Here's how Tesla's cars stack up against the best of the competition from the world's top automakers
- Over the years, I've driven all of Tesla's vehicles: the original Roadster, the Model S, the Model X, and the Model 3.
- But I've also driven hundreds of other vehicles, many if which represent the best-of-the-best coming from the world's automakers.
- I thought it would be interesting to see how Tesla's all-electric vehicles stack up against some of the gas-powered competition.
- Remember, if you want all-electric, you're currently limited to Tesla and just a few other vehicles, most of which don't have luxury or performance credibility.
- As it turned out, I preferred a BMW 5-Series and a Porsche Cayenne SUV to Tesla's Model S and Model X, but I favored the original Roadster over an Alfa Romeo 4C and the Model 3 over an Audi A4.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
In just over 15 years, Tesla has gone from an ambitious idea about electric cars to selling almost 250,000 vehicles a year and challenging the world's top automakers.That in and of itself is an impressive achievement, but Tesla's vehicles are actually quite good. I've driven them all, and I can vouch for their quality and performance. Sure, they have some quirks, and Tesla has definitely endured some growing pains. But there's no discounting the fact that Tesla is the first successful new American auto brand to emerge in decades.Advertisement
Still, the traditional auto industry is no slouch - it's game has probably never been better. Over the years, I've driven hundreds of great cars and trucks. So I thought it would be fun to put the Tesla fleet up against some of my favorites from the petrol-burning world.
Here's how it went:Get the latest Tesla stock price here.
The Tesla Original Roadster. This was the first Tesla I ever drove, and at the time I was overjoyed. I revisited the car half a decade later and renewed my love for the peppy all-electric spider.
The original Roadster wasn't an original Tesla design: it was based on a Lotus platform, with Tesla adding the drivetrain, batteries, and software.Advertisement
The Roadster was instrumental in changing perceptions about EVs, which up to that point had been thought of as glorified golf carts. With range of over 200 miles and a 0-60m ph time of 3.7 seconds, for the more advanced version.
The Roadster is also the first production car to be launched into orbit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk made his personal Roadster, piloted by "Starman," the payload on the 2018 launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. Production ended in 2012.Advertisement
The Alfa Romeo 4C. This is the only car that we've driven at Business Insider that really compares with the Tesla Roadster. It's a bonkers little spider, with a snarling mid-mounted engine.
According to Alfa, the 2,500-pound 4C is good for a zero-to-60 run in just four seconds and can reach a top speed of 160 mph.Advertisement
Like the Tesla Roadster, the Alfa 4C has a pretty basic interior. But on balance, our tester was notably more luxurious.
Power for the 4C comes from a 1.7-liter, 237-horsepower, turbocharged inline-four. The tiny motor is incredibly punchy and pairs well with the quick-shifting, six-speed twin-clutch transmission.Advertisement
The Tesla Model S. The first "clean sheet" design from Fremont was a luxury sedan that captured Motor Trend's Car of the Year award for 2013.
I've driven several different versions of the Model S, ranging from a rear-wheel-drive example to the dual-motor trim, with two types of battery pack: 90 kilowatt hours and 100 kWh.Advertisement
The Model S offers well over 200 miles of range, room enough for five passengers, and SUV-like cargo capacity. Of course, being electric, it does require patience when it comes to recharging. But the Performance trim can outrun supercars with a 0-60 mph time that tickles two seconds.
Luckily for Tesla owners, the Model S has access to the electric-car company's extensive Supercharger network. Plug in at one of these stalls and you can be back to a full charge in under an hour.Advertisement
The BMW 5-Series. The 5-Series dates to the early 1970s; the seventh generation landed in 2017, and I tested the high-performance M5 last year.
Like all M cars, the M5 seems glued to the pavement, even when standing still. My tester was $130,000.Advertisement
Under the hood we find the 4.4-liter, 600-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 making 553 pound-feet of juicy torque. This is a hulking poleaxe of a motor, a masterpiece of menace — a grand mechanism for taking gasoline and transforming it into staggering velocity.
The M5's interior combines a hardcore performance vibe with abundant luxury. It's a showcase for getting what you paid for.Advertisement
The Tesla Model X. We've taken Model Xs on several road trips and have been generally impressed with Tesla's offbeat, feature-packed, road-going sci-fi electric shuttlecraft.
The Model X offers 325 miles of range in the Long Range trim and 305 miles of range in Performance. For the latter, the 0-60 mph time is a staggering 2.7 seconds.Advertisement
The Model X was launched in 2015. It's Tesla's most high-tech car. It could be called "Too Tech," as even Musk has admitted they overdid it. The "falcon wing" doors alone threatened to delay the vehicle.
Again, owners of the Model X can use the Supercharger network, but they have to be patient. My kids banned me from anymore Tesla road trips after we took a 700-mile round-trip in the Model X.Advertisement
The Porsche Cayenne. The Cayenne Turbo I tested a few months ago was all-new and tipped the price scales at $136,000. That's a lot. But can you put a price on perfection?
Porsche has added character lines and a higher overall level of surface flash to the Cayenne, now in its third-generation. The latest Cayenne is about as sleek as it's possible to make the vehicle without sloping the roof so much that the second row becomes uninhabitable.Advertisement
The 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 makes 541 horsepower with 568 pound-feet of torque. This Porsche can tow nearly 8,000 pounds, which is staggering. Fuel economy isn't: 15 mpg city/19 highway/17 combined, and that's on premium gas.
When the gaping maw of the rear liftgate opens, you have about 27 cubic feet of cargo space to work with and roughly double that when the second row of seats is folded down. That's really quite good.Advertisement
The Tesla Model 3. The Tesla for the people finally arrived in 2017, and I sampled three versions of it through 2018. I eventually spent a week with a Model 3 that was then priced at $57,500.
Arguably, the most striking feature of the Model 3 is its ultra-minimalist interior, with almost all vehicle functions and displays found in the central touchscreen.Advertisement
Like the Model S, the Model 3 can handle a lot of cargo. The trunk is 15 cubic feet, but there's also a smaller front "frunk."
Yep, Supercharging is available for the Model 3.Advertisement
The Audi A4. We tested the A4 in 2017 and were blown away. It's Audi's perfect sedan. A brand new A4 sedan starts at a competitive $34,900, while our option-laden test car came with a price tag of $54,275.
Styling-wise, the new A4 is elegantly understated. It's the latest evolution of the modern design language that has come to define the brand in recent years. Audi is now into the fifth generation of the vehicle.Advertisement
The A4's cabin is a no-holds-barred high-tech masterpiece. The Audi Virtual Cockpit infotainment system is a two-time winner of our Infotainment System of the Year award.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, 252-horsepower, turbocharged, inline-four-cylinder engine that's shared with the A6, the Q5, and the Porsche Macan. The gutsy motor is truly impressive. It's paired with Audi's 7-speed S-tronic twin-clutch transmission and Audi's legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system.Advertisement
Now for the verdicts! Tesla Roadster vs. Alfa Romeo 4C: It's the Roadster!
Tesla Model S vs. BMW 5-Series: It's the BMW 5-Series!Advertisement
Tesla Model X vs. Porsche Cayenne: It's the Porsche Cayenne!
Tesla Model 3 vs. Audi A4: It's the Model 3!Advertisement
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