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Automobile Magazine said Tesla is the Apple of the auto world

Automobile Magazine has named Tesla's Model S its 2013 Automobile of the Year after having the opportunity to drive the EV and chat with CEO Elon Musk.

Car Specs

Here's a quick rundown of some key Model S specs:
  • 40 kWh, 60 kWh, and 85 kWh battery pack options
  • Three phase, four pole AC induction motor with copper rotor (puts out 416 HP and hits 60 MPH in 4.3 seconds)
  • 443 lb-ft of torque
  • Drive inverter with variable frequency drive and regenerative braking
  • Single speed fixed gear
  • Aluminum body with boron steel elements
  • 10 kWh on-board charger
  • 17-inch capacitive touchscreen for media, vehicle controls, communication
  • keyless entry and door handles that extend to your reach
Why the Model S?

Automobile Magazine had many great things to say about the Model S after driving the 85 kWh version. But the vehicle's speed was one of the top highlights.

Actually, the Model S can blow away almost anything. "It's the performance that won us over," admits editor-in-chief Jean Jennings. "The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses." Our Model S was of Signature Performance spec, which means its AC induction motor puts out 416 hp and that it blasts to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Even those numbers -- positively absurd for a large sedan that uses not a lick of gasoline -- fail to communicate how crazy it actually feels.

Aside from driving really, really fast, the Model S is aesthetically pleasing (more so up close rather than far away, according to Automobile Magazine). The interior is what especially grabbed them, as well as slick options like the extended door handles to the 17-inch display inside.

Climb into the Tesla for the first time, and you're liable to spend a few minutes searching for the ignition button. You won't find it -- the car turned on when you sat down, and it's now waiting for you to shift into drive and glide away. The cabin is airy, modern, spacious, and impeccably trimmed in leather and wood. A flat battery pack and a rear-mounted motor yield a completely flat floor and a large, useful center-console storage area (the Model S uses a column-mounted shift lever supplied by Mercedes-Benz).

An absolutely enormous, seventeen-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard and features the controls for everything from the radio to the steering effort. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but here it works wonderfully. Oh, yeah, and you can surf the Web on it, as well.

Of course, electric range is a huge factor when it comes to deciding which EV is best. You don't want to get caught on the road low on charge (and without a charging station). The 85 kWh model earned a 265-mile driving range from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with lower versions grabbing a 160-mile window sticker.

The Model S's range, rated by the EPA at 265 miles with the largest battery, finally fits the American conception of driving. Want to take the family from Washington, D.C., to New York? No problem. Stop for an hour at one of Tesla's Supercharger stations being installed throughout the country, and you can travel on to Boston. The even bigger psychological advantage, though, is the freedom to go about your daily life, with all its spontaneity and last-minute shopping trips, without the fear of running low.

Tesla's Model S: The Apple of the Auto World?

Automobile Magazine compared Tesla to Apple, saying that the EV maker is the Apple equivalent of the auto industry with its modern, luxurious and innovative products.

There's much about the Model S, which Musk himself refers to as "Tesla's Macintosh," that has an innovative, Apple flavor. As with the tech giant's slickest products, there's a sense that even the smallest details here have been lavished with attention in order to be as distinctive and elegant as possible. To open the panoramic sunroof, for instance, one brings up an overhead image of the car on the touchscreen and literally drags the roof as far back as desired. Why didn't anyone think of that before? Then there's Tesla's controversial but intriguing strategy of distributing its products through company-owned boutiques rather than conventional dealers. It's being run by George Blankenship, who set up those posh Apple stores.

Automobile Magazine even went as far as saying that Musk is the Steve Jobs of the EV auto industry.

Finally, it's hard to ignore that Tesla has in Musk a Steve Jobs-like figure, a relentless leader who guides the company's direction. "They're both brilliant, both thinking about things that other people won't be thinking about for twenty years," Blankenship says.

Pricing & Availability

The Model S' superior range and luxurious features come at a high price. The 40 kWh base model starts at $57,400 while the 85 kWh version starts at $105,400. However, the Model S is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit in the U.S.

