Tesla Model S: Still the best car in the world? (CNET On Cars, Episode 46)CNET revisits the Tesla Model S now that it's a bona fide mass production hit, explore drive-by-wire technology, and learn how technology can only partly neutralize those damaging potholes.
Think. Here we go. Tesla's model S, still the best. The price of pot holes, and the airless tires that laugh at them. And the top five high tech, high power four cylinders. It's time to check the tech. We see cars differently. We love them on the road [NOISE] And under the hood. But also check the tech.And are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to CNET On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. You know, it was back in September of 2012, our Episode 3, that we first brought you a deep dive on the Tesla Model S. Since then, as you know, the car has gone on to get an almost breathless number of accolades and yet still a lingering legion of skeptics. So we vote it's time to wade back into those waters with now the P85 top end edition of Tesla's flag ship car and recheck the tech. [MUSIC] Tesla so far stands to have inspired two main constituency. Owners of the model F who turn into an ugly mob if you dare to criticize the car and an equally vocal [UNKNOWN] They'll think the car is overpriced. Unsustainable and not the answer to anything. I fall smack in the middle. It's a great car that needs a clear-eyed look. [MUSIC] The Model S is what Tesla makes. A four-door sedan, aluminum body, all electric of course. We'll get to that in a minute. You've got two seats in the front. Kind of two and a half seating in the second row and optionally, two rear-facing seats with little racing harnesses on them for your sporty kinds. Approach the car and you get the first taste of a constant predictive theme. The door pulls surface to meet your hand. Walk away and they disappear as the car locks. There are no lock pulls, no place for a key. Now, normally, I'd get in this car and immediately draw your attention to the amazing 12 inch LCD instrument panel, but that's almost boring compared to its friend, the Head Unit, if you can call it that. It's actually bigger than your head. It's 17 inch, vertical format touchscreen that has almost every control of the vehicle embedded in its interface. No other car does this. Let's look at the layout first. You can do a split screen, like you see I have here, top and bottom. You can switch which one of those at the top and then when you hit this roll buttons at the top, that changes what's in the upper screen. You can go to your media settings. AM, FM, HD radio, satellite radio is optional. No optical disk in this card. No nonsense like SD cards or a hard drive. I think they've made the right choices on media. USB, iPod, and Bluetooth streaming of course. Media apps currently consist of Slacker for web streaming and tunein for broadcast streaming. You want Pandora? Launch it on your phone and bring it up as a Bluetooth stream. It's not integrated in the car which seems a step out of pace with the rest of the world. Now navigation's an interesting and kind of complex story. As you can see here if I go to full screen, big, gorgeous, Google Map. You'll have this in your model S as a map for reference. It'll show you where you are but you won't have turn by turn navigation unless you get an option that brings that in. That will give you nav via some Garmin technology which shows up on the left side of the dashboard as well. So there's map based. Navigation and search and turn by turn optional That's an important difference. Now destination is really elegant here. You search like you search for anything else out there on the web. And once you find the result you want, you just say I want to go there by pressing it and off you go. The nav [UNKNOWN] nag you to confirm and reconfirm that you want to go there, like almost every other car on the market does. Thank you. It' got an energy screen for you range inefficient geeks. Most of us won't use that. This is the craziest thing in this car. The only car in the world that'll let you surf the web. And I mean full screen. There is no lock out. While you're driving, this is a full live browser. I can go to Cameron's Facebook page while I'm on the freeway. He likes that. I'm not sure I knew.