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Automobile Magazine names Tesla Model S Automobile of the Year

Tesla Model S

In what surely must be considered a surprise choice, Automobile Magazine has named the all-electric Tesla Model S its Automobile of the Year for 2013. It’s not the first electric car so honored - the range-extended Chevrolet Volt won in 2011 - but with only 250 of the Model S having been delivered to actual customers, this upstart startup is barely even an infant when compared to the rest of the automaking world.

Tesla is no stranger to controversy, though. Tesla has been used as a political football in the current Presidential election race, with Republicans lambasting the Obama administration for loaning it $465 million in Department of Energy money. And just recently Tesla has been sued in Massachusetts and New York for violating franchising laws by setting up company-owned showrooms in those states.

So why did Automobile Magazine choose the Tesla from a field of vehicles they considered to be one of the strongest they’ve had in years? According to editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, "It's the performance that won us over. The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses." They went in expecting an interesting novelty, and came away with the impression that this was a car that could take on any mainstream competitor handily. Indeed, in a drag race it beat a BMW M5.

Obviously, it’s not just the fastest car that wins Automobile of the Year, though. There needs to be much more, and in the eyes of Automobile Magazine, the Tesla Model S delivered. Their testing proved the Model S to be a tour de force of innovative design and engineering that points the way forward for future generations of non-petroleum-powered vehicles, and oh, by the way, accelerates and handles like a supercar.

They were particularly impressed with the revolutionary user-interface aspects of the driving experience. For instance, the way the flush door handles extend outward automatically when you approach the car, the complete lack of any ignition or power button (it turns itself on when you plop yourself into the driver’s seat), and the massive touchscreen that controls virtually everything. They likened the experience to the first time they used an iPhone.

The range for the electric motivation is also groundbreaking. The smallest battery version will still net 160 miles of driving on a single charge, and the largest 265 miles. Want to go further? Tesla is build their own Supercharger stations across the country. Juice up for one hour and you’re on your way.

And despite the youth of the company, Automobile Magazine notes that the Tesla Model S looks and feels polished and professionally built, owing to the fact that they have hired design and engineering expertise from the likes of General Motors, Ford, and Lotus.

Check out the full article, as well as an interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, at AutomobileMag.com.