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Automobile of the year: The all-electric Tesla Model S

Posting in Transportation

Electric cars have been plagued with a stigma that they can't compete with the performance you get from a gas-powered car. Automobile Magazine was guilty of those thoughts before test-driving cars to determine their annual automobile of the year. These were their thoughts about the all-electric Tesla Model S: "We weren't expecting much from the Tesla other than some interesting dinner conversation as we considered "real" candidates like the Subaru BRZ and the Porsche Boxster."

But the performance stigma for the Tesla Model S quickly melted away as Automobile Magazine's editors tested it. They were so impressed that they named the Tesla Model S the 2013 Automobile of the Year. No, not electric car of the year: automobile of the year, best of the best.

And it wasn't just a scheme to increase the credibility of electric cars. The Tesla Model S literally outperformed its gas-powered competition. Here's what Automobile Magazine had to say about the car:

In fact, the Tesla blew them, and us, away. Actually, the Model S can blow away almost anything. "It's the performance that won us over," admits editor-in-chief Jean Jennings. "The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses." Our Model S was of Signature Performance spec, which means its AC induction motor puts out 416 hp and that it blasts to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Even those numbers -- positively absurd for a large sedan that uses not a lick of gasoline -- fail to communicate how crazy it actually feels. "It's alarming to jam the accelerator of such a big car and have it surge forward so quickly and so quietly," says copy editor Rusty Blackwell.

In a race to 100 mph with the 560-hp BMW M5, the Tesla won. Automotive Magazine continues:

That's another credit to the Model S's overall execution and seductive powers. "The electric motor does not define this car," says Nelson. But it is, at the end of the day, what makes this very good sport sedan an absolute game changer.

Tesla is making a strong push to ensure that electric cars aren't seen as the younger sibling to gas-powered cars, that they aren't just for the environmentally-conscious person willing to trade performance for emission reductions. But Tesla isn't just looking to have a fast electric car to make that point, they also want to see improved EV infrastructure. That's why they're building super-fast charging stations across the United States to improve mobility options for EV owners.

If the Tesla Model S is any indication, gas-powered cars could see stiff competition in the future as EV charging infrastructure is built up as is expected. Eliminating electric car stigmas won't hurt either.

Photo: Tesla

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— By on November 2, 2012, 2:32 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure