2013 Tesla S
Base Price: $59,350
It’s entirely electric — no gas engine at all (unlike the Chevy Volt, which has a small onboard gas engine that functions as a carry-it-with-you generator). It’s economical (cost per kilowatt hour to operate is far less than the cost of burning a $4 gallon of gas). It’s luxurious — on par with a Mercedes E-Class in terms of amenities.
And it’s ferociously fast, too.
Zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds, just inches off the bumper of the twin-turbo V-8-powered Mercedes E550 (0-60 in 5.2 seconds). But unlike the brawny Benz, the Tesla can go between 160 and 300 miles (depending on the battery version) before its onboard batteries need a top-off, which you can do slowly via a standard 110V household outlet or faster (overnight) via a 220V hook-up. The latter requires some special wiring, but isn’t all that different from the 220V hook-ups most homes already have for certain appliances, such as a washer/dryer or cooking range. Commercial-grade fast-chargers are expected to cut down recharge times — 45 minutes to replenish to 80 percent capacity.
Unlike the first Tesla model, the Tesla Roadster, the S is not an electrified conversion of someone else’s car (the Tesla Roadster was loosely based on the Lotus Elise). It is a completely unique vehicle, designed by Tesla engineers and built at Tesla’s plant. And it’s unique in other ways, not just as far as what’s under its hood (which by the way is a trunk where you can put your luggage). Among its standout features: seating for seven — five adults plus two kids in the available rear-facing jump seats — plus a fully digitized, flat-screen LCD instrument cluster with state-of-the-art infotainment systems.
Aston Martin Cygnet
Base Price: $46,492
Though it is tiny, Aston has stuffed it with features and equipment, including hand-stitched leather and magnesium silver mesh trim, Cirrus Grey Alcantara suede headliner, automatic climate control, iPod touch dock, and a portable GPS unit. On the outside, you’ll find retractable side-view mirrors (heated, too) which will help you squeeze through the tightest alley without risking a paint scratch. Available options include a customized Bill Amberg five-piece luggage set, matched to the car, and a solar panel for charging batteries.
Aston even provides backseats — though the one trick they couldn’t pull off was making space for backseat passengers. Use these seats for groceries only, please.
Based on the Scion iQ city car, the Cygnet is powered by a high-compression 1.33-liter four-cylinder engine that manages a respectable-for-its-size 97 hp. It’s offered with either a six-speed manual transmission or continuously variable (CVT) automatic. It may not have the 180-mph top speed of a new Rapide. But your reward is 36 mpg city, 37 highway versus the Rapide’s rapacious 13 city, 19 highway. The Rapide may be quicker (OK, a lot quicker), but in the Cygnet, you won’t have to stop nearly as often.
The Cygnet is available only in Europe.