Range anxiety, safety, complexity--there are a lot of concerns for the average car buyer when it comes to electric cars. Ultimately, those concerns all come down to a simple lack of familiarity--at least with the Tesla [NASDQ: TSLA] Model S. Buyers in the know recognize the Model S for what it is: the first real electric car.
The first real car that is, coincidentally, electric, at any rate. Why? Because the Tesla Model S can travel up to 265 miles on a single charge in the largest-battery version. Because the Tesla Model S can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under five seconds in the Model S Performance version. And because build quality, styling, and equipment levels are all on par--more or less--with equivalently-priced gasoline or diesel-powered luxury sedans.
The Model S, too, is nominally a four-door sedan, but in truth, it's a five-door hatchback. Optional rear-facing jump seats (two of them) can up passenger capacity to seven in total, though those in the rear jump seats had better be small children that can tolerate a four-point safety harness.
Three core variants of the 2013 Tesla Model S are offered, varying primarily in battery capacity, but also in other features. The lowest-cost option is the 40 kilowatt-hour (kWh) model, rated at 160 miles of range. It gets the standard 270-kilowatt (362 horsepower) electric motor. So does the 230-mile-range, 60-kWh battery version, and the standard 85 kWh version as well. The Model S Performance model gets a more powerful 301 kW (416 hp) motor paired with the 85 kWh battery pack.
You may have noticed there's been no discussion of transmissions so far--that's because there is none in any Tesla Model S, at least not in the traditional multi-gear sense. A single-speed gear reduction system delivers the electric motor's power to the rear wheels.
While the huge 17-inch touchscreen interface and colorful, intuitive menus in the Model S give the cockpit a glamorous feel, the car is actually a bit light on electronic equipment and safety systems compared to other modern luxury sedans. You won't find advanced lane-departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, or self-parking systems on the Tesla, though you will on its petro-chemical alternatives.
Pricing is surprisingly reasonable, all things considered, starting at just over $57,000 for the base model and up to nearly $88,000 for the top-tier model--before options. With upgrades, a Model S can easily approach the $100,000 mark--but all of these prices are before local, state, and federal incentives.
With ample range in the 85-kWh version, a comfortable ride, dynamic performance, and elegant looks, the 2013 Tesla Model S is, truly, the first real electric car to reach the market in our book. For more details on why we think so, read the full review at The Car Connection