>>Where this browser is restricted is it's lack of Flash support, so no You Tube streaming, no CNet videos, no streaming from he Pandora site. Another restriction of sorts is that we are working off of built in connection, that's impressive, but it's 3G, while other makers like Audi and GM are already transitioning to 4G. We need Tesla there as well. You rear camera is the best in the business, big and high def. This is absolutely amazing. You can pick up a leaf or a pine needle that you are about to run over. On the downside though, it gives me no indication where things are. There are no guidelines for distance or where my wheels are lining up. That to me is a failing because this is the distorted wide angle view. It's not of true natural ratio when it's looking like that. The last area of this amazing interface is down here under control. This is all the stuff that used to be buttons in your older car. You want to operate the sunroof, there's nothing up here to do that. You go to this actual software control. You can move this slider or you can just pick up a preset like vent. Or all the way open or anywhere in between. Whether this menu based car is forward progress or a lateral innovation will largely depend on your relationship with displays versus controls. I kept yearning for knobs but only if done well like the Mercedes stalks on the steering column and window controls on the door panel. Something else only a Tesla has, a firmware changelog. [MUSIC] Something like 2 dozen updates have been pushed out to these cars already in the manner of updates to your smartphone. And they aren't just minor things. Recent firmware updates have added hill whole braking, a new streaming radio service, new options for cars with air suspension, and even creep when you lift off the brake. Now, in case you've been living under a rock, let's review. The Model S is a pure battery electric car. Not a hybrid or a range extender. It's incapable of combusting anything. No jokes about some highly publicized fires. You charge it primarily by plugging it in but it also regenerates power when you use the brakes or coast. It's rear wheel drive only at this point, by a single motor that sits between the rear wheels and turns their drive [UNKNOWN] via a single speed reduction gear. The battery is this massive flat metal mattress of a thing that underlies almost the entire car, and these cars come in two battery capacities. The sixty model cars have a range of two hundred and eight miles. The eighty five model cars have a larger battery and two hundred and sixty five miles of range. Between that battery and the motor lies the inverter. An inverter converts the DC, the direct current that is stored in that battery. Into the AC, the alternating current, which this motor wants. That motor then spins through this one speed gearbox. You don't shift anything, this is a reduction gear. It turns the very high RPMs of his motor, into more usable RPMs out to the axles and the road wheel. Because we have a P in front of our 85 model designation, we have a hardier inverter that can flow more current to the motor. Allowing even greater acceleration. The numbers: 416 Horsepower, 443 pound feet of torque, rear wheel drive, 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, which is pretty impressive for a car that weighs over 4700 pounds. The MPGe or miles per gallon equivalent is 89. Now how long it takes to charge one of these things is a question with many answers. From basically empty to a full charge on our big battery car would take an absurd 76 hours on a normal 110 outlet with the standard onboard charger in the car. Now plug in to a two hundred and forty volt twenty amp outlet and you're down to fourteen hours. Two forty forty amp and you get down to eight hours. If you have a dedicated two hundred and forty volt forty amp wall connector you can option a second charger in the car and that gets you down to four hours. Or find one of Tesla's super chargers out on the road and you can get a hundred and fifty miles of charge in twenty minutes. [MUSIC] Like I said, not simple. [MUSIC] Driving the model S gets different even before it moves. As we saw, you unlock it by approaching. You start it by pressing the brake pedal. There's no switch. Set the parking brake by putting it in park. The two are never separate. And it's blessedly free of any sport mode buttons and layers and settings that have become a game of 3D chess on most other performance cars. You wanna go faster, you push the pedal, kinda the way it should be. it's very simple. Now because we've got the big boy here with the hot rod inverter, it's just got tremendous power no matter what part of the speed. the range. You're trying to accelerate from 0, 20, 40, 60, it doesn't matter. It's always a grin. The ride quality is really outstanding, benefitting from that big, heavy battery down in the belly, let's face it. Our sports suspension is none too harsh I don't think. And it's interesting, you would think this big 17 inch display is going to be a massive distraction. For some reason, I find that it's not. Good clear interface. Now I'm not an idiot. I'm not gonna sit here and browse the web while I drive. I guess you could do that. [UNKNOWN] doesnt stop me. Notably missing on a model S is any driver