Worst Thing About The Tesla Model S? Driving Anything Else Afterwards

Follow Antony

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

If early ownership experiences are to believed, there's not a lot wrong with driving a Tesla Model S.

The performance is great, it's luxurious, quiet, has a great electric range... but there's still one thing that bugs owners. One thing they wish wasn't part of the Model S ownership experience.

Yep, that's right--driving other cars. Model S owners hate it, according to a semi-serious, semi tongue-in-cheek thread on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

Owners regale each other with tales of lacking the performance and the strong regenerative braking effect from their Model S, when forced to drive another car for any reason.

Some don't like the low-quality feel of other vehicles they've driven either, particularly when it's the occasional rental car.

Amusingly, a few owners even say they've nearly run out of gas when driving internal combustion vehicles after the S--since most owners are used to waking up to a fully-charged vehicle, rather than having to fill up the tank every so often.

It seems range anxiety is as much an internal combustion thing as it is a battery thing--and goes to prove that it's only a problem if you're not used to it.

Even funnier (though perhaps not so safe) are the tales of owners accidentally leaving hybrids and gasoline vehicles running when they park up--being so used to the Model S turning itself off when you're not using the car.

These Model S owners aren't alone, of course--disappointment with internal combustion vehicles is quite a common affliction once one is used to an electric car.

You never quite realise how noisy and unrefined even the smoothest of gasoline vehicles is until you've spent some time behind the wheel of an electric equivalent.

In the meantime, electric owners will just have to make the best of the occasional gasoline vehicle they drive--and remind themselves what cars used to be like...


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (79)
  1. It can be the same with other luxury brands, I like the performance oriented driving of a BMW so much that I've just about only ever owned BMWs. But after a test drive in a Model S I can see how you would miss the smooth electric power. Driving an electric car is something I now find addictive, the silence removes stress and the torque puts a smile on my face, it's a fantastic experience. I'm even wondering how long my current car will last in my garage after my i3 arrives.

  2. Yea, if BMW would make Model S instead of Tesla, it would have even bigger succes than Model S just because of BMW brand instead of some unknown company.

  3. BMW would and couldn't make the Model S. Gas is too ingrained in their DNA. I'm sure the i3 & i8 won't come close to the Model S. They are little more than a compliance cars.

  4. Actually Tesla is beating BMW in sales. Tesla is currently the #1 Large Luxury car brand in North America also beating Mercedes and Lexus. Pretty cool!

  5. Can you cite a source for that statistic? if so, that is cool to hear.

  6. @Phil: For context, note that this is sales just in the *Large Luxury* segment (what you're alluding to, I assume) and not total brand sales in the U.S.

    At 20K to 25K cars a year (Tesla's production goal), Tesla is roughly a tenth the size of the top luxury brands. It competes in a single segment, while they offer many models in many segments.

    Here are 2012 U.S. sales *totals* for the top luxury brands:
    - Audi: 139,310
    - BMW: 281,460
    - Cadillac: 149,782
    - Lexus: 132,741
    - Mercedes-Benz: 274,134

    Note: The German brands have been arguing over how their numbers were logged, LOL:

  7. Now, if only they would bring a Model S to Australia. *sigh*

  8. They are coming to UK, so you could import a right hand drive, but not quite yet.

  9. After 18 months with a Volt and two with a Model S, I am appalled whenever I drive an ICE car.

    A friend recently bought a BMW 328 and proudly brought it over to let me try it. I couldn't believe how noisy, jerky, and unresponsive it was, lurching awkwardly through the gears. I politely acted as if I liked it, but it was clearly a dinosaur.

    I can only imagine the sinking hearts of senior management at BMW, Audi, and Mercedes when they take their first drives in a Model S.

    Too bad the e-car makers (Tesla expected) don't sell performance and responsiveness more. We see polar bears hugging Leaf owners and Volt owners who can't remember how to gas up, but nobody talks about the driving experience. Once you go electric, you can never go back.

  10. David, you have redeemed yourself in my eyes. I read your articles and I kept wondering how you could have a Model S and be mostly concerned with vampire loads and bicycles that don't fit. Man, that was cold. Thanks for sharing how you REALLY feel. It rings true.

  11. It should really have been his name above this article to make up for the incessant fear, uncertainty and doubt tone that has become so dominant in his reporting on Tesla and the Model S.

  12. I think you mean (Tesla Excepted) instead of (Tesla Expected).

    Your friendly grammar Nazi :)

  13. You're right--I was typing fast.

    And never apologize for being a grammar Nazi.

