Tesla Motors’ Model S sedan “blew away” its $90,000 gasoline-burning competitors in a recent review and may be the best car Consumer Reports has ever seen, the magazine recently said.”It beats the best,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told Design News. “It’s faster; it’s quieter; it’s roomier; it rides better. This isn’t about new technology or environmental impact. This is simply a better vehicle.”
Fisher said the engineering staff at the Consumer’s Union 327-acre test facility in Connecticut agreed that the Model S had the best performance of any vehicle over the past six years and possibly the best score ever in the battery of 50 tests that the organization performs. In tests of acceleration, braking, handling, quietness, ride, and energy efficiency, no other vehicle came close, he told us.
Ironically, Consumer Reports engineering staff concluded that the vehicle was great, not in spite of being electric, but because of it. “The Model S has a flat battery in the undercarriage of the vehicle,” Fisher told us. “It’s like a structural member. It’s part of the chassis. It keeps the center of gravity low, makes the car handle well, gives you a huge trunk in front and lots of trunk space in back. This is a great vehicle because it was designed from the ground up to be electric.”
The vehicle that the organization purchased cost $89,650, plus another $1,200 for Tesla’s High Power Wall Connector, so its engineers compared it to similar luxury vehicles, including the Audi A6, A7, A8, and Porsche Panamera, among others.Fisher acknowledged that the tests performed at the Connecticut-based facility did ignore certain factors that are best left to consumers. “Obviously, it isn’t perfect,” he said. “We don’t know anything about reliability of the car. And we can’t drive it from New York to Cleveland, which we could do in a Yaris.”
In tests, Consumer Reports engineers concluded that the vehicle has an all-electric range of slightly more than 200 miles. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf, which costs about one-third as much, offers a range of about 75 miles, he said. Much of that range is directly related to the Model S’ use of an 85-kWh battery — more than three times the capacity of the Leaf’s 24-kWh lithium-ion power source. Charging of the vehicle’s battery took about five hours, Fisher told us. “Clearly, you need another car if you want to take a long trip,” he said. “Or you need to rent a car, which is an inconvenience. But most people who buy $90,000 cars have more than one vehicle in the family.”
But by shooting for a $90,000 price point in this version of the Model S (other versions offer smaller batteries at lower prices), Tesla was able to make use of the best qualities of an electric powertrain. When compared to other $90,000 gasoline-burning vehicles, the Model S makes sense, whereas the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf don’t fit as well in their price categories, Fisher said.
“This is a whole new lens to look at electric cars through,” he said. “It definitely changes what we think about electric cars and what everyone should think about electric cars. No electric car we’ve seen up to now is even in the same category.”