One year and 15,000 miles with a Tesla Model S

Five Least Favorite Things About the Model S

1. The Limitations on Long Trips This is more a criticism of Tesla’s limited Supercharger network in the Northeast than of the car itself. But the fact is, after a year of ownership, I still can’t reasonably drive the Model S to visit friends in Maine, Vermont, and upstate New York, nor to three of the colleges my daughter has applied to for next year.

My fingers are crossed that this problem will go away one of these days. Or years.

2. The Vampire  It’s not the money spent on wasted electricity over the year–maybe $200–that bothers me so much. It’s the idea that the supposed best car in the world has a basic flaw that hasn’t been totally fixed in far more than a year.

While a recent software update reduced the vampire draw substantially, I still lose anywhere from 3 to 10 miles of range every single day. My Volt has no vampire losses whatsoever. In fact, no other electric car has vampire losses, as far as I know.

Why can’t Tesla fix this?

Again, fingers crossed.

2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

3. Getting In and Out This one’s not going to get fixed. The inevitable price of swoopy good looks and sleek aerodynamics is a low-slung driver’s door.  For a tall (6-foot-2), creaky guy like me, it requires some serious contortions and, depending on the state of my lower back, occasional pain. Maybe I’ll try a test drive of a Model X when it arrives.

4. Winter Like all electric cars, the Model S suffers a significant loss of efficiency in the winter. But in the name of battery longevity, when the temperature drops, the Model S also undergoes a personality change that emasculates the No. 1 and No. 2 items on my list of favorite things about the car.

For the first 10 to 20 miles of driving on a cold day, the Model S limits its power delivery–and completely disables the regenerative braking. Power and regen gradually return as the battery warms up, but on many of my local trips in winter, I never have both full power and full regen.

To make the winter woes worse, I’ve found that the traction in snow and ice is mediocre–at least with my halfway-worn all-season tires. I’m sure winter tires would would improve traction considerably, but at $4,000 per set, I’ve decided to live without Tesla’s winter tire/wheel package. When I inquired last fall, it was back-ordered anyhow.

5. The 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 or audio system. It’s both a visual and cognitive distraction.

That means the driver’s eyes are off the road for a bit longer than usual. On a couple of occasions during the past year,  that extra half-second  has triggered some situations that were, if not dangerous, at least attention-getting for me.

Worse, my occasionally numb screen sometimes requires multiple stabs of the finger, which multiplies the distraction.

Still the one

Complaints aside, after a year 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.”

Not once.

I’ll happily second the conclusion of Consumer Reports that this is the best car in the U.S. Or the world.

Maybe even in the entire freakin’ universe.

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Tesla's goal is to accelerate the world's transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components. Tesla ha... read more »

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