The groundbreaking Tesla Model S earned Consumer Reports highest test score and it aced crash tests, yet we could not truly recommend it—until now.
Based on data collected from more than 600 owners in our 2013 Annual Auto Survey, the Tesla Model S earned an average predicted reliability score. Owners of the 2012 model reported very few problems, although 2013 owners cited quite a few more. The combined score allows us to recommend it.
Until now, the Model S was a tease. Here, we have an innovative electric car from a small, American start-up that has put the century-old auto industry on notice. The car achieved a near-perfect road test score for its impressive combination of dynamic performance and packaging. Layer on that stunning performance in the government crash tests, and the Model S is quite compelling. Reliability was the final piece necessary to earn our recommendation.
The reported problems were not on the sophisticated electronic systems, powerful motors, or giant battery pack, as one might expect. Instead, it was the smaller details that caused some minor issues, such as wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and body hardware (including the sunroof, doors, and locks). These mechanical items expose one of the myriad challenges in competing with massive, long-running corporations. For Tesla, everything is new and almost every part is developed and fit together for the first time in modest volume.
It seems that Tesla got what could be considered the tough stuff right initially; no owner in our survey has reported problems with the electric drivetrain. (Learn more about the latest car reliability findings.)
Perhaps there were few electronic problems because of Tesla’s ability to download software fixes directly to the car, which is among the several ways the Model S has a distinct advantage over conventional cars.
By all measures, the Model S is an impressive car, and one we can now wholeheartedly recommend.