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Tesla Model S Racks Up Another Big Win: Motor Trend Car of the Year

Tesla Model S Motor Trend Car of the Year

You could hardly blame Tesla founder Elon Musk if he were to gloat a wee bit. First the Model S was named Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year. Then further validation as the Republican repudiation of the government investment in Tesla failed to move the needle in the national election. Now, Tesla has garnered the most famous of all automotive bragging rights: Motor Trend’s Car of the Year Award.

Like Automobile Magazine, Motor Trend noted that the fact that the Tesla is all-electric is almost besides the point; if you didn’t know it was electric, it would still be a luxury vehicle of note based on its performance and design. “Sure, the Tesla's electric powertrain delivers the driving characteristics and packaging solutions that make the Model S stand out against many of its internal combustion engine peers. But it's only a part of the story. At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel,” writes Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend Editor-at-Large.

Motor Trend notes the advances in weight-savings as evidence of Tesla’s engineering ingenuity. The body is all-aluminum and the extensive use of aluminum elsewhere keeps the Model S relatively svelte, important not just for an electric car attempting to eke out every last watt of battery power, but for any car aiming to conserve energy.

The electric motivation offers benefits beyond saving fuel, say the editors. The lower center of gravity resulting from the low-mounted battery pack provides ground-hugging handling, and the nature of electric motor propulsion means massive amounts of stump-pulling torque.

One significant knock on electric and hybrid vehicles has been their value proposition; the additional cost of the technology of comparably equipped gasoline-powered vehicles usually takes many years to make up in fuel savings; usually longer than the typical consumer owns a car. Here, too, the Tesla Model S states its case emphatically. By Motor Trend’s reckoning, “With a base price of $58,570 (before a federal tax credit of $7500), the 40-kW-hr Model S is competitive with entry-level Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6.” Even the top-of-the-line 85-kW-hr version at over $100k compares favorably to the German equivalents like the BMW M5 in performance.

Granted, even after the tax credits, a car at over $50k is hardly a “car for the people.” But with the Tesla Model S snagging two of the big journalist awards, the industry takes a big step forward in the validation of the feasibility of all-electric vehicles.