There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the Tesla Model S, so I was anxious to get a chance to live with it for a few days and see if I felt it deserved the top score awarded by my engineer colleagues. I am happy to say, the car did not disappoint.
I took the Tesla home last Thursday evening with an indicated 167-mile range--a generous amount for a 20-mile commute. The only challenge was fitting the large car in my compact garage to charge. I left the S connected to my 110-volt garage plug until Saturday morning and started the day with 235 miles. (Check out: "Talking Cars: Our experts discuss life with the Tesla Model S.")
We picked up another family of three and all seven of us traveled 50 miles each way to a strawberry farm for picking. My two kids were seated in the 3rd row, another child was in a car seat in the second row and there were four adults. Initially, my kids seemed to enjoy the wow-factor of the rear-facing seat for part of the trip, but then complained about the heat and started to feel nauseous. Unfortunately, the air doesn't circulate very well that far back, and my kids were sweating from the sun baking through the rear window. This novel feature is best reserved for short trips or milder weather. (Read: "Our Tesla Model S gets a third-row seat and now seats seven.")
To learn more about the Tesla Model S, see our road test review.
When we arrived home, the car had about 90 miles left. Rather than charge agonizingly slow at home, we decided to take advantage of the nearby Tesla showroom at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ, to sample a Tesla Supercharger. I had called the showroom ahead of time to find out their location. I was told to call when I arrived, and they would come down and plug it in. In less than three hours at the mall eating dinner and shopping, the range climbed to 200 miles. One thing I did notice was the supercharging plug was quite hot after the charge, and we had to cover our hands with a shirt to release the handle.
We headed home after our mall trip and plugged the car back in the snug garage to top it off for our Sunday excursion to the New Jersey shore. The next morning the S had 235 miles and was ready to go, but this time, we moved the kids to the second row in their car seats. Everyone was much happier.
We had no problem getting to the shore and back and arrived home with nearly 60 miles left. After plugging it in again overnight, I headed back to work Monday morning with about 90 miles of range left. Overall, the range we experienced was remarkable; the other electric cars we've tested simply could not have traveled the miles we logged this rather busy weekend.
I found the ride was smooth, quiet, and comfortable. Acceleration is swift and silent. Absent is the engine and exhaust burble typically associated with such performance.
The massive iPad-like touch screen was easy to figure out, but I let my usability design expert husband do the navigating and music selection. The Slacker internet radio worked great and everyone in the family had a turn to pick whatever music they wanted to hear, including the obscure request my son had for the "Star Wars" theme. Typing in an address into the navigation was simple, thanks to the large on-screen keyboard. The function was familiar, as it is powered by Google, and search results pop-up immediately using Google suggest. I will note that without my husband as co-pilot, I wouldn't even attempt to use many of the controls, as they can be distracting even with the large user-friendly interface. Other cars lock out the ability to put in navigation or pair a phone while driving, but the Tesla allowed that functionality, which is great for a passenger but maybe too tempting for the driver.
One issue I did find in my travels is that E-ZPass didn't work on the several toll booths. After researching the problem, I found other owners complaining in various Tesla forums. This isn't only a problem with Tesla, we found the same issue with CR's Land Rover Evoque last year due to its front defog feature. One work-around is to get an E-ZPass that can attach to the license plate or remember to hold your pass out the window.
Overall, this car was awesome to drive and quite a head-turner. We had various people stop by to check it out and ask questions. After living with the Model S, I can truly say that it is the car of the future, combining functionality, design, and performance wrapped up in efficient electric power.
Video: Sci-fi wizardry of the Tesla Model S doors
Driving the Tesla Model S is like using an iPad, thanks to leading-edge interior
Talking Cars: Our experts discuss life with the Tesla Model S
Video: The Tesla Model S is our top-scoring car
Video: With Tesla Model S testing complete, its time to drift
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.