Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tesla Versus Dodge Drag Race: My View

A video is spreading around the Internet like wildfire right now. It features a Tesla Model S P85D drag racing a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The big deal is that the Tesla, which is an electric car, absolutely destroys the Challenger. Quite a few people without any real knowledge of both cars are throwing around ignorant, poorly-formed opinions about the race. Considering that and my expertise as an automotive writer, I cannot help but jump in and give my two cents, so here we go.

To start off, I should let everyone know that I like Tesla. I live in an area where every winter the air becomes so polluted that on some days it's hard to see two miles away, making it blatantly obvious that we need to do something to clear the air. Much of our pollution here is related to driving vehicles that burn fossil fuels, particularly since there are multiple refineries to the north that kick out an amazing amount of pollution. Tesla is helping push for change in the industry, and it's starting to really work. On top of that, the Model S is a genuinely beautiful car and an amazing piece of tech.

I don't have a dislike of Dodge, but I have to admit I'm not a huge fan, either. There is something primal inside of me that loves to see a muscle car, hear the growling V-8 engine, and know that the thing is raw and untamed in so many ways. They're fun to watch, particularly on the drag strip where you don't have to worry about losing control and hitting an innocent vehicle carrying a family, etc.

The Challenger SRT Hellcat is an incredibly powerful car, but so is the Model S P85D. There are some big differences between the two, namely that the Dodge is rear-wheel drive and the Tesla has all-wheel drive and a setup that makes spinning the wheels impossible, or so I've been told.

To the uninitiated, the act of performing a burnout before a drag race just looks like chest-thumping, which is what some Tesla fans have insinuated about the Dodge. The reality is that doing a burnout comes with some distinct benefits, as long as it's not done at the line. It cleans off debris from the tires, which  is a big deal if you or subsequent racers use slicks. Doing a burnout also heats up the tires, making them grip better and helping with launches and the overall quarter-mile time. The problem is that the guy who is driving the Challenger SRT Hellcat does a burnout at the line, causing him to lose valuable seconds for his run. It also gives the Tesla driver a huge advantage is it rockets forward with a perfect launch, turning out a great time of 11.68 seconds on the quarter mile. It's an impressive performance.

The Dodge, on the other hand, finishes the race at 17.46 seconds. I can honestly tell you I've seen naturally-aspirated (that means without a turbo or supercharger) Honda Civics put up that kind of a time at a drag strip. Anyone who thinks the race is representative of how fast the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is knows woefully little about the car. It puts out 707 horsepower and, according to Car and Driver, turns out a quarter mile in 10.85 seconds. Of course, that's with an experienced driver behind the wheel, not some fool who can get off the line in even relatively decent fashion. That kind of time would also best what the Tesla turned out at this race.

I 've heard all the accusations, including a "green" car blog I follow on Facebook saying that all the "dino juicers" are just going to make excuses about the results of the race. When I've written honest articles for different publications that don't shower Tesla with praise for every last thing it's ever done, these homers come out in droves and accuse me of being part of the "conspiracy" to keep electric cars down. What these people fail to realize is that I am a fan of electric cars and want them to succeed, but I also have to report the facts instead of just spreading around propaganda.

We've seen the Tesla Model S P85D destroy Ferraris and other cars in road races, which are a seriously stupid idea. We know the car is fast, but the above video is not the way to prove that it is faster than the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. It's an unfair representation, plain and simple. Is it funny to watch? Sure, because the Dodge driver is beat hands-down, but it does not indicate which car is quicker.

Perhaps with all the controversy swirling around the video, someone like Car and Driver will stage a drag race between the two cars, but with skilled drivers behind both wheels. Then we can all see which is truly quicker at the quarter mile and settle this thing once and for all.


  1. You'd think with the obvious better electric car technology that exists nowadays that they would start becoming more popular. I personally have only seen a Tesla 1 time in my life!! I had to look it up and couldn't believe how much $$ it was!

    I live in Detroit and everyone here tends to look down on electric cars. There's a lot of brand loyalty here and with so many people working for the Big 3...they make it difficult for their employees to own anything other than what they make. One Ford plant (that I know of) in the area has separate parking lots for people who don't drive Ford, and you can guess that it's not close to the building at all.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lisa. I've been told by other people in Detroit that it's still very much rooted in the old ways,but with GM pushing electrification more it's bound to change. The Tesla Model S is definitely a luxury car and well out of the reach of the average American, which I think fuels some of the hatred for it as it becomes a symbol of class warfare. The Challenger SRT Hellcat is "cheap power" and has a much more budget-friendly price, which makes this drag race that much more controversial.