  14. David Noland, Very curious. I own a Chevy Volt and absolutely love it. It drives better than ANY gas car. I am very curious to hear from someone who owns both a Volt and a Tesla Models S. How does the Tesla compare. Is the electric steering as awesome as the Volt or better? Does the Tesla electric motor sound louder or the same as the Volt which is so quiet you can barely hear it.
    From all the reviews, I know the Tesla is great, just looking for a direct comparison from an owner that has both.

  15. The Model S has 3 selectable steering options...Comfort, Standard and Sport. Comfort is what my wife prefers and I use Sport when I'm really pushing the take off and cornering. You can change on the fly too....

    No engine noise on the Model S. The only noise is when you kick on the AC on a really hot day. You do have to drive extra carefully in parking lots, though, because people can't hear you creeping up behind them.

    My other car is a Tahoe Hybrid, which is also pretty quiet when running on battery mode, but still has more internal/external noise than the Model S.

  16. The Volt holds up very well in comparison to the Model S. In fact, I like the accelerator mapping of the Volt better than the S. In normal around-town driving, at low speeds and moderate accelerations, the Volt in Sport mode actually feels a bit peppier than the S. (Press harder, of course, and the S blows it away.)

    In terms of steering smoothness and response, the Volt is right up there with the S. I typically drive my S in comfort mode.

    Sound-wise, the two cars are similar--virtually silent.

    Driving the S has confirmed to me what a great car the Volt is. When I take my daughter on a 200-plus mile college visit this weekend, I'll be driving the Volt (no Superchargers in that direction yet), and I won't feel all that deprived.

  17. There are more comments in this thread
  18. Yeah, it must be "great", if all one wants is to vegetate behind the steering wheel, pressing gas and only turning the wheel left or right, since there is nothing to shift.

    These people are not car enthusiasts, nor do they really like driving. To them acceleration is the only measure, which is deficient.

    Acceleration, and just turning the wheel left or right does not a driving experience make.

  19. Annatar. Perhaps you should test drive a Model S (MS) before you critique it. Besides, few drivers today actually drive manual transmission cars. I have both a MS and a vintage Alfa Spider (5 speed manual). The Alfa is fun…the MS is exhilarating!

    Driving a MS is far from vegetating, it is more like a quantum improvement on what Lexus has achieved. The MS is quick, quiet, handles brilliantly and lacks the ‘drama’ of a M5 or Panamera. At the end of the day most drivers (to quote you) “Acceleration, and just turning the wheel left or right does not a driving experience make.” The only ICE car I would trade in my MS for is an Aston Martin Rapide, and only if it was an even exchange.

  20. "Annatar. Perhaps you should test drive a Model S (MS) before you critique it. Besides, few drivers today actually drive manual transmission cars."

    The world does not consist of the United States of America alone -- only in America is an automatic transmission prevalent. The rest of the world shuns automatic transmissions. We are the laughing stock of the world, "too stupid to drive manuals".

    There is a bigger and wider world out there.

  21. We would like to move forward in this world instead of staying with something old.

    Transmission auto or manual combined with ICE is old comparing to what Tesla S has in its direct drive.

    Just b/c you like to ride horses, it doesn't mean it is better than cars...

  22. If a major disaster strikes, horses will still be viable, while your electric cars will be useless without the power plants to recharge them. Think before you write.

  23. @Annatar: If the power grid goes down to that extent and for that long, I would suggest that we will have FAR worse problems that not being able to charge electric cars.

  24. Annatar. I have shifted more gears than you ever dreamed of. I loved them too, but that was in the 90's. Hey, it's 2013. Formula 1 has had automatic paddle shifting for 20 years now. If auto is good enough for Formula 1, it is good enough for any car. Todays automatics are much better, and with electric cars, the direct drive is the very best. No searching for gears, just immediate acceleration. You can't beat that.

  25. Guess you must be inhaling too much carcinogenic gas fumes to come up with that conclusion. Talking about being in a vegetated state of mind, fooey!

  26. What nonsense!

  27. Guessing you've never driven an electric car...

  28. If it does not have a manual transmission and a clutch pedal, I do not care if it is a rocket on wheels: I do not want to touch it.

    I love *driving* too much.

  29. "driving"? Your definition of "driving" sucks!

    It is like saying old typewriter is better b/c you can see the letters getting striked by each key your pressed...

    Your preference is your preference and it has NOTHING to do with the advancement of technology.

