2013 Tesla Model S: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy 2013

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2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Two years ago, our first-ever Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy award went to the first modern battery-electric car sold in the U.S.

How far we've come.

This year, our third annual winner is the 2013 Tesla Model S, a car that takes the all-electric vehicle to a new and far more elevated level.

But that's far from the only reason it won. The Tesla Model S is an impressive new entry in the luxury sport sedan field for its performance, its looks, its capabilities, and its digital infotainment and control system.

NOTE: In December 2012, we gave this award to the 2013 Tesla Model S based on the availability of a base model with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack at a price of $59,900. That complied with our requirement that the Best Car To Buy Award go to a car priced at $60,000 or less.

In early April 2013, Tesla announced that it had canceled that 40-kWh model, due to lack of demand. According to the company, just 4 percent of its Model S depositors had specified the smallest battery size. The company said that for those customers who had put down deposits on the 40-kWh car, it would sell them a 60-kWh Model S with software that limited the car's range to the range that the 40-kWh car would have delivered.

Electric power secondary?

Silicon Valley startup carmaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has pulled off an almost inconceivable feat: It's designed and put into production a car that competes across the board with some of the most storied brands in the industry.

And that car is the first volume production vehicle from a company that didn't even exist eight years ago.

From styling that many onlookers assumed was the newest, latest, sleekest Jaguar--a compliment indeed for a new carmaker--to smooth, silent acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds (in the Performance version), the Tesla Model S is more than an impressive new green car.

It's an impressive car. Period. The fact that it's green is almost secondary.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

Its 17-inch touchscreen display, for instance, is so fast, so crisp, and so relatively intuitive that it makes all other such control systems seem pathetically outdated.

That even applies to the brand-new Cadillac CUE system, whose deficiencies cost the otherwise excellent 2013 Cadillac ATS the same title from Motor Authority, our sister site.

'Buff books' converted

The Tesla Model S has won awards all over the place. It's attracted 14,000 or more buyers to put down deposits before the company's built more than 2,000 or 3,000 vehicles.

And it's completely seduced some of the most hard-core gasoline proponents of all: the "buff book" car magazines whose judgments that it was a car of the year sealed Tesla's emergence into the ranks of carmakers to whom attention must be paid.

Two of the three versions of the 2013 Tesla Model S have now been certified by the EPA for electric range: 265 miles for the 85-kilowatt-hour version, and just last week, 208 miles for the 60-kWh model.

The third and final version, with a 40-kWh battery pack and a reduced set of features and options, will go into production in the next few months.

Useful real-world range

Electric range, of course, depends greatly on speed, acceleration, driving style, outside temperature, and other factors.

One owner made news last week, for example, when he managed to drive his Model S more than 400 miles on a single charge.

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Comments (64)
  1. There's no doubt it's a rolling revolution. P.S. nice article John.

  2. its got 4 wheels

  3. Hey look, I want one of these for my weekday driving so I can afford to drive like a bandit on the weekend with my BOSS 302!

  4. Well said. Nice job John Voelcker

  5. Well deserved for Tesla and very well and positively reported by John Voelcker.

    Guess "the disbelief, criticism, and sneering that often confronts startup companies with radical new ideas" is indeed starting to change to "grudging acknowledgment even by skeptics that the 2013 Tesla Model S is a viable, well-built, functional, and competent car that's also fun to drive" and that's the sort of acknowledgement Tesla needs to survive.

    I think a startup needs to do things better than anyone else to prove it has a right to exist and the increasing number of awards testify that Tesla has really succeeded in doing just that.

  6. public relations stunts are expensive, but compared to the millions in unwary investors when you get the ball rolling by buying 15 million of your own stock without actually having to put the money down, as 92 million coms rolling in when stupid investors buy the worthless stock, as the company has lost billions and currently unable to produce at break even much less count for the lost/missing cash

  7. Um, what?

  8. Can't touch this, do-do-do-doo, da-da-da-da. Maybe Hammer can, but I don't have the dough. I'll stick with the C-Max.

  9. Better be the Energi version. If you get the regular hybrid you might be in for a "I used to love her but it's all over now" (Rolling Stones)experience when you find out its real world mileage, which is currently under investigation by the EPA.

