2013 Tesla Model S in winter, Hudson Valley, NY [photo: David Noland]
It was a classic click-bait headline: “Ten Things I Hate About My Tesla.”
The article appeared last week on The Drive, a new "automotive culture" website from publisher Time Inc.
The author, Andy Blau, owns a green Tesla Model S and spends a lot of time driving on New Jersey’s Palisades Parkway, so I identified with him right away.
But I can’t say I agreed with many of his 10 “hates” about the Model S, many of which might be more accurately described as mild grumbles.
Actually, he could only come up with seven (not 10), but here they are--along with comments from another Tesla owner: me.
1. No Spare Tire. After hitting a pothole on the Palisades, Blau blew two tires and had to get towed to the nearest Tesla dealer. It took 12 hours to get back on the road. “Not cool, Musk,” he wrote.
Tesla Model S at Cypress Mountain, British Columbia, Canada
In this case, a single spare tire wouldn’t have done him any good anyway. I personally don’t miss the spare because I’m not going to be out there changing a tire by the side of the road in any case. I’m a wimp; if there’s a number to call for rescue—Tesla, AAA, whatever—I’m going to call it.
I do carry a bicycle pump for slow leaks and an inflator can for small punctures. For anything else, I’m calling the number . So far—almost three years and 51,000 miles—it hasn’t happened.
2. This Car Hates Cold Weather. Blau says his normal 32-mile commute eats up 50 miles on the range meter on particularly cold days.
I’m with him on this one. For short trips around town in cold weather, where the initial surge of battery energy required to warm up the cabin and battery can’t be amortized over a long trip, I see power consumption rise by 40-50 percent. For long trips, range drops about 20 percent, from 250 miles or so to 200.
He doesn’t even mention the lack of regen braking and limited motor power until the battery warms up, which can sometimes take as long as 20-30 miles.
Yes, winter can be a bummer in the Model S.
3. Only Two Cup Holders? Blau calls Tesla’s lack of consideration for the average American’s beverage needs “appalling,” and demands no less than eight cup holders. I don’t think he’s kidding.
Americans are notorious among foreign car executives for their obsession with cup holders. I’m rolling my eyes along with the BMW and Audi engineers on this one. Get over it, dude. Or at least do what I did, and buy an aftermarket center console that has an additional cup holder.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D [photo: owner George Parrott]
4. It’s Developing a Premature Rattle. Apparently Blau has a loose ball joint, but hasn’t got it fixed yet.
So fix it. My ball joints are fine. No rattles anywhere.
5. It Makes Your Life More Complicated. Blau complains that on long trips, he actually would have to do a bit of planning—like finding out where the Superchargers are, and factoring in an extra 30 minutes charging time. Overwhelmed by those onerous tasks, he says he will take his daughter’s Subaru and “you know, just drive straight there.”
My reaction: Enjoy your trip in the Subaru. You deserve it.
6. I’m Not That Psyched About Driving it in the Snow. Despite winter tires, Blau says, with all that torque, winter driving still makes him feel a bit nervous.
Unfortunately, both of us bought our cars before the dual-motor AWD versions were available. So I must concur; I’ve found the RWD Model S’s winter traction to be only fair, at least with all-season tires.
7. The Hardware Can’t Keep Up With the Software. Blau complains that he’s not getting many of the new software features because he doesn’t have the latest AWD and autopilot hardware required to use them.
Tesla Model S Autopilot engaged during cross-country record attempt
What, he expects Tesla techs to sneak into his driveway overnight and install radar and video cameras to go with with the over-the-air autopilot software updates?
Hopefully, Tesla will continue to make cool hardware improvements in the Model S. If that causes owners who bought their cars before the improvement to feel left out and cheated, well….sorry about that. Trade in your car if it bothers you that much.
However, since Blau could only come up with seven "hates" for his Top Ten, I decided to add my own suggestions for Numbers 8, 9, and 10….and 11.
2013 Tesla Model S in winter, Hudson Valley, NY [photo: David Noland]
8. Getting In and Out. For a tall guy like me (I’m 6 feet 2), getting in and out of the Model S is a pain in the butt. My wife’s Mini Cooper is actually much easier to climb in and out of.
Yes, the Model S is low-slung and swoopy. But the main problem, if you ask me, is that the B-pillar is three or four inches too far forward, which makes for a very small door opening. With the seat all the way back, as I require it, the B pillar is well ahead of the seatback, and requires an awkward move forward and around it.
9. The Distracting Ergonomics of the Touch Screen Yes, it's beautiful and mesmerizing. But with no physical buttons, the driver's eye must guide the hand all the way to the precise spot on the screen to adjust the climate control and audio system. It's both a visual and cognitive distraction.
Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
That means the driver's eyes are off the road for a bit longer than usual. On a couple of occasions, that extra half-second has triggered a situation that was, if not dangerous, at least attention-getting for me.
.Worse, my occasionally numb screen sometimes requires two or three stabs of the finger, which multiplies the distraction.
10. Dumb Wipers and Obnoxious Horn. The Model S’s so-called “smart” wipers were apparently born with brain damage. Mine wipe at seemingly random speeds—frantic in light mist, then haltingly in downpours. I long for the old-fashioned manually-controlled intermittent settings.
Most of the cars I’ve owned had a gentle intermediate beep triggered by a light tap on the horn button, useful for greeting friends by the side of the road or reminding a distracted driver ahead that the light has changed. Unfortunately, the Tesla horn requires a forceful push and has just one sound level—approximately that of a locomotive—that seems appropriate only for emergency situations.
Brake and accelerator pedals of 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]
11. Brake and accelerator too close together. Because pedal spacing is so much tighter than most cars, drivers with big feet and/or wearing winter boots are more likely to inadvertently brush the accelerator while braking. Unfortunately, there’s no power cut-off when the brake pedal is pressed, so this inadvertent double-pedaling can drastically lengthen stopping distance.
Complaints aside, after almost three years and 51,000 miles of living with the Tesla Model S in all sorts of conditions, I can report that not once have I ever looked out the windshield and said to myself, "Gee, I wish I were driving that car instead of this one."