Elon Musk is angry with Top Gear (again) over review claims
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The relationship between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and British motoring publication Top Gear (you might have heard of them) has always been somewhat rocky.
The finger pointing started in 2012 with a libel lawsuit from Tesla regarding a range of complaints made by Jeremy Clarkson during a 2008 review of the original Tesla Roadster. The lawsuit was eventually thrown out (despite Top Gear confirming they lied somewhat in the story...), but that didn't stop Musk from labelling Clarkson "anti American" and biased against electric cars — hard to argue with either of those things — in a later interview on the BBC. On the flip-side, they also rated the Tesla Model 3 Performance favourably earlier this year in a comparison with the BMW M3.
Clarkson has long left the Top Gear fold, but the reviews of Tesla products remain. And, earlier this week, the show aired one of the most hotly debated comparison tests of the year online — a showdown between the Tesla Model S Performance and the Porsche Taycan Turbo S [you can watch the video yourself above].
Musk is one of several who has poked holes in the YouTube show. Not necessarily because of the verdict, but because of the way in which the show carried out its acceleration and quarter mile drag race testing — tests in which the Porsche won. A shock result, underlined by figures from the Model S that don't seem to coordinate with the figures that others have achieved in other tests.
The show stated that the Taycan could hit 60mp/h in 2.61 seconds, 100mp/h in 6.12 seconds, and complete a quarter mile pass in 10.69 seconds at 131.6mp/h (211.8km/h). The Model S Performance by comparison achieved the same markers in 2.68 seconds, 6.46 seconds, and 11.08 seconds at 124.0mph (199.6km/h).
Ironically Top Gear deputy editor and host Jack Rix didn't linger on the acceleration arguments (realising that, in the real world, such stuff is largely irrelevant). Instead he packed the performance comparisons into the opening two minutes or so before pressing on with more important matters.
Drag Race Times analysis is correct. Also, there’s a software upgrade for Model S coming out that increases peak power by 50HP, so Model S should beat Porsche Taycan Turbo S by a wider margin in 0 to 60 & 1/4 mile races.— Treelon (@elonmusk) October 31, 2019
In doing so, the show glossed over a number of things including the amount of runs that were carried out to end up with the acceleration figures showcased. And that didn't help when those on social media ripped the figures to shreds. It simply started with disbelief, given that the Tesla has the Porsche beaten in almost every performance metric on paper. And then, some started questioning the authenticity of the numbers; including Musk.
Drag Race Times, a group that specialise in drag racing comparisons with new vehicles, noted that the Model S times cited by Top Gear in their comparison were identical to those that featured in a similar comparison the publication staged between the Model S and the Mercedes-AMG E63 S. They said that this was cause to doubt the figures ("totally fake news"), and Elon Musk himself agreed in a Tweet. He also added that a 50hp (37kW) upgrade is coming for the Model S shortly, "so Model S should beat Porsche Taycan Turbo S by a wider margin."
And the suspicions of Drag Race Times and Musk have since been proven correct ... sort of.
Top Gear has responded to the fracas with a statement to US outlet Jalopnik. In it, they confirm that indeed the number featured in the Taycan comparison was lifted from a previous test. But, it was for seemingly quite good reasons.
"We drag raced the Taycan and the Tesla Model S five times, and each time the result was the same – the Porsche was faster," said the statement.
"The figures for the Tesla that we published alongside the story were the fastest figures we had ever recorded for a Model S, achieved on a previous occasion. These figures were slightly faster than those achieved on the day when the Tesla was racing back to back with the Taycan. The important point remains, however, that in our tests the Porsche consistently edged the Model S."
Sure enough, Top Gear also shared the best acceleration figures and pass times from the test, with the Model S Performance almost two tenths down compared to the 2.68/6.46/11.08 that it had recorded in earlier testing.
Naturally the discussion has spurred on more question than answers. Was the sunroof in Top Gear's Taycan comparison car to blame for disappointing figures? Did Top Gear neglect to put the Model S in 'Ludicrous Mode'? There's also the nature of the surface to consider, too. While most serious Tesla Model S runs take place on treated drag strips and race tracks, Top Gear's test took place on a stretch of air field.
There are points worth considering from each side of the debate. But perhaps the best point of all is this; both cars are incredibly capable, incredibly quick war machines. And those who love electric cars should be celebrating them both equally.