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18.10.2015
Further ReadingVideo review: Zooming across Texas in the Tesla Model SAn epic-length video documenting our electrifying electric car journey. My videographer Steve uttered a single strained curse as inertia's invisible hand pushed us back into the leather with enough force to knock the camera mount out of alignment. I should have slowed down, because I-10 out west of Houston is the natural habitat of humorless state troopers, but I didn't. For those who love cars, "soul" evokes the history-drenched cities where great marques were born—Maranello, Stuttgart, Detroit—and sepia-toned pictures of soot-covered men in overalls and goggles climbing out of cigar-shaped race cars. But an electric car has no burbling cylinder-filled heart, no throaty exhaust to inspire little kids to mimic engine noise. I feel a thrill when looking at beautiful examples of automotive craftsmanship like a BMW M3 or an Audi S5 or an Acura NSX.
At least when Doc Brown built a time machine out of a DeLorean, he did it in the right spirit.
Things didn't have to be this way—it apparently just took Elon Musk, a billionaire with a penchant for launching his own rockets into space, to make us all see it. The Model S isn't the first all-electric vehicle from Tesla Motors—that title goes to the Tesla Roadster. The long view taken by Tesla in bringing the Roadster to market before the Model S is now paying dividends.


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The Tesla's acceleration was instant, ludicrous, neck-snapping—more appropriate for a roller-coaster than a car.
Soul is the bear-throated howl of a V8 working up through the gears, the scream of 12 cylinders at redline that shakes you in your seat at the track, the rushing 200 mile-per-hour wall of wind that smells like oil and rubber. They are precise and unforgiving machines, requiring skill to drive well even in their modern incarnations, though that skill is rewarded with supernal experiences. Can an electric car flicker behind your eyelids, holding your thoughts even while you're not driving it? But the electrics and hybrids produced by the big players are as exciting as cold oatmeal mixed with three-days-dead road kill. Similarly, if we're going to be driving high-tech electric cars, why can't they be made with some style? The Roadster had a limited production run of 2,500 vehicles (the total number of Elise chassis that Lotus agreed to sell Tesla); the line underwent recalls and updates until production ended in 2012. No trace of amateurishness clings to the Model S, a beautiful automobile that does exactly what Tesla Motors says it will do. The camera's point of view was now skewed sideways from this morning's careful alignment, but Steve didn't reach for it because we had just gone from 70 miles per hour to north of 100, and we were still going strong.


Think machines like the execrable crap-box Prius, Honda's truly awful Insight, Nissan's clock-stoppingly ugly Leaf, and Chevy's Volt, which has all the personality of a beige carpet sample square.
When the car finally debuted in 2008 after years of production delays, it served as a very expensive, very exclusive test platform for the battery and drivetrain technologies that would eventually make their way into the Model S. The technology that Tesla crammed into the little coupe evolved into the larger battery, longer range, and tuned electronics in the much larger Model S sedan. No shifting of gears or howling engine here—the only sound was the ever-increasing rush of air as we hurtled toward the car's 130 mph limiter. Cars like Nissan's iconic S30 Fairlady Z, Volkswagen's original Beetle, or Subaru's ever-mutating, turbocharged Imprezas are each more than the sum of their parts. Building the Roadster also allowed Tesla to test out more than the "electric" part of the equation. There's no hypermile gamification built into the dashboard, no welding of internal combustion engine with batteries, nothing to pull you out of the I-am-driving-a-car experience.
Even charging it—something that I had to pay an inordinate amount of attention to while testing the Model S—wouldn't have been an issue if I owned the car and had a 240 V outlet (or one of Tesla's high-amp wall connectors) to plug it in every evening.



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