History is full of unsung, forgotten heroes. People (or things) which helped changed the course of history forever. Those who worked hard to help effect a change in society, achieve a monumental milestone, or simply where there to lend a helping hand when it happened.
We’re talking about unsung heroes like Apollo Astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in the Command Module alone while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon for the first time. Or Max Yasgur, the farmer who allowed the very first Woodstock festival to take place on his farm. Or security guard Rick Rescorla, one of the many heroes of September 11, 2001 who helped evacuate thousands of people from the Twin Towers before they collapsed.
Of course, a car can’t compare to any of these people or the tens of thousands of other unsung heroes going about their daily live every day, making the world a better place.
But in the insular world of plug-in cars, we think the Tesla Model S 60 is probably the most under appreciated car out there. And after spending a long weekend with it, we want to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
Less range, lower price
Let’s start with the basics. Like its big brothers the Tesla Model S 85, Tesla Model S 85D and Tesla Model S P85D, the Tesla Model S 60 is a full-size, five-seat all-electric luxury sedan. It’s made on the same production line in Fremont, California as the rest of the Tesla Model S family, and it shares the same battery chemistry as its longer-legged siblings.
What’s different however, is the size and range of the Tesla Model S 60’s battery pack — and subsequently, the price of the car.
Unlike the 85x variants, the Tesla Model S 60 comes with a 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which under most situations gives an EPA-approved range of 208 miles. Driven by a 380 horsepower (283 kilowatt) electric motor at the rear, the Tesla Model S 60 manages the 0-60 mph dash in 5.9 seconds, and goes on to an electronically-limited top speed of 120 mph.
That’s nowhere near the head-snapping performance of the segment-leading Tesla Model S P85D, which manages 60 mph in almost half the time of the Model S 60, and goes on to 155 mph where allowed.
But the Tesla Model S 60 also comes in at a far more respectable $71,070 before incentives, including destination and handling fee. The P85D costs $105,670 with handling and shipping before incentives.
And that’s a hunk of cash for anyone. Or to put it another way, enough of a difference to buy a Tesla Model S 60 AND a brand-new entry-level Nissan LEAF for the same as the P85D. And while we’ll admit the Tesla Model S 60 jumps to $73,070 before incentives but including handling and shipping when you include the optional Supercharger capability — a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned — it’s still the most affordable Tesla out there.
Same great driving experience
Normally when you buy an entry-level car, it feels somewhat less than its high-end sibling. The LEAF, for example, has an entirely different interior trim on entry and high-end models, reminding you that you’ve got the base-level car.
In fact, we struggled to detect any differences behind the wheel between the Tesla Model S 60 and a more heavily-specced Model S 85.
Of course, acceleration is a little slower and — unless you’ve added the relevant options — you won’t get the air suspension, tech package, or full-length sunroof. But like so many other luxury cars, Tesla’s a-la-carte ordering system makes it super-easy for any customer to pick the options they want, regardless of the battery pack.
And here’s the big thing: while the Tesla Model S 60 can’t travel as far per charge as the Tesla Model S 85, it handles just as well. It has the same feel behind the wheel, the same cornering abilities, and copes with everyday acceleration just as readily as its more powerful sibling.
And it still has the same things that annoy us about the Tesla Model S 85: the terrible turning circle; the temperamental bluetooth connectivity and the lack of decent cup-holders.
In the end however, you’re still driving a Tesla. It just doesn’t drive as far per charge.
Range is a non-issue
During our brief time with the Tesla Model S 60 — which was cut short after just four days due to a six-inch stone-chip in the windscreen — we covered more than 800 miles. What’s more, at no point from the Friday evening when we picked up the car to the Sunday evening when we returned from our mammoth trip, was the Model S fully charged.
Although Tesla’s press car arrived with 204 miles predicted on the dash, it wasn’t the range-mode charge we were expecting. Despite that however, our car managed the driving duties we asked of it without a major problem.
At this point, we should probably admit that our test car came with both Supercharger and dual charger option boxes ticked — meaning we were able to charge in the UK at 22 kW from the Ecotricity Electric Highway when needed. Given that we only used two superchargers on our trip (not counting the two minutes we were waiting at one before starting), the majority of the miles were driven on basic overnight 3kW charges, a single 7 kW charge for three hours while visiting family, and no more than a few hours of 22 kW charging on cross-country routes yet to be served by Superchargers.
But with the Tesla CHAdeMO DCQC adapter soon promising to offer 50 kW charging for emergencies, we’re struggling to find justification for recommending dual chargers for many European and American customers.
Tally up the time spent charging on the road, and we’d guess it’s split between 1 hours’ worth of Supercharging (at times peaking at more than 100 kilowatts in power) and probably 2 hours, 45 minutes of 22 kW charging at various points. But at no point did we charge until full, and with one exception, our charging coincided with food or bathroom breaks.
Admittedly, we could have charged for longer: in two cases, we arrived with 1 mile of range remaining not because of a lack of total range, but because the car wasn’t full enough when we left. But it’s important at this juncture to note that we don’t feel this was down to failings of the Model S 60. Even with the Tesla Model S 85 and a similar usage pattern, we’d have likely spent less time charging, but drained the battery in a similar way.
Like any other electric car, the Tesla Model S 60 can be pushed to achieve some impressive energy figures. On one occasion, we managed 283 watt-hours per mile, a figure we’d have been proud to manage on any electric car. Similarly, we were less careful on other legs, pushing the car into 600 or 700 Wh/mile economy figures and eating range at an alarming rate.
Yet again however, this was a factor of our driving style, not our battery pack. And while we loved the Tesla Model S 60’s comfortable seats, we’re not sure spending 245 miles in them as opposed to 208 miles would really be worth the extra money of a Model S 85.
A true hero, with one tiny flaw
With far more range per charge than any other plug-in car on the market today, the Tesla Model S 60 is more than enough for most uses, especially if you’re coming from a smaller-range car.
With careful use, it can supplement its range with ease and if you’re lucky enough to have Superchargers in your area (and add the Supercharging option) it can use the Supercharger network like any other Tesla.
Admittedly, it won’t go quite as far per charge or accelerate as quickly as the Tesla Model S 85x variants, but for everyday uses and most family trips, it’s more car than you probably will ever need.
There’s just one tiny, niggling problem about the Model S 60 which we really can’t forgive: its 8-year, 125,000 mile battery warranty and drive unit warranty. While the rest of the Tesla lineup comes with 8-year, infinite mile warranties, the Model S 60 is limited to just 125,000 miles.
That’s equivalent to travelling just 15,625 miles a year for 8 years, something we’re sure most Tesla owners exceed if only because of the free fuel of the Superchargers and the sheer pleasure of driving a Model S.
So we’re making a small plea to Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Give the underdog the warranty it deserves, and watch the number of Tesla owners — specifically those who can’t afford the 85 — soar.
Because in our book, the Tesla Model S is one unsung hero, and dare we say it, a little more everyday and approachable than its superstar sibling.
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