    And since Tesla S doesn't have the manual or auto transmission so your point doesn't apply here.

  30. struck

  31. Thought so!

    You know if you want you can gently lift of the accelerator every now and again while accelerating, to give the impression of "going through the gears". Actually I find I often have to do that while following one of those old fashioned geared vehicles (even quite fast ones).

  32. That is nowhere near the driving experience of a manual transmission vehicle with a clutch pedal and a centrally mounted console shifter.

    If that is the world awaiting us, I would rather walk or ride a bicycle. How utterly horrible.

  33. @Annatar

    I was only joking with you.

    I used to drive a manual (up until last year), the reason that autos have a bad rep historically is that they give the driver less control than in a manual. Guess what, a manual gives you less control than driving an electric car without gears! They force you to interrupt your acceleration to make up for the limits of the power source. Rather than being able to concentrate on the getting the perfect cornering speed and acceleration out of the corner, etc...

    You are obviously free to prefer whatever you like (some people prefer bicycles, horses, etc...), but I like the control that comes with an electric drive train, personally!

  34. There are more comments in this thread
  35. After driving a hybrid for a few years, I felt the same way driving an ICE vehicle. I was annoyed that the engine wouldn't shut off while at a stop light. Now that I have a Nissan Leaf I find my Hybrid annoying in that it turns on the engine altogether. :-)

  36. What is so luxurious about driving a car that lacks center console storage (or even a center console), disk player or the ability to plug one in to an aux jack or even the simplest of amenities like a lighted sun visor vanity mirror? Styling and premium performance yes; luxury, not so much. I own a Model S. The above didn't dissuade my purchase, but in my view, Model S is not a luxury vehicle in the traditional sense.

  37. Fair points. I find the lack of physical inputs offputting as well. I borrow a lot of books on CD from the library instead of listening to the radio. How would I make that work with my Tesla? (my hypothetical Tesla, I mean)

  38. Rip to mp3, pop on phone and stream over bluetooth.

  39. I did just that, but use a thumb drive instead of BT streaming over my phone because the BT streaming disables the phone for, well... a hands free phone. I would love to load my music on the car's internal flash memory, but after being in production since last June, Tesla has yet to activate and make it usable for us. When we pay +/- 100K for a car, should we have to come up with work arounds?

  40. yea, u have to copy your CD to USB flash disk. Actuallt, you can copy many of CDs to single one flash disk. Or is it too complicated? :)

  41. Model S should definitively not be delivered with disk player (I assume you mean cd player)? It`s a car of the future. A CD-player has no room in a car in 2013.

    Streaming music via Spotify is what you do in 2013....

    I like the open space where a center console could be placed, but I miss cupholders in the back seat!

  42. Or plug your smart phone/ipod/mp3 player in and listen to your music selection that way.

  43. Plug it into what? There is no AUX input jack, and from what I've read on the TM Forums, the I-media devices don't interface properly with the USB so they have to BT stream instead.

  44. I don't agree with comment regarding the disk player. It's akin to complaining about the lack of a tape player/cigarette lighter at the turn of the century.

  45. LOL! I imagine you can plug one in somehow.

  46. Some of us were born in the last half of the last century and have VERY large CD collections that will have to be converted to a format compatible with the audio system in ModS. Not hard but time consuming; thanks TM. Unlike cassette tapes, CDs are still sold in stores and even ModS comes with the 12V receptacle for a cigarette lighter if you wanted use it for that. USB is pretty 20th century too, but ModS has two of those. Streaming music, be it a BT stream from your phone or over the Internet, is fine as far as it goes, but due to bandwidth constraints, doesn't have the audio quality (fidelity) that a CD or other high data rate source file has. When you pay the extra $ for a premium sound system, the quality of the music source matters.

  47. Hokum. CD's are still sold because the business model of the major record producers relies on it, not because of any technological reasons.

    The idea that the marginal quality differences in audio between an MP3 and a CD matter in a vehicle moving at highway speeds is absurd.

    A quality sound system is designed and purchased in an attempt to better mask road noise, and under those conditions the audio source is a minor factor at best.

  48. Hokum? There are plenty of new technology alternative sources for music, but enough people still want CDs to make it profitable for the music world to sell them. When that ends, so will CDs.

    Just how does a quality sound system mask road noise? Is there some magic in the sound waves that cancels road noise or do you just turn it up so loud you can no longer hear it?