  10. C-max only get about 40MPG real world average. EPA is investigating inflated MPG #s

  11. coal powered GREEN ? "BRICK "

  12. Whatever one thinks about Tesla and the reporting of the company here at GCR, this is great news, not only for Tesla itself, but for ther entire EV movement. Although Tesla certainly has struggles ahead as well, every bit of mainstream legitimacy it gets outside those of us here (just meaning those of us already interested and inclined toward EVs/HEVs/PHEVs) will help to make it seem better to the skeptics Tesla will also need to conveince eventually.

    Great choice and great work by Tesla!

  13. *convince... Oops...!

  14. There will always be tradeoffs no matter which car you buy unless you are willing to pay several thousand more than the S85's sticker price. But for the money, it is very reasonably priced and that may seem like a difficult thing to wrap your head around but when most large luxury cars in the class are burning thru 15-20 cents for every mile in fuel alone, the balance sheet quickly moves into any EVs favor.

    When the smart consumer realizes that, EVs will start to come into their own. When consumers realize that they can incorporate a much shorter range (and cheaper), then the revolution will be in full swing!

  15. Yeah, check out the calcs at teslarumors.com/teslanomics . "Can you afford NOT to buy a Tesla?"

  16. In a nation where more than 40,000 are killed on the roads each year personally I would rather pay the difference, My car has a 5 star front end collision rating, and 4 star side, between me and an EV I would walk away, The EV, call 911, and pray

  17. I'm pretty sure the Model S surpassed your car; it passed front collision at 50 MPH, as opposed to the standard's 35 MPH requirement. Tesla is justifiably proud of its innovative, safe structure. Check it out.

  18. In order to maintain some kind of journalistic balance somebody should probably come up with something a bit negative, but...it's not going to be me! Reservation #3902 - car coming next month - WOOHOO!

  19. Hope you don't live in hilly country, or hot weather or traffic jams, enjoy life illusions are about all 7 or 8 billion of us still have, and be careful out there in the P R Stunt world, where they tell you what to buy, then sell it to you. Study wht the germans are doing with hydrides, or sticking complex electrodes into water creating hydrogen, really cheap, and not powered by coal fired power plants, like the black EV's painted Green, soon to be no more, except for the tiny light weight versions that don't have to travel on roadways, like those 2 wheeler mall guard transports, the real efficiency in matters of scale can be seen in the tiny Toy helicopters in malls, not on the roads, not green, not like hydrogen- oil lobbies prevent

  20. The obvious winner. But it seemed to me this car would be disqualified by your own rules. The price limit was $60K (clearly so the Model S could qualify), but there is no way you guys got to test drive the $60K/40kWh version of this car by your deadline last week.

  21. @Doug: You're right that we did not drive the 40-kWh version of the Model S that specifically falls within our price parameter. After discussing it internally, we concluded that if one model in the range that fell within our price cap, we could legitimately give the award to the entire model range.

  22. Best Car To Buy 2013, if money is no concern...

  23. Not true, a number of Model S customers are stretching the budget to afford this car, with the full knowledge that some of the premium will be paid back with lower fueling costs.

  24. I really feel so bad for those Tesla S buyers who need to stretch their budgets to afford the car... Is there anything else that us common folk can do to help? More tax write-offs maybe?

  25. Just keep stretching out those mpg's as far as you can in "regular" cars. So maybe more petro-dollars will stay here, and can be used to hire our people at some point, as well as the Saudis and Venezuelans that are being hired with petro-dollars now. Which could help us all live better and maybe even start looking for better jobs again.

  26. Hey, it just occurred to me, maybe that was the point of those tax write-offs.

  27. No, no - I think I'm good for now, but you might join me in shedding a tear for the oil companies and the gas I won't be buying. I really hope the $4 billion they get in annual subsidies helps them over the rough spot.

