The Tesla Model S, an all-electric luxury sports car, has earned the highest score in Consumer Reports’ ratings: a 99 out of 100.
The $89,650 electric vehicle (EV), built by a small automaker in Palo Alto, Calif., performed better, or just as well overall, as any other vehicle — of any kind — ever tested by Consumer Reports. The last vehicle to achieve a 99 in its testing was the Lexus LS 460L, which it tested in 2007.
The Model S is the first of any electric vehicles to earn that score.
From a start, the Model S catapults from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 5.6 seconds. Engineers said its pinpoint handling is reminiscent of a Porsche, and the beautifully crafted interior calls to mind an Audi.
It’s also the quietest car that Consumer Reports has tested since the Lexus LS.
With a hefty 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, this Tesla is easily the most practical electric car tested to date.
While the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf, for example, can go about 80 and 75 miles, respectively, before needing a charge, the Model S has been delivering closer to 200 miles — ample for commuting, running plenty of errands and still being able to take the long, winding road home. Range has varied from about 180 miles on cold winter days to about 225 in more moderate temperatures.
Over that distance, the Model S returned the equivalent of 84 mpg.
And with a full charge costing about $9 (at the national average of 11 cents per kwh), it’s like running a conventional car on gasoline that costs $1.20 per gallon.
The Model S isn’t perfect. Its lows include long charging times and coupelike styling that impairs rear visibility and impedes access. Another concern is investing in a new car and startup company with no track record for reliability or resale value, and a skimpy (although growing) service network.
The Model S cannot yet be recommended by Consumer Reports because the organization does not have sufficient reliability data. To be recommended, a vehicle must perform well in Consumer Reports’ battery of tests, have average or better reliability in its Annual Auto Survey and perform well in government and industry crash tests.
Though the Tesla doesn’t come with the usual range anxiety of other EVs, you still need to plan ahead to avoid running out of juice.
And testers found that charging the battery, the largest available, takes a long 12 hours on a standard 240-volt electric car charger.
That’s why Tesla offers a dedicated high-power wall connector ($1,200) that replenishes the battery in five hours.
Still, that requires the $1,500 Twin Chargers option and an 80-amp circuit at your home or workplace.
If you’re driving on a major highway in California or the Northeast, you may be able to use one of Tesla’s free Supercharger stations, which let you fill the battery halfway in about 30 minutes.
When it’s left unplugged, Consumer Reports’ testers noted a parasitic loss of energy that amounts to 12 to 15 miles of range per day. That could be a concern if, say, the car is parked at an airport for an extended period.
Tesla has promised a fix for that.
The Model S also lacks some high-end features that are expected at this price, including a lane-departure warning system.