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Tesla Model S vs. the Competition: Test Drive

Stocks in this article: TSLA GM NVDA AAPL

The back seat has good foot/knee room, and the car is wide to fit three people there. However, the headroom is abysmal. I couldn't judge with perfection how short you would have to be to fit your head in the back seat, but I'm guessing you might be fine if you are 5 foot 8 or less.

The rear trunk is as large or larger than the largest sedans on the market, thanks to the absence of a gasoline tank and muffler. The rear seat folds to make into a station wagon, and you can even put two child seats in the trunk for those who are shorter than 5 feet.

The front trunk -- or "frunk" -- is in principle similar to that of a Porsche 911, although my vague memory of the 911's frunk is that it's smaller than the Tesla's. All in all, luggage space is a unique selling point for Tesla.


If you have driven any other of the "full power" electric cars in the market, such as the Chevrolet Volt or equivalent, the basic nature of the acceleration in the Tesla Model S will not be a surprise. Everything is completely silent, totally smooth, without vibration, downshifts or any other disturbance -- except this car is faster. A lot faster! 0-60 happens in 4.4 or 5.6 seconds, depending if whether or not you spend the extra $10,000 for the more powerful motor.

As with the other electric cars in the market, the acceleration is front-loaded, so it's most impressive the first 2 or 3 seconds, given the immediate nature of the power. And that's where it counts -- all done in complete silence.

Beyond the initial acceleration comes the single most positive surprise of the Tesla Model S: The chassis tuning and lack of noise, vibration and harshness. Here is where the comparison with the Chevrolet Volt sets in with a very important point. In the Volt, while the electric motor is of course as silent and smooth as the Tesla, you hear sounds from the wheel wells.

In the Tesla Model S, the suspension, chassis and tires appear so amazingly tuned that there is absolutely no sound or vibration that I could sense. How does one explain this? First, the 5-inch thick battery constituting the floor of the car is like armor protecting a military vehicle from a roadside bomb: It's noise insulation, but in this case it also lowers the center of gravity.

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