Tesla races Corvette
John Goreham's picture

Tesla Model S vs. Corvette - Why we love this matchup

Is a Tesla Model S drag racing a Corvette a fair fight? Why not?

This past year I drove the new Corvette Stingray on the private racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club in New York. After my run I sat down to lunch with some engineers from GM, and Mark Reuss, who was at the time the President of GM, North America. I know, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. It was one of the most exciting days I had as an automotive enthusiast and writer last year. Another exciting day was the day that I test drove the Tesla Model S on the roads and highways near my home in Mass. I never thought that those two events would ever end up in one article, but now a viral video showing a Model S beating a Corvette in a drag race has brought these two life snippets of mine together.

I’m a fan of the Model S, but I do need to start off in defense of GM’s bad-boy ‘Vette. The new Corvette Stingray Z51 with some good go-fast bits and the nice stuff you likely want costs about $60,000. The Tesla Model S P85 with the stuff you want costs about $106,000 before the government starts throwing money back at you. So it is not as if the Tesla shouldn’t be competitive. On the other hand, the Tesla is a very spacious 5 or 7 passenger luxury sedan with unbeatable safety credentials. The Corvette is a plastic car-shaped film draped over a V8, transmission and driver. So there are more than one way to look at which one “should” be faster.

Watch the video and you will see that there are actually two drag strip runs and the Tesla wins the first and loses the second. I don’t know which transmission the ‘Vette has. If it is the 7-speed, rev-matching manual I drove then I can understand the poor start in race one. A manual is a fun transmission in a sports car, but it slows the car down. The Tesla, of course has no transmission with which to sap energy and speed from its run. In any case, in the second run the Corvette redeems itself and wins the race by enough of a margin that it is also the overall two-race average time winner. The question is, “Is that the point?”

Electric cars can now do most things better than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. The only problem is that they can’t do them all at once, and they cost more than ICE cars. However, you get to live with a reduced carbon footprint and also be a pioneer in the new world.

It would seem to me the point of this video, and its popularity on the internet, has to do with the fact that the standard-bearer of fast cars in America is no longer the Corvette. In fact, it isn't even a car with a V8 engine, or any engine for that matter. The Tesla Model S is just as American as the Vette, and it is so much more modern in almost every way. Let’s keep in mind that this is a race between Tesla’s top sedan and Chevrolet’s premier sports car. If Tesla were to build a new sports car (and they are not going to) Chevrolet would have no answer. We love this matchup because it shows the pinnacle of old versus the pinnacle of new.

For a different viewpoint on this race please see Patrick Rall's story.

Still image courtesy of youtube.com and Drag Times

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Admittedly, both cars were fast. However, I suspect that the 'Tesla win' in the first race was by the same time that it jumped the green light. Go back and check it out...the Tesla leaves before the green light.
Actually, the "first race" shown in the video was really the second race. If you look at the times on each slip, you will see that the Corvette won the first race at 1:40PM, and the Tesla won the second race at 4:14PM. Also, there are many people saying that the Tesla left too soon, or "red-lighted" on the "first race". This is not true! I practically "grew up" at the dragstrips, and the Tesla actually cut an almost perfect light at 0.005 of a second after his light turned green. If the Tesla actually left too soon, the last yellow light and the red light on the bottom would be lit. Instead, both green lights are lit. The Corvette had a reaction time of 0.357 of a second. The Corvette's 1/4-mile time of 12.049 seconds, was calculated from the time when he was done "sleeping at the light", and unblocked the light beam that was being blocked by the backside of his front tires. If you take the Tesla's ET of 12.378 seconds and subtract the Corvette's 12.049 seconds, you get a difference of 0.329 seconds. The difference between reaction times is 0.352 seconds. Now subtract 0.329 from 0.352 and you get a difference of 0.023 seconds, which is exactly the margin of victory for the Tesla. The Tesla won this race at the starting line, plain and simple!
I thought that too. It didn't dampen my enthusiasm for the idea of a Tesla drag racing a "Vette though. Thanks for commenting. Check out Patrick's story if you dare. He has a more emphatic view of this whole thing. The link is at the end of the story.
BTW, if any readers think that Tesla Model S cars are not brought to the track by owners, check out he photo of owners Steve P. in the gallery. Look at the other cars in the photo. Vettes and Model S cars sharing racetracks is not just a 1-time gimmick. Steve P is a frequent, respected commenter here with an awesome ownership story. You can learn more about him if you look for the interview on the Tesla tab here. .
I'd say the thing to bear in mind is ICE cars have 120 years of engineering and the Corvette almost 50 years of design. EVs are relatively new and Tesla is very new. By the time Tesla is up to a 3rd generation and has a 3rd generation roadster out, i suspect the EVs will be dominating at the track. The Model S is a 4 door luxury sedan, the Corvette is a 2 door sport racing coupe. If you want to see what a 2 door racing coupe can do, either look at White Zombie or Assault and Battery.
There is something missing in this article. Mention is made that one's purchase of a Tesla comes with a "reduced carbon footprint" as if it were some silly fadish accessory. How much will the Corvette cost to run on gasoline in the next 10 years and how much will the Tesla cost to run? The new world needs us to put more weight on the cost to the environment for extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels.
The manufacturing of those batteries make 10 times the pollution , So keep hugging TREES, your fooling yourself.
You know Sandra, we have covered the general idea that you are adding here for many years. Sometimes a story is just for fun. To answer your question, a typical Corvette is a low mileage car. So let's figure a Corvette runs 50,000 miles in ten years. The gasoline to fuel it will cost about $8900 using today's gas prices. Teslas of course are totally free of charge. Thanks for reminding us to keep everything serious, and not to try to cast the Tesla's amazing performance in the video in a positive light.
A proper race would be 0-120 MPH and braking back to Zero. TOP GEAR
I will race the Tesla S , from NY to Pittsburgh with a 1973 Chevy Vega and win every time.
Perfect article for us. I have a 2019 c7 stingray with a manny tranny. My wife is about to pick up her 2021 Tesla model s. Two totally different approaches to exciting automotive experiences. Good thing that we also have an Infiniti, q70. It is kind of a moderate approach