Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tesla S 4-day test

Wired reports: [edited]

The quoted zero to 60 mph time of 4.4 seconds is almost irrelevant. It’s the point-and-squirt acceleration at nearly any speed that shocks and delights while devouring the road ahead. Nail the throttle at 40 mph and you’re up to 60, then 70 then 90 in less time than it takes to read this sentence. I don’t care how fast you read.

That level of performance wouldn’t be uncharacteristic for something twice as costly, with half as many doors and weighing far less than the Telsa’s claimed curb weight of over 4,600 pounds. It is — for all intents and purposes — pure energy being laid to the ground with a rapidity that’s more roller-coaster freefall than four-wheeled family transport. And it’s more exhilarating than anything I’ve driven out of Sant’Agata, Stuttgart or even Maranello.

More impressive than the sheer speed of a sedan this size is its level of grip and handling. This is largely attributable to the fact that the massive, four-inch-tall, 85-kWh battery pack is housed mere inches from the ground — it makes the Tesla not just a competent handler, but an architectural marvel that’s sure to cause furrowed brows and OCD-level head-scratching among German engineers.

If you’re looking for on-road presence, the Model S has it in spades, particularly here in the Bay Area, where a Tesla draws a crowd like someone waving an iPhone 5 outside an Apple Store on launch day. The exterior is elegant, demure and aggressive all at once.

The interior is more of a mixed bag. The cockpit is spartan, but fitting of the Tesla ethos, with supple, supportive seats, ample legroom fore and aft, and two trunks (over 30 cubic feet in total).

Can the Model S hit its EPA-certified 265-mile range? Based on my time behind the wheel, there’s no doubt. But if you want to satiate that atavistic thirst for pavement-pummeling torque on a regular basis, be prepared to top off the cells with frequency.

Tesla hasn’t just created a fully functional EV. It’s made a vehicle that’s both incredibly engaging and fully practical. As with any car, compromises were made, but as a whole, the Model S feels and drives like the future. It’s a rolling testament to the potential of automotive innovation, and a massive leap forward for an industry struggling to stake a claim in the 21st century.

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