Tesla : Consumer Reports’ best car ever tested

The Model S, an all-electric plug-in car, earned a score of 99 out of a possible 100 in the magazine's tests.

CNN Money
May 10, 2013


By Peter Valdes-​​Dapena @PeterDrives

The score would have been higher but for the fact that the all-​​electric car does need to stop and recharge dur­ing extremely long-​​distance drives.

If it could recharge in any gas sta­tion in three min­utes, this car would score about 110,” said Jake Fisher, head of auto test­ing for Con­sumer Reports. Fisher called the car’s per­for­mance in the magazine’s per­for­mance tests “off the charts.”

Depend­ing on price, the Model S has dri­ving range of between 208 and 265 miles. A full charge takes about six hours from an ordi­nary 240 volt out­let, accord­ing to Tesla.

The Model S has already won awards from car mag­a­zines like Motor Trend and Auto­mo­bile, but Con­sumer Reports is widely regarded as being the most influ­en­tial mag­a­zine among car shop­pers. Con­sumer Reports, pub­lished by the non-​​profit group Consumer’s Union, pur­chases all the cars it tests and does not accept paid ads.

The score of 99 means the Tesla (TSLA) Model S, a sedan that can seat as many as seven peo­ple, per­formed as well or bet­ter than any auto­mo­bile the mag­a­zine has ever tested. The score is not unprece­dented — most recently, it was earned by the Lexus LS460 in 2009 — but no car at any price has ever scored higher.

Prices for the Model S start at about $70,000, not includ­ing fed­eral and state tax incen­tives for elec­tric cars.

The Model S tied for the qui­etest vehi­cle the mag­a­zine has ever tested, was among the most energy-​​efficient and had excel­lent scores for accel­er­a­tion, brak­ing and ride quality.

We don’t get all excited about many vehi­cles, and with this car we really did,” Fisher said.
The magazine’s raves for the Model S stand in sharp con­trast to the treat­ment received by the com­pet­ing Fisker Karma that the mag­a­zine pil­lo­ried, call­ing it “plagued with flaws.” Fisker is now in dire finan­cial trouble.

On other hand, Tesla just announced its first profit and raised sales fore­casts for the Model S.

Indus­try ana­lysts have cred­ited the qual­ity of the Model S, in part, with Tesla’s early suc­cess in an indus­try that has not been kind to start-​​ups. Just recently elec­tric car maker Coda Auto­mo­tive went under and plug-​​in car maker Fisker is near its demise. Tesla, mean­while, is finan­cially healthy thanks to good sales of the Model S plus deals it’s reached to sup­ply com­po­nents to major automak­ers like Toy­ota and Daim­ler as well as sales of elec­tric car cred­its, earned under Cal­i­for­nia reg­u­la­tions, to other automak­ers that sell fewer elec­tric cars.
Tesla had pre­vi­ously stated a goal of sell­ing 20,000 Model S cars this year and has now raised that goal.
The ques­tion remains whether the car will con­tinue to sell well in the long term, said Todd Turner, an indus­try ana­lyst with Car Con­cepts in Cal­i­for­nia. A lot of that will depend on the longer-​​term depend­abil­ity of its bat­tery tech­nol­ogy, he said.

All kinds of cars have com­plex­i­ties,” he said. “Every­thing has to work for a very long period of time.”

Con­sumer Reports isn’t rec­om­mend­ing the Model S, though. At least not yet. To be rec­om­mended, a car has to have at least aver­age “pre­dicted reli­a­bil­ity,” some­thing that’s based on reader sur­veys. Also, a car has to have good crash test scores from the gov­ern­ment and from the pri­vately funded Insur­ance Insti­tute for High­way Safety. Con­sumer Reports has not yet col­lected enough data to rule on the Model S’s reliability.

So far, the mag­a­zine itself has had a cou­ple of minor issues with its test car, Fisher said, includ­ing a radio prob­lem that was fixed by an overnight over-​​the-​​air soft­ware down­load and a cracked windshield.

To main­tain its momen­tum, Tesla will need to move beyond this car, said Ed Kim, an ana­lyst with the auto mar­ket­ing con­sult­ing firm AutoPacific.

Ulti­mately, Tesla’s going to have to tran­si­tion from build­ing six-​​figure cars for bleeding-​​edge early adopters to mak­ing a car for a more gen­eral audi­ence,” Kim said.

Tesla’s next vehi­cle is sup­posed to be the Tesla Model X crossover SUV but, after that, the company’s plans call for a less expen­sive car and, pos­si­bly, other products