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From Nissan Leaf To Tesla Model S: The Big Electric-Car Jump Page 2

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2013 Tesla Model S and 2011 Chevrolet Volt in garage; photo by George Parrott

2013 Tesla Model S and 2011 Chevrolet Volt in garage; photo by George Parrott

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The only negative so far is is having to get used to how big the Model S really is. It's longer and, especially, wider than anything we have owned before, and it rides like the big vehicle that it is.

Momentum counts

Switching from our Chevy Volt to the Tesla Model S highlights how much the Model S wants to continue straight ahead, versus the Volt's quicker response to steering input on sharp corners.

MORE: Tesla Model S Vs Chevy Volt: Owner Compares Electric Cars

The Model S is much bigger and heavier than the Leaf, too, but it pays back occupants with more interior space, especially in the back seat, as well as a much more comfortable experience during freeway driving.

The heated seats and air conditioning work superbly, and the access to freeway "Supercharger" quick-charging stations make it possible for us to plan future road trips with this car.

Joyful play behind the wheel

Even more, especially in contrast to the Leaf, almost every drive in the Model S includes moments of fun. The regenerative braking is strong enough that the brake pedal isn't needed except in rare circumstances, and the acceleration away from a stop is simply joyful play.

Brand-new 2013 Tesla Model S delivery, July 2013; photo by George Parrott

Brand-new 2013 Tesla Model S delivery, July 2013; photo by George Parrott

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We also appreciate Slacker Radio--we're in the process of creating our own themed radio stations--and the verbal commands for the audio system and the GPS navigation actually work! 

When we got our Leaf in 2011, the GPS maps Nissan provided were at least five years old--and the company never provided any updates. Almost three years later, our West Sacramento home is still not on the maps in the Leaf--and this neighborhood is about to celebrate its 10th birthday.

Leaf: invisible

During our early Leaf ownership in 2011, I regularly parked it in high-traffic locations and sat back to watch how others noticed or reacted to it. The Leaf appeared to be invisible to passersby; it was just "another white hatchback." 

MORE: 2011 Chevrolet Volt Vs 2011 Nissan Leaf: 7,000 Miles Later

During those same early days, people stopped and noticed the Volt--and even got out their cell phones for cameras to take pictures!

But the Model S is the "rock star" of cars, it would seem. It has become normal for us to have people ask questions about the car, want to look inside, take pictures of it, or simply give us a thumbs-up on the freeway. Many have commented that it's "the most beautiful car I've ever seen."

Puzzling omissions

There are, of course, some niggles in the Model S design that many owners have noticed and commented on. Those include the cheapest, smallest, and flimsiest sun visors ever fitted to a car, no real center-console storage, and--absurdly--no cup holders for back-seat riders.

However, after the first stop sign or traffic light during any drive, or total domination of of any freeway on-ramp, these simply melt away and become niggles forgotten.

In the end, the Nissan Leaf is a wonderful and functional city car. After the 2011 model year, Nissan addressed the interior heating issues--offering heated seats and wheel--and at today's lower prices, a new 2013 Nissan Leaf makes a most practical second or commuter car.

But the 2013 Tesla Model S, with the 85-kWh battery pack, can pretty much be your only car--and the experience behind the wheel takes driving to a much higher level. And that's something to celebrate indeed.

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