  28. I believe Leaf and Volt have more than 200 Million Electric miles.

    That is probably more miles than all the Tesla S sedans going to cover in the next 2 years.

    The point is to build many EVs for the mainstream consumers, not few super good EVs for the wealthy.

  29. I'm so tempted to do such a stretch, but I really have no business buying this car in my current financial position.

  30. Don't get me wrong. I support Tesla and its effort at creating the S sedan.

    But selling few thousands of Tesla S @ $100k per year aren't going to saving nearly as much oil/gas as a cheap version of the Nissan Leaf that gets 150 miles EV range that sells in the tens of thousands.

    Or even extra 100,000 45mpg+ cars on the road to replace the 25mpg+ cars...

    When Tesla can come out with a sedan that goes more than 150 miles AND cost less than $35k, then I would really think they "did" it.

    For now, it is still the "BEST CAR TO BUY WHEN MONEY IS NO CONCERN".

  31. I am not going to bore you with the stories about how there would probably be no Chevy Volt if Tesla had not built the Roadster. You could look up Bob Lutz, the GM father of the Volt and find out what convinced him to build theVolt. Bob has a lot more credibility than me, for sure. You will find a similar story at the root of the decision to build the Leaf. That Roadster is a REAL toy for the wealthy, and yet it had a major influence on the industry You can find Tesla's original strategy clearly laid out on their website. Bluestar is coming - Tesla just needs to be successful enough to finance it. Tesla is trying to get that financing from the wealthy because ...they have money.

  32. Sure, I agree that Tesla has proven the industry "wrong" and make a huge impact in the direction of EVs.

    But with the "low" number of EVs on the market today, I would say that impact is still FAR SMALLER than what the hybrids did in improving the overall fuel consumption. (I am saying this with the fact that I don't like Prius). Prius probably has done FAR MORE in saving gas than Tesla has done in its existance.

    With that said, I do agree that Tesla has started a "revolution". Debunking the myth that EVs can't be competitive or people don't want it. But we should realize the fact that the largest IMPACT to overall efficiency will come from the LEAST efficent segment (SUV/Truck) and highest quanitity (Affordable midsize family car).

  33. what they saved in petro, they more than made up for in coal used to power the green car painting over the color of coal, which causes untold deaths as emissions are released in the gas phase and speciate in the clouds, raining down the SO's NO's HG, etc etc into our hydrological mess

  34. if Gm faces faiure again it will be somewhat attributable to the wasted dollars in trying to please barry soretoe, with his clouded perspective of wind and solar powered electric grid, which after 4 years and untold lost/wasted billions, wind and solar provide near 2 % at a cost 40 % greater that grid suppliers, without costing in the wasted dollars---I_D_I_O_T_S---disbarred lawyers and internet philanthropist making decisions they pull outta their oversized a---s

  35. @Jackie: I note that of the 50 comments on this article, you have contributed 20 of them--or fully 40 percent.

    It appears that you are deeply unset by our selection of the Tesla Model S as our 2013 Best Car To Buy. Got that.

    Can we move along to another topic now?

  36. I could buy " car of the year " with an edsel if I paid for the add, what is it about public relations stunts, luring the unwary investor do you not understand ?

  37. Nice write up.

  38. I had a bad dream recently, that Tesla went bankrupt and was sold to a Chinese conglomerate with controlling interest in a SuperPAC....