assistance tech. Adaptive cruise, blind spot warning. Lane departure prevention, forward collision warning, self parking assist, all not spoken here. Those and all wheel drive are of course all things Tesla will need if they want to fully compete as a mass market brand. About the only drive controls you can fuss with on this car are the steering mode, comfort, standard, or sport, changes the weight and the ratio, and the regenerative braking is an interesting performance tool If you have that standard, it's actually quite heavy when you lift. And you get a nice regenerative drag, which is a great tool for getting in and out of corners when you learn how to play with it. Okay, let's price our Model S. We, of course, have a P85, basically top of the stack. And we're at about $87,000 with destination, minus the federal tax credit of 7500. But I'm not factoring in any state tax credits because they range from zero to thousands, depending where you live. Now the options to make it truly CNET style. First of all, we have performance plus. Sixty five hundred bucks gets you a sports suspension, staggered wheel width and another six to twelve miles of range. But that package also requires you get the twenty one inch performance wheels for forty five hundred dollars more, and requires you get the tech package for thirty seven fifty. That brings in full maps and navigation, L-E-D running and cornering lights, keyless access, memory seats and mirrors and a power lift gate. Performance plus also requires you get the smart air suspension for 2,250 for automatic levelling and height. Dual chargers to speed up your recharge are 1500 bucks. Park sensors, insultingly are not included on this car and they nickel and dime you 500 bucks for those front and rear. And finally, ultra high fidelity takes you to 12 speakers, including a powered sub. And for 2500 bucks, that's actually not bad market price. All in, we're about 108,600, CNET style, though you can add a lot more for creature comforts. In some, yes, this car is out of reach of most people and yes, it takes anywhere between 15 and 1500 times longer to re-energize than a gas engine car, but spend the day with it. And all the other cars on the road and their noisy, oily boxes of explosions under the hood, and 7, 8, or 9 compromises known as gears in the transmission just seem very old. I can't say this is the future, but I can say I'd enjoy it if it were. Find our full dive on that model S P85 Top Trim over at cars.cnet.com and add your thoughts about the vehicle. There's quite a discussion going on around the Tesla and probably will be for a while. Well if you drive a modern car it's almost certainly got low-profile tires. And rather nice alloy rims that frequently have to interface with huge pot holes in roads that no one has money to repair anymore. Brokering the relationship between those two is of interest to the smarter driver. You're driving along and bam. All of a sudden, your car doesn't feel right. Maybe it's pulling, something's vibrating, or it's making a weird noise. Congratulations, you've just hit a pot hole. And it's gonna cost you. That's because your car was designed for the kinds of roads you see in car commercials. While we increasingly drive on the kinds of roads you see in [UNKNOWN]. Transportation Research Group, TRIP, estimates that 27% of our major urban roads are in poor condition. And just 31% in good shape. And their top five metros with lousy roads are all in areas that don't have hard winters. So there goes that excuse. TRIP also estimates that in the worst area, L.A., Long Beach, Santa Ana, motorists average over $800 annually in road condition-related car maintenance. And across the country, the average is almost $400. Now bear in mind, TRIP is backed by road builders, among others. Who want the government to spend more on road work. But all it takes is one trip to most countries in Western Europe to realize how bad the roads are in the U.S. Today's low profile tires take a beating on potholes, and they in turn don't do much to cushion the rim of that alloy wheel. Okay, some practical strategies. Look ahead at the road. This should go without saying but I can't tell you how many people drive right through a huge pothole and are surprised. Don't tailgate, that kills your visibility of potholes directly ahead. Brake before a pothole, not in it. Doing that just puts more stress on your tire, wheel, and suspension. Drive straight through a pothole. Turning too late to avoid it means you're turning in the middle of it, and that further exposes your tires' sidewall and the face of your wheel. Now Michelin offers a pothole resistant tire in some markets, but talk to your tire shop. They see everything come in off the road, and they'll know. Which tires have a tougher side wall than others. Most importantly it pays to double check if there's a pothole ahead and avoid it. Coming up, tires that laugh at potholes because they're missing one key ingredient when CNet On Cars rolls on. [MUSIC] Project 7 was revealed to the world almost exactly a year ago. It was a concept car. It was never intended for production. It got a great reception and that's what inspired us to do this car. It's about paring it back down to the simplicity of a race car. It's been designed for the track. It's a road legal car but it has track credentials and it's going to be the fastest Jaguar ever. We;ve gor real proper fan trackers on them. This is this is a good standing car.