
We were “eager to see how the Model S would perform in the real world, removed from Musk’s spin and Tesla’s chaperones,” said Automobile Magazine editor David Zenlea, “this year’s field was the strongest in recent memory. We weren’t expecting much from the Tesla other than some interesting dinner conversation as we considered ‘real’ candidates like the Subaru BRZ and the Porsche Boxster. In fact, the Tesla blew them, and us, away.”
Aside from interior luxury and exterior design, as well as technological enhancements in the instrument cluster and dash controls, the one single thing that impressed AM editors and drivers was performance. Torque in EVs is available at zero rpm, which means that Tesla Model S’ 416 horsepower [hp] is all available, right at the starting line. In an informal drag race with a 560 hp BMW M5, the Model S won, hands down, with a zero-to-sixty time of only 4.3 seconds.
Typically, when an EV manufacturer drops their vehicle for testing, they impose strict rules on how the car is to be driven, including speed limits, acceptable acceleration limits, recharging times or mobile charging stations. Tesla made no such requests, and AM editors didn’t waste any time testing its limits. To everyone’s surprise, the $80,000 EV performed as one would expect any $80,000 vehicle to perform.
Aside from speed, handling and control were top-notch, including a supple sport-tuned suspension and and powerful brakes, which belie the Tesla Model S’ 4,500 pound curb weight. Granted, this amount of power and control doesn’t come cheap, with a price tag starting at $58,570, but when you consider that this EV doesn’t use a drop of gasoline, and has three times the range of cheaper EVs, it starts to make sense.
The 2012 Tesla Model S takes beautiful styling inside and out, high technology, and top-notch performance combined in an EV package that makes other vehicles pale in comparison. Rarely does everything come together so nicely, and as such, truly deserves to be named Automobile Magazine’s “Automobile of the Year.”