Most of us -- at least most males of a certain age -- have been guilty of occasionally falling for a car that seems to be the fastest, sleekest, coolest, and just generally meanest set of wheels ever. This infatuation usually fades after the thing has taken up space in the driveway for awhile.
This seems to be what has happened in the love affair between Consumer Reports magazine, the somewhat staid non-profit publication of Consumers Union, and the Tesla S, the wild-eyed, needle-pinning, luxury electric sedan.
In August, just a few short months ago, Consumer Reports was gaga over the Tesla S, giving it a score of 103 on a scale of 100. Entranced by the car's blinding speed, precise handling, and other race track virtues, the consumerists just couldn't say enough about the S.
But in cars, as in most things, the bloom is soon off the rose, and when Consumer Reports pried itself out of the Tesla S and began reading its mail, it made a discovery: the car has issues, some big, some small.
Issues great and small
Big issues include frequent failure of the electric motor. Little issues include the failure of the recessed door handles to pop out when the driver approaches the car. You can't open the door without a handle, so that little trick leaves you not breathless but stranded.
Tesla S owners also complained of squeaks and rattles, leaking sunroofs, and other maladies one normally associates with a car that costs way south of the Tesla's $127,000.
Faced with all this, the CR staff whipped a quick U turn and downgraded the S to a "worse than average" reliability rating. To be sure, chief auto tester Jake Fisher said the Tesla S will snap your neck, knock your socks off, and otherwise stun you with its brute force and svelte handling, but it will also drive you bonkers with nagging maintenance issues.
To be sure, Tesla has been good about repairing the problems under warranty, but just because a problem is fixed doesn't mean it isn't annoying and time-consuming. And as the cars age and the warranties expire, fixing those selfsame problems could be expensive.
As some consolation, CR noted that other high-performace cars, like the Chevrolet Corvette and the BMW 5 series, have their issues too.
What no one mentioned is the Porsche Boxster, which scored so highly on CR's tests a decade ago that the scoring scale had to be rejiggered. The Boxster is still around, still scoring highly on everybody's scale, and still enjoying one of the best reliability ratings around. Boxster owners will tell you that while Porsches are expensive to maintain, they are also remarkably free of the everyday problems that plague other marques.