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The Coolest Electric Car

For drivers who like hurtling along wide-open Montana interstates or Bavarian autobahns, but worry about befouling the Earth with tailpipe emissions, the Tesla Model S provides both sin and absolution.

The shapely sedan, which Penta drove for a few hours around San Francisco, lately, has been the source of controversy over whether its stated range is accurate. But regardless of how this contretemps plays out, the Model S is indisputably the first electric vehicle that is a legitimate alternative to the BMW 535i and the Audi S6 in terms of on-road dynamics. It’s a blast to drive.

Penta sampled a top-of-the-line Performance model; it included a panoramic glass sunroof, 21-inch wheels, and a killer sound system. The top goodie of all: its drivetrain. That’s a 416-horsepower, electric drive inverter with gobs of torque. Powered by an 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-battery pack, it can push this 4,647-pound beast to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds — faster than a base Porsche Carrera — even though it uses essentially a one-gear transmission.

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Courtesy of Tesla Motors

The Tesla Model S is an electric car that, in top trim, costs over $100,000. It accelerates quicker than a Porsche Carrera, but charging the battery is time-consuming.

Stomp on the accelerator, and the Tesla — with no long train of mechanical components to actuate — leaps ahead like a cheetah spotting a gazelle. There’s no direct pollution; what’s produced at the plant that supplies the electricity for charging the batteries is another matter.

The rear-wheel-drive Tesla, which the feds say gets the electric equivalent of 89 miles per gallon in overall driving, features an interior dominated by a 17-inch touch screen that controls functions with ease. Want your car to crawl ahead in traffic when you take your foot off the brake? Just select a setting. Don’t want that? Jab the screen, and it turns off. You can even adjust the degree to which the regenerative brakes, which put power back into the batteries when applied, will slow the car once your foot is off the accelerator. Pretty neat, if you’re into that sort of thing.
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