  39. LOL! But then again, it's not that farfetched, except it'd be an American anti-environment, pro-oil PAC...

  40. YOU BEAMED IN ON THE FUTURE OF TESLA, EXCEPT NO CHINESE COMPANY WOULD BE SO STUPID, Its kinda like the chinese solar cells elon gets paid to hire installers on military bases slotted for closure, funny thing, China doesn't use them ? Could it be wind and solar cost 40 % more than current electricity, without paying back the billions in failed windmills and solar experiments, where all but barrys butty, elon is still around. imagine a disbarred chicago illigal immigrant and internet philanthropist BANKRUPTCY ARTIST, making decisions about what science and technology to use in americas energy supply---germany on the other hand have spent a few decades developing hydrides or hydrogen fuel cells that are not coal powered, leaving no signature

  41. 400 miles at near 40 mph, thats 10 hours, without pitt stops, hilly, country, or hot weather, discharge the battery and it has to be replaced 40,000 dollars, one guy got what ? 26 miles in L A Traffic, the AC depleted the battery in LA 's parking lot, people take to and from work, spending more tme in traffic than work...How much does it cost to be named car of the year in motor trend magazine, for a G-R-E-E-N ??? coal powered car

  42. Its sad to see america under occupation by criminality

  43. @Jackie: Actually, Jackie, Tesla doesn't advertise in magazines, so there is no possibility that Motor Trend was influenced by ad spending in its selection of the Model S as its car of the year.

  44. Who reads magazines, other than in waiting rooms, People spend more time on the internet reading the cloudy P R Stuntmasters with a room full of laptops ad a computer not online to keep track of their multiple personalities that appear on phony video blogs where you read what appears to be many people but only a few. If you have doe your investigative journalism about elon musk and his relationship with obama, and the chronological timeline of history in tsla, spacex, and solar city, I wonder why you would even bother to write, giving his stunt masters a free opportunity to spout off about his phony claims to be an engineering design, manufacturer, internet philanthropist, etc etc, I would think a report to the FBI would be more appropriate

  45. I would get one but living in LA the towing fees would bankrupt me

  46. One thing about the internet, anyone can say pretty much anything they like, its similar to las vegas ethics or the NYSE insiders, its all about cash, parallel with the gold rush, except gold has no real value, but last more than the few years lithium laptop batteries last, until they swell up from use and become worthless, and have to be replaced, but hey ! 40 thou is nothing if you want to buy a tesla, used to throwing your money away, on near worthless fashion, and don't drive much

  47. ha ha ha ha ha words are cheap, like the idea a coal powered car is green

  48. @Jackie: Actually, if you'd bothered to do any research, you'd know that a mile driven on grid power is lower carbon than a 25-mpg gasoline car in all 50 states.

    In states with the very dirtiest grids--ND + WV, IIRC--a 50-mpg car like the Toyota Prius is slightly greener. In California, however, where more plug-in cars will be sold than in the next 5 states combined, the grid is relatively clean and electric cars are DECISIVELY cleaner and lower carbon.

    But as you say in a prior comment--one of seven you seem to have spewed out--"anyone can say pretty much anything they like" on the Internet.

    It just might help make your case if you had actual facts & data behind you when you say it.

  49. @john, actually for the last 10 years I have been studying Coal Fired Power Plants costs to america in terms of economic costs, compared to gasoline, but my primary time was/is spent in finding ways to eleminate the toxic downstream flow of releasing SO, NO, HG etc in gas phase they speciate into particulate toxic winds and rains, The new plants are virtually emission free, both of them, The other near 1200 release emissions from near 500 degrees, and above 800 degrees, HG-mercury, most damaging to our planet, causing untold deaths for each plant, before studies of early deaths downwind were discontinued, before Mercury was even discovered, being only 8 to 16 parts per million, avg study exposed 144 per plant, the tip of deaths iceberg...

  50. I figure no one would be much different from anyone else if they had the data of others, who rely on our academic caste system and political arena lobbies for data---where people are told what to buy then its sold to them---TRUTH---is our future, fostered by the information revolution where data doubles every few years that used to take centuries, unfortunately we still depend on human opinion enacted into law for greed, lust,ambition, as our leaders shun information technology, like IBM's mainframe Watson, designed for our educational, legal-medical-political realm, capable of storing infinite amounts of data, allowing direction based on variables, so our decisions will see and end to most wrongful diagnosis, incarceration, group learning.