>>Find more from the XCar Team of CNet UK, at cnet.com/xcar. Welcome back to cnet on cars, coming to you from our home at the [uuu] clubhouse the cars of. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Well if you think about it, dealing with the air in your tires, hasn't changed a lot in about a century. We do now have tire pressure monitoring systems, but the process of hunkering down to fill, the leaking, the patching when they get a hole in them. It's the way it was. A long time ago. Which is why a number of manufacturers think that tires with no air at all could be the road to the future. Now, take a look at this one. This is from Bridgestone. It's their latest concept of an air free tire. Well. Tire. Like a wheel assembly. First of all notice the large diameter hub so they can create these veins of thermoplastic at the length or height that they want them to be. They've got some give in them as you can see there. They're pretty stiff though. On the other side is another set of these veins bent the other way and this they say is key and different from a lot of other designs. Because the tier's got two ways of supporting the vehicles weight as it goes over terrain. Of course you can't get a flat. Of course you can't get a blow out but again like we said that doesn't happen that often. The other benefits here would be what? Extremely stiff in cornering. I mean this doesn't have any give going that direction as you can imagine. Very little. You don't have any side wall squash as you're working through corners. It might even be unnerving how stiff it is. And then notice this, the tread is actually the part you replace. The wheel, unless you damage it, doesn't get replaced. All you do is basically. Recap it with another piece of tread, making it very environmentally friendly. You're just replacing this strip of thin tread rubber. Michelin's Tweel also uses a thin outer tread layer. Then, an array of long spokes to give the compliance needed to create a good contact patch. Then a more dense matrix of spokes closer to the hub, and that creates an energy absorbing device between the car and the road. Britek says it's energy return wheel is designed to take the impacts of the road. And instead of transferring all of that for the suspension to deal with, turns it into a bit of torque to aid the car's forward progress, or the opposite flow during breaking. And Resilient Technologies is focused on airless tires for military applications, where a flat strands soldiers in a bad place. Their design uses a honeycomb of polymer veins. They say, 30% of those can be blown or shot out, but the tire will still function adequately. I find the airless tire thing fascinating because of the low maintenance, extreme durability, and it's got a nice, kind of, environmental footprint. We throw away a lot of tires. And we have to find something to do with. And this would erase most of that. In a moment, throw out that crummy factory navigation and some burly little Fords. CNET on cars continues. Colmeri is a racing championship for new electric racing cars in city urban environments. If you imagine cars that look like Formula One cars, except they don't make a lot of noise and they're electrically powered. That's formula E. These cuts will be quick. They will do nil to sixty in approximately three seconds and they'll, they'll pop out at a hundred and fifty miles an hour.>>When I heard about sustainable jump issues, what the championship uses new types of, of power trains which are clean. I thought it was a unique. Because I think racing needs to be relevant. This is technology that then can go to the road cars and can improve things. Can improve pollution in the cities. I think these go where the world is going, or where the world should go. [MUSIC] Find more from the Xcar team of CNet U.K. at cnet.com/xcar. Welcome back to CNet on cars. Time for some of your email. This week, we're gonna hear from Dave H. who's writing in about apps in the dash. He says, I think it would be a great feature if cars could integrate the smart phone GPS app into the vehicle's. Screen, or DVD screen. This