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Hitting the road in the new Tesla S (Photos)

The new Tesla S electric car.
The new Tesla S electric car.
Steve Proffitt/KPCC

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Even though it wasn't a working day, the Tesla S attracted a little attention when it pulled into the parking lot at KPCC. It came here with Susan Carpenter, auto critic at the Orange County Register, behind the wheel. 

Creamy leather seats, everything is really high quality, but then, this Tesla goes for a bit north of $100,000.

The dashboard boasts a large screen, 17 inches-wide, running vertically across the center console like a steroidal iPad. There's another screen behind the wheel but there are no knobs and no buttons. Susan starts the car — if "start" the correct term — just by putting her foot on the brake.

It is quiet, most of what you hear is other cars, and the turn signal is deafening. We roll along the Pasadena streets, longing for open road, because this car, despite being electric, is really fast. Motor Trend clocked it at zero to 60 in under four seconds.

Despite seeming nearly flawless on paper, there was a horror story review of the Tesla S in the New York Times about a drive from DC to Boston. The reporter detailed how the car's batteries ran out of juice on a very cold day. The report was accompanied by a picture of the Tesla on the back of a tow truck, followed by tweets and blog posts by Tesla founder Elon Musk that the paper had somehow sabotaged the car with bad publicity.

As the owner of a Nissan Leaf, Susan knows about the potential pitfalls that come with owning an electric vehicle. Her Leaf gets maybe 75 miles on a charge, but she's always worried about making it there and back. Not with the Tesla. She's racing around in it like it was a Maserati.

For years now, fans of electrics have predicted a brave new world in which cars running on fossil fuels become dinosaurs, and the Tesla S is clearly the most sophisticated effort so far in the quest to displace the internal combustion engine. If the company survives and manages to produce more affordable cars, who knows? Along with all that instantly available torque, electrics have another big ace in the hole: amazing fuel economy. 

And I have to say, this is one sweet little bundle of joy.