  51. Again simply stating regions, and not discussing geophysical, topographical, trade winds, ocean streams, populations, demographics, surface area, land use, etc, your information lacks validity, without a math platform to provide real numbers based on the cycles of known variables creating an objective data regression decision, or empirical matrix, capable of predicting the present, with possibilities of a future, where time changes all things, your speculations about Coal powered battery driven EV's are without merit. My life has been one chronological timeline of activity using existing instrumentation to develop better methods of study as instrumentation permits, Our instrumentation defines us, it who we are, bring us into TRUTH, Reality

  52. There are more comments in this thread
  53. Tesla is the only EV maker that produces a car that is more than competive to its competion whether is gasoline or electric. Tesla Model S is also the only highway caple EV on the market as well. Tesla has forever changed the preception of what an electric cars can be.

  54. An objective research in matters of scale comparing coal powered electric green cars, to german hydrides, or metal electrodes into water, releasing hydrogen for energy, they have spent the last 20 years developing, brings electric cars to an end. Obama may well back eletrix cars, wind and solar, each having its place, when considering matters of scale, but like economics, barry simply has no fundamental understanding of science, after 4 years and wasted billions, wind and solar provide near 2 % of our energy, costing 40 % more discounting the lost dollars of the contraptions he-chu-DOE buy. Electric cars are not green, Hydrogen is green, and far cheaper than coal powered electric cars. Oil lobbies stall Hydrogen in the USA. alogically

  55. Hydrogen go BOOM! ;-) Just saying

  56. How many hours do LA drivers spend in traffic (parking lots) with their air conditioners going, plugincars.com reveals interesting facts about tsla compared to actual production cars in the EV market. Airconditioners use battery power. I read where one tesla got 46 miles brfore getting towed at owners expense to avoid depleting his battery creating a " Brick " the popular name tesla gives people who deplete their battery requiring replacement, where without obama taxpayer credits cost more than 40 thou. Germany has developed a series of hydride fuel cells using metal electrodes water releasing hydrogen energy, Its the future of energy in the matter of scale in automotive energy, Obama may back lectrix cars, wind and solar, its science !!!!

  57. Where do you read this stuff? I may be green (in the uninformed sense of the word) but I like the idea of a green car that goes 0 to 60 damn fast.

  58. Nissan became the latest last week to say it is ready to mass-produce cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Honda, Toyota and Hyundai say they will have fuel-cell cars — which create electricity on board to power the car — ready to go on sale by 2015.

  59. I am very disappointed that the Model S has such a restricted driving range on the Interstates. It is an unacceptable car in its present form. It needs a battery with at least 75% more capacity and a faster recharge rate, at least three times faster. I'm also very disappointed that this website has failed to warn prospective buyers that even the top end Model S has no ability to make extended trips in a reasonable fashion. Is this website a shill for Tesla Motors, or are those who write these articles unaware of what the driving range of a model S really is at Interstate speeds? In other words, are you all crooked, or just dumb? Pay no attention to EPA highway figures - their test loop has nothing to do with Interstate driving.

  60. @Kerry: Thanks for contributing your thoughts.

    Your accusations that GCR is "a shill for Tesla Motors" neatly balance out those of our readers who insist that our coverage is biased against Tesla and intended to cause the company to fail.

    To the substance of your complaint, however: Do you REALLY think that Tesla Model S buyers are not aware of the car's capabilities? That anyone who spends $60K to $100K on a rare all-electric car from a brand-new and virtually unknown automaker won't do their research first?


  61. This video should be updated as Tesla has updated it's software.
    You can now choose to have the car door handles extend as you approach the vehicle. As far as aggressive regen braking you can now choose a lower regen which gives a less agressive feel.

  62. Tesla's supercharging stations are mainly solar powered which actually give more to the grid than is used for charging their vehicles. As they install more stations across the country, tesla owners will be able to afford longer trips for FREE!!!

  63. @Jim: As of today (mid-March 2013), I believe that only one or two of the eight currently operating Tesla SuperCharging stations has a solar canopy: the one at their facility in Hawthorne, CA, and perhaps one other California location.

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