would alleviate the need to buy GPS navigation from the manufacturer, since almost everyone has a smartphone. He notes it has a really good navigation app. But, of course, it's safer than juggling,. Your phone. Absolutely, I agree on all points Dave. Smartphone navigation tends to be better than what you can buy from a carmaker. Here's what's been going on in that area. It's been a very busy year for this Dave. First of all go back to episode 39 of CNET on Cars where we take a good deep dive into Apple car play which we just saw early in 2014 in its first iteration. It brings up things like Apple Navigation, media, messaging, and a few other functions in an Apple like way on the dash using Siri and the cars buttons. Similar from Android auto which has been more recently unveiled and that will bring your Android services, typically messaging, music, and navigation onto the car screen controlled by the cars buttons as well as by Google voice recognition. Now, if you've got a car that you're not replacing soon, are you left out in the weeds? Not necessarily. Pioneer and Alpine, this summer and this fall, respectively, will be bringing out aftermarket stereos, or head units as they're called, that will support Apple CarPlay. I don't know, yet, of an aftermarket unit that will support Android Auto but it's still very early days for that so we'll keep an eye out. For it. We do a lot of car reviews these days that bring you vehicles use to have a V6 and now have maybe a turbo super charge or some other way intensified or smaller engine, fewer cylinders and for people who love power and performance that may seem like bad news but in fact not necessarily so here's the proof our top five list of high intensity power house little Ford. Now, we're gonna rank these guys the way engine designers would by what's called their specific output that's the amount of horse power per liter of engine size or displacement. Number five is the Audi TTS at a 133 horse per liter now Audi is better known for an engine with a v shape. And, the TT is often maligned as a kind of a poser sports car. But, the TTS need make no apologies under the hood. It's 2 liter, turbo 4 knocks out 265 horses. Nearly as much as a number of V6 cars, that are 3 liter. Number four is the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T. Pull up to someone in a Hyundai, any Hyundai and they're not expecting much from you. But the Genesis Coupe will change that with a turbo 2.0L for that delivers 274 horsepower and in the R-Spec model, it has one of the most driveable 6P manuals out there. So, there we go, two wimpy stereotypes at once. Number three, the Alpha Romeo 4C. 139 Horse per liter. The rarest car on our list and the only one that is built largely of carbon fiber. This is basically a pocket super car. It also has the smallest engine in our set up. 1.7 liters. That's it but still cranks out 237 Horsepower and they say its gonna grow in out put to closer to 300 down the road. Number 2, Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo. 146 horse per liter. The Lancer Evo's been showing what a well engineered for can do for years. It's 2 liter turbo engine puts out 291 horsepower and it's always our number 2 car based on torque - - 300 pound feet of the stuff. A very impressive set of numbers from a car that's kind of been languishing in the shadows of late. Before I get you to number 1, a couple of cars I know you're going to ask about. The VW Golf R for example. Now once it gets to the U.S., it'll be a real contender for this list. But the U.S. spec isn't locked in yet. Car's not due til Q1 2015. If we did take the Euro spec car today though, it'd be vying for second against the Lancer EO. And the new 2015 Mustang is on the way and it's going to have a turbo four for the first time in ages in that car, but it's numbers are also still in flux. Ford promises at least 305 horsepower, but even at that level it would miss the cut on specific output because it also has the largest engine on our. List. Okay, our number 1 amazing 4 is in the Mercedes CLA45. The AMG car. At 178 horsepower per mere little liter. This isn't even close, guys. The CLA45 has a 2 liter engine that puts out 355 horsepower. [INAUDIBLE] To put that in perspective, that's 32 horsepower more than Chevy gets out of the Camaro V6, which is roughly twice as large. I think we've made the case for Ford. [MUSIC] Thanks for watching. Hope you enjoyed this episode. After all, you helped build it. In fact, our Tesla video, our top five, and of course our E-Mail this episode all came directly from your requests, so keep them coming. firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'll see you next time, but check the [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] Okay, I think that's good right there.