The nearest Tesla showroom is a fair distance from my house, but my wife and I had an errand to run in that general direction. My wife has not been sharing my enthusiasm about the Tesla brand and said she wasn’t interested in seeing the showroom, but after completing our errands, she agreed to check it out with me.
It did not start out well. Traffic was horrible getting over there. And when we arrived we took the first parking spot, which was basically on the backside of the showroom – it was a hike to find the entrance. But things were great once inside. Fatima greeted us warmly and joined us to answer any questions.
I walked over to examine the undercarriage on display. It was from a Model S 70. It was solidly built, with the battery pack as the largest single component. Mounted so low down, I knew it would give the car a solid feel. The aluminum and titanium frame looked beefy and had large crumple zones to the front and rear. The two electric motors were mounted within the frame between the two rear wheels, each slightly larger than a typical car battery.
The Beautiful Model S
From there, we climbed in a Model S 90 – the only car currently in the showroom. Fatima explained all the functions of the large display mounted vertically in the dash between the two front seats. A front seat passenger would be able to use the display as easily as the driver. Not quite intuitive, the functions and layout of the screen are easy to learn and use. It controls most of the functions of the car, plus navigation, media control, and even internet access. It was nice to have the ability to run the car’s AC in the showroom – made possible because the all electric Model S does not need to run its engine to run the AC.
I didn’t get to examine the Model X like I had hoped. I wasn’t really hoping to buy one since we already own a new SUV, but I did want to check out the new seats it uses.
Before going to the showroom, I looked at scheduling a test drive but didn’t when I saw the only open times were at 10am. Fatima offered to schedule a test drive for me and discovered there was at slot open just then. I jumped at the chance. Fatima introduced us to Kevin, who would take us out on the drive.
Driving the Model S 90
Kevin was as pleasant as Fatima and knew everything about both the car and the history of Tesla. He walked me through how to drive the car and we headed out with my wife in the back seat.
You don’t start the car, you merely step on the brake and toggle the shift lever into gear. The car rode very smoothly, as you would expect from such a heavy vehicle (about 5500 lbs), but also accelerated easily. We headed for the freeway hoping to test the awesome acceleration (0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds in this model), but the freeway was at a standstill, so we were confined to two-lane surface streets. The weirdest thing about the
gas acceleration pedal was whenever you eased up on the pedal it felt like the car immediately started to brake, kinda like the Autopia cars at Disneyland and Disney World. That was true even though you can adjust the feel at it was already on the setting to minimize the effect. The braking feel is caused by the regenerative braking which tries to recoup energy instead of letting the car coast to a stop unimpeded which would give up all the car’s momentum to friction.
In addition to the 17″ central display panel, there is another display directly in front of the driver. One handy feature of that display was an indication of the current speed limit. I loved that. But it had many other features, like the current range, a graph showing energy usage, a depiction of the car itself indicating which sensors were being activated, and a speed indicator (of course).
But cooler than the fancy displays, the luxurious interior, lack of engine vibration, and the quiet running was the Autosteer. Autosteer is awesome!!
I engaged autosteer and let the car drive itself. It centered itself precisely in the middle of the lane and followed the somewhat winding road through intersections and construction areas, speeding up and slowing with the car in front and even coming to complete stops and starting up again. It does have some quirks. Below 18 mph it tends to follow the car in front instead of the road, so when the bus we were following turned off, the car started to also. The car aims for the middle of the lane, but because the lanes we drove were narrow, I would have driven a bit more to the right to provide more space between myself and oncoming traffic.
Because we were not on a multilane road, I couldn’t try the auto lane change feature, and because there was always traffic in front of us, I couldn’t see what it would do at a red light. (We got red lights, and stopped behind the leading cars. I didn’t get to see what happens if there was no car in front).
Autosteer is something I’d use all the time. Using it doesn’t mean you can take a nap – you still need to pay just as careful attention as if you were controlling the car, but you can relax and not have to make those hundreds of micro decisions every other driver has to make all the time, like adjusting speed and those fine steering adjustments. Those things may feel automatic, but with autosteer engaged you’ll find driving is much more relaxing.
I’m Forced To Wait
I came away very impressed with the car. I expect I’d be even more impressed with the Model X, Tesla’s SUV. What I really wanted to see, but knew it wasn’t yet available, was the Model 3.
I’ve actually put money down to reserve the option to buy the Model 3 when it comes out. (The money is fully refundable if I choose not to but it). The Model 3 closely meets my actual needs, but may or may not have the luxury I want. I’ll have to wait until it comes out to find out.