    Have you ever ridden in a Model S at highway speeds? I have because I own one, and it's pretty quiet. EVs are like that you know, or maybe my quality sound system is masking the road noise. Either way, you can hear the difference between the flat tonal quality of a low data rate stream/encoded file and the full fidelity of a CD or high data rate MP3.

  49. Sound System STANDARD
    200 watt, 7 speaker stereo system includes AM/FM/HD Radio, dual USB ports, and storage for up to 500 songs.

    Perfect for the music lover. Gives you the exhilaration of a front row concert seat with a 580 watt, 12 speaker Dolby ProLogic 7.1 system, storage space for over 3,000 songs, and XM Satellite Radio preparation.

    storage space for over 3,000 songs

  50. There are more comments in this thread
  51. This is why I refuse to test drive anything electric until I'm absolutely ready to buy. I know I'll be so hooked it'll be tough to delay any longer.

  52. I've been going through EV withdrawals and emotional rollercoaster every since I drove a Leaf. I'm reluctantly driving my Pontiac Bonneville and GMC pickup until EV prices (and sporty styles) come within my range. Lord let it happen soon. Breathing these fumes and paying these ridiculous gas prices is taking its toll on me.

  53. Check the pricing on the Fiat 500e if you live in California. They are giving them away here.

  54. Fiat doesn`t believe in EVs, so the Fiat 500e is probably not a good electric car (I haven`t tried it!)
    It`s just a compliance car. I fear for Fiats future with this attitude, but then again I don`t want any of their cars now :)

  55. From the few 'first drive' reviews I have seen, on this and Autoblog Green, it is a very good compliance car. It's a shame that Fiat isn't supporting them like Tesla and Nissan are supporting their carsm but they did a good job.

  56. @Oyvind: Perhaps you missed our drive report on the Fiat 500e just a couple of days ago?


  57. Your Pontiac gets maybe 20MPG, on a 35 mile a day commute that would be $134 a month just in gas only for the commute. You can lease a brand new Leaf for $99/month with $1995 down. So congratulations, you quality for a brand new net-free Leaf. See your local Nissan dealer for your free new car.

  58. You can get a Nissan Leaf for a 2 yr lease for what your monthly gas bill (likely) is. $129/mo for the SV trim, at a dealer near me.

  59. I never imagined this would be a problem... until I got an EV. Now, I can't stand driving my wife's ICE vehicle. Sitting at a red light with the car vibrating away, burning gas but not moving... it makes me sick!

  60. I have to say that I concur with this article. I've been extremely satisfied and reported that on my Annual Consumer Reports Car Survey that came via email this morning! I think we will see Tesla gaining much more momentum in the next few months! I hope they can keep up with the demand. The only downside is that I won't get the special attention when more Model S' hit the road!!

  61. That is a good problem to have :) "Oh look, ANOTHER Model S. How dull."

  62. I know. I am almost tired of getting blown away by Tesla S every day on the road.

    The difference is that when I get left in the dust by the Tesla S, I actually have a smile on my face.

  63. Well, my wife and I are fighting over the Volt keys. That should tell you something.

    Also, the silent mode, instant torque, regen and efficiency are 4 biggest reason of driving an EV.

  64. storage space for over 3,000 songs

  65. Not yet. Maybe someday Tesla will get around to activating the flash memory storage I paid for in the Sound Studio Package. Oh, and maybe the WiFi too.

  66. Is that unique to "EVs"? Volt has that 30GB HD option. But you can just buy a way cheaper iPod for more storage...

  67. I drive a Leaf and for me, it's not just the acceleration, it's the effortlessness of the acceleration. You can floor it without making a scene, and I floor it all the time unless I'm trying to conserve range.

  68. I have converted a 1996 Ford Probe to electric and I know what you mean about the quiet, lack of fumes, acceleration, coming out in the morning to a full charge. I also smile when I drive past a gas station, especially when I hear on the radio that prices are going up again. I shall always have an electric car now, it's like having your first car over again, but better.

  69. I'd be willing to bet that the Model X will compete as well when they start delivering in mid-2014. They would be competing against the BMW X5, Audi Q7, etc.

    Also, I had the same experience when I bought my hybrid. Pure ICE cars seem broken...their engines keep running when they aren't needed! :)

  70. @Thomas: Actually, the Tesla Model X has now been delayed to "late 2014"--which likely means volume deliveries in early 2015.

  71. Absolutely true.
    I own a Renault ZOE. Each time I'm forced to drive a "smoky car", I hate it now... Electric vehicles are GREAT ! :)

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.