Around 13,000 customers have paid a $5,000 minimum fee for a Model S reservation, but only 250 have shipped. This is largely due to issues with increased production. However, Musk announced last month that Model S production had ramped up.

"Our production rate in the last week of September was roughly 100 vehicles, four times greater than our production in the first week of September as we overcame supply constraints," said Musk. "I am pleased to report that we completed production of 359 vehicles last quarter (delivering over 250 of those to customers) and have already made our 500th vehicle body.

"While we are indeed a few weeks later than we would like, this is not perhaps a terrible outcome for a product as advanced as the Model S, particularly given that Tesla is doing manufacturing of full vehicles for the first time with a new team and suppliers."

Source: Automobile Magazine

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RE: Nothing like Apple
By titanmiller on 11/2/2012 8:25:40 PM , Rating: 2
I watched the Top Gear review earlier this week...honestly I didn't feel like the review was any different than their other reviews. I have watched every episode on Netflix over the past two months so I really know the flavor of the show and the review was fair as far as I'm concerned.

RE: Nothing like Apple
By m51 on 11/3/2012 12:58:34 AM , Rating: 2
I believe Tesla objected when they found out the show script had already been written even before they delivered the test vehicle and included all the stuff about the batteries running out and staging the visuals of people pushing the car into the hangar.

The vehicle never did run out of charge during the filming and it was all faked 'for entertainment purposes'.

Top Gear is an entertainment show, it's not a car review show, but many people don't seem to recognize that and take it with the huge grain of salt it requires.

RE: Nothing like Apple
By testerguy on 11/3/2012 5:34:58 AM , Rating: 3
4 April update: Andy Wilman, executive producer on Top Gear, has responded to the claims on his blog, writing: "We never said that the Tesla's true range is only 55 miles, as opposed to their own claim of 211, or that it had actually ran out of charge. In the film our actual words were: "We calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles". The first point here is that the track is where we do our tests of sports cars and supercars, as has happened ever since Top Gear existed. This is where cars are driven fast and hard, and since Tesla calls its roadster "The Supercar. Redefined." it seemed pretty logical to us that the right test was a track test. The second point is that the figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Tesla's boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles."

It's a car review show and an entertainment show. It doesn't need a grain of salt, what they stated came from Tesla themselves.

Them showing the car being pushed into the hangar was just an illustration of what happens when you run out of charge, nothing illegal there which is why the case was thrown out.

RE: Nothing like Apple
By ipay on 11/5/2012 5:49:40 AM , Rating: 1
Them showing the car being pushed into the hangar was just an illustration of what happens when you run out of charge

When my car runs out of gas, it drives itself to the nearest gas station.
Are you saying Tesla cars lack that technology?

RE: Nothing like Apple
By BZDTemp on 11/3/2012 9:19:03 AM , Rating: 2
Scripted or not. The issue they raised with regards to the range of the Tesla Roadster is a very real one.

For many people with sporty cars it is not just about having a fun car for commuting but also about being able to go for just for fun drives in their sports car. With the Tesla Roadster doing those fun drives there are severe issues.
A. The range is not enough that range anxiety won't kick in if one does like a spirited Sunday drive.
B. And the range issue makes the Tesla Roadster useless as a track day car (something which is very popular in the UK). Imagine driving to the local track, which is perhaps 50-100 miles away, and then run out of juice after just a couple of sessions only to spend the rest of the day charging the car so you can make it home.

Both the A and B was easy to predict as any car will see it's range severely impacted by spirited driving and especially track day driving, so a script prepared beforehand could very well have planned for it. Now Top Gear is certainly more entertainment than consumer advice but they do raise issues when they need, it's just Tesla that thought they would get free advertising and then had a rude awakening. Also I am sure Top Gear did not make the Tesla overheat or develop brake issues that is just the result of track driving which an expensive sports car should be able to handle.

If Top Gear wanted to really kick Tesla in the nuts they could have tested their roadster next to a couple of similar priced sports car.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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