Mr. Green Car: Tesla S sedan — a test drive, part three: Corvette vs. Tesla

A 2015 Chevrolet Corvette (left) and a Tesla Model S (right). (Photos by Allen Penticoff)
A 2015 Chevrolet Corvette (left) and a Tesla Model S (right). (Photos by Allen Penticoff)

Editor’s note: The following is the third in a four-part series. Part one appeared in the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue, and part two appeared in the Dec. 24-30, 2014, issue.

By Allen Penticoff
Freelance Writer

This is part three of a four-part series on the Tesla Model S. This award-winning, all-electric car has performance that can thrill even experienced sports car drivers. So, I’ll make a comparison to that most sporty of American cars, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette. (Both are expensive cars; I’ll get back to affordable rides soon enough.)

The top-of-the-line Corvette is the Z06, starting with a “base price” of $78,000 (with upwards of $20,000 more with all options as the Z07). It is a two-seat coupe or convertible with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine cranking out 650 horsepower (at 6,400 rpm) and 650 ft. lb. of torque (at 3,600 rpm). It is essentially a race car that can be driven on the street. Acceleration is 0-60 mph in a hair under 3.0 seconds. According to Car & Driver magazine, this is the fastest production “performance coupe or convertible” you can presently buy that is made in the United States. They did not compare the Corvette against the Tesla sedan.

The top-of-the-line 2015 Tesla is the P85D with the starting price of $104,500 and can go up to approximately $130,000 with options. It is an AWD four-door sedan that can haul up to five adults and two children (seven passengers) at once. It has two powerful electric motors — total horsepower is 691. As with all electric motors, maximum torque is available instantly at zero rpm. As one reviewer noted when he test drove a P85D and put the power select in the “insane” mode, initial acceleration is mind-boggling. 0-24 mph is in a mere 0.85 seconds, with a G-force of 1.32G (that’s a lot!). 0-33 is in 1.2 seconds, while it begins to slow down a bit on acceleration with only 0.65G from 33-60 (still a lot) for a total 0-60 mph elapsed time of 3.2 seconds. It will make almost no noise doing so.

So, stoplight drag racers, beware. Look for that little “T” emblem on the trunk of any sedan next to you. If you see one, you are about to get “smoked” — although there won’t actually be any fumes, except perhaps your own as you watch the Tesla P85D (or any other Tesla Model S, for that matter) disappear in front of you — unless you happen to drive the Corvette Z06 or similar hot rod with nearly 700 horsepower.

I’ll guess that in a real-life drag race between the Z06 and the P85D that the Tesla will be in the lead early while the Z06 may catch up and pass near the end of that 0-60 run (yeah, like they’d stop accelerating at 60). If they kept going to top speed, the Z06 will win for sure. According to TopSpeed.com, the Z06 will run the quarter mile at 11.0 seconds (more or less depending on transmission) and a top speed of approximately 205 mph. They show the P85D as 11.8 seconds in the quarter mile and a top speed of 155 mph. So, it would be an interesting competition. Eleven-second quarter miles are seriously quick for production cars.

The performance of two other current Tesla Model S are: 60 Kwh 380 h.p. 0-60 mph 5.9 sec. — top speed 120 mph, and the 85 Kwh 380 h.p. 0-60 mph 5.4 sec. — top speed 140 mph. Still very impressive acceleration. Also, electric vehicles are not affected by thinner air at high altitudes, except to perhaps have higher speeds because of less air resistance — another performance advantage.

Both cars have excellent brakes, both have very sticky tires and cornering forces greater than 1.0G. However, the Tesla Model S is going to be the more practical drive — an everyday kind of car that, with all-wheel drive, will do well in inclement weather. Corvettes can be tamed electronically now, and with cylinder deactivation at cruise, will see 30-mpg fuel economy. Theoretical range with its 18.5 gallons of premium gas would be 555 miles. The driving range of the Tesla P85D is 265 miles (pending EPA testing). I’ll have more on Tesla Model S range in the next “Mr. Green Car.”

I once owned a 1968 427 four-speed Corvette coupe. I can assure you that lots of horsepower equals fun. Curvy uphill roads are as much fun as flat or downhill. Passing is a blast. Either of these cars would leave my old Corvette behind, and it was an impressively powerful car. The Tesla Model S can be quite fun to drive as well, but if you really want a thrill ride, I believe the Corvette Z06 will still be the car for you. It is loud, fast and impressive to look at. Both cars are better environmentally than my old Corvette — I’m glad for that. Certainly, the Tesla P85D is cleaner than the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, but in reality, hot rod cars are driven hard very little, so their impact on the environment is relatively low. I love the yellow Corvette convertible I saw in Bocker Chevrolet’s showroom, but if I win the lottery, my money will be put on the Tesla P85D — a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

From the Jan. 7-13, 2015, issue

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