Tesla is (apparently? partially?) vindicated after a CNN test-drive of the Model S

As the world watched the accusations fly back and forth between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the New York Times over the paper’s controversial review of the Model S, CNN decided to jump into the brawl with both feet.

Peter Valdes-Dapena, who writes about the automotive industry for the cable news giant, took the all-electric sedan on a test drive, following the same itinerary as Times reporter John Broder took before sharply criticizing the vehicle for failing to live up to its promised mileage range.

Heading out on Thursday, Valdes-Dapena wasn’t sure what to expect, and admitted to feeling somewhat apprehensive about getting stuck somewhere with a failed battery, as Broder claims happened to him.


   “On Thursday, I took the same drive — and I made it to Boston, though not without some anxiety that I would run out of juice. The key issue is not the car itself, but the location of charging stations, since the Tesla (TSLA) battery pack is good for only 270 miles.’’

Valdes-Dapena ended up making it all the way to Boson as he’d intended, without breaking down. But as he first headed out, he said:


   “The most scary part of the trip: the 200 miles between charging stations in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn. That’s not a lot of cushion, especially after I missed an exit adding a few miles to that leg.’’


The reporter followed carefully Tesla’s instructions, which Broder may or may not have done. He said he did what was suggested in terms of milking the most mileage out of a charge to the Model S. Also, he said, “I kept the cruise control pegged to between 60 and 65 much of the way, and kept the climate control at 72 degrees. I minimized stops. ‘’


He said that he enjoyed the ride, loved the car, and that none of his fears panned out.

     “I had expected to feel ridiculous all the way from Newark to Milford, with one eye on the rearview mirror watching fast-approaching cars. But I didn’t. Instead, I found myself maneuvering around slower cars.’’

And perhaps as a way to prevent any fibbing accusations by Tesla in the event the car failed to do what it was supposed to do, Valdes-Dapena had photo journalist Jeremy Harlan and producer Abby Bassett Heffernan follow along in a separate car.

 It was, he said, pretty much smooth sailing all the way, a review that creates even more of a public relations challenge for the Times, which was still smarting from Musk’s days-long public attack on the paper’s credibility.


   “But as I drove into Connecticut, I realized something amazing. Not only did I have enough battery range left, I had plenty. I had at least 40 miles — more than an entire Chevy Volt’s worth of electricity — left to play with. I sped up, cruising over 70, riding in the left lane, mashing the gas pedal just to feel how fast the car could shoot from 65 to 80. I was practically giddy.”

And while CNN’s ride was a bit different than Broder’s, with weather and timing differences that could have impacted the battery’s performance, Valdes-Dapena came away impressed with the Model S.


Which must have been music to Elon Musk’s ears.



   In closing, the CNN writer gave Tesla one big fat Valentine’s Day card.


   “The Model S provides a pretty amazing mix of smooth and silent performance along with brain-squishing acceleration. So even if you’re not driving from Washington to Boston, it’s an impressive car, all on its own.’’


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  • Richy

    So is Broder biased or incompetent?

  • Benjamin Joseph Miller

    Good article Mr. May; I found the information to be quite informative. It is good to see another independent study of the Tesla Model S, and I hope to see more on the subject in the future. Scientific methodology in its most basic execution is to form a hypothesis, test it, observe and record the results, and repeat. Given the nature of scientific theory (often confused with hypothesis) and the collection of empirical data, in order for a hypothesis to be considered credible it must have independent verification.

    As the New York Times article proves, even the most seemingly well run experiments often serve only to uncover an x factor or series of x factors. Scientific method serves to uncover the cause of an action given no outside factors. Therefor, science serves, not to show the cause of an event given all conditions; rather, it is the single cause of an event given the right conditions.

  • Joseph Leigh

    Once again showing the NYT is no longer a credible news organization.

  • reva madison

    Good article, and with a trailing car to prove his speed and driving habits. These cars are not going to please those who insists on illegally driving 10-20 miles per hour above the speed limit, and that is great! I am sure that people who are just drive a 100 miles or so, will illegally speed anyway. Not only a safer speed but with less traffic violation, and that will help pay for the high price of the automobile. That, along with a savings in gasoline costs. I wonder just how much these service stations are charging for charging (pun intended)? Probably at least twice as much per kilowatt hour than their costs, but that is still cheaper than gasoline mileage rates. Of course, the miles per watt/hour will decrease with extremely hot or cold weather, and also when having to drive with the lights on. This will be an education, learning to drive one of these, and get as much mileage as possible per charge. Oh, and also, how long does it take one of these to charge? If the company keeps the prices down, for the charging systems, and starts increasing factory output of vehicles, service stations will be lining up to install the systems. There are going to be hiccups in the supply line, until then.

  • Marek Mode

    Can any of you shiteheads read? The car has to be on cruise control traveling under the speed limit not to frag. That’s not a minor limitation, its a huge one.

    Also, the temperature — a quick look at Weather.com will provide it — was 20 degrees warmer for the CNN trip. So you have a car that you have to drive under the speed limit that fails in bad weather and can’t make a 3 hour drive without dying. Its a vehicle not built for reality. Its a geek’s overpriced toy.

    • Benjamin Miller

      As a matter of fact I can read quite well Mr. Mode. Once more I both know and use scientific methodology on a regular basis. Can you use scientific method Mr. Mode, or are you to busy insulting others to give it a try? The Tesla is relatively new technology, there was a time when the internal combustion engine was in the same category. The later models of the steam cars out performed the early model gasoline driven engines by a long shot; in both mileage and performance.

      We would all be driving steam cars if consumers and industry would have had your foresight. “Geeks overpriced toy” it may be sir, but “vehicle not built for reality” it is not. It is one of the first practical examples of a production model electric automobile. It may not be the car for the vast majority of consumers, it may not even be practical. Yet, it is a major leap in the manufacturing of electric cars; give credit where it is due.