Test Drove a Tesla Model S
Grab our Forum Feed

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 4 1 4 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 33

Thread: Test Drove a Tesla Model S

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Grapevine, TX
    Posts
    739

    Default Test Drove a Tesla Model S

    I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum (I am a Volt owner) - it may be better suited to the "Other electrics" section - figured other Volt owners might appreciate this regardless. Anyway, I signed up for one of the Tesla mailing lists and got invited to test drive a Model S in Dallas yesterday. My thoughts:

    History
    I am a self-labeled "car guy" and my last two cars (prior to acquiring my Volt last year - now with 16K miles on it) were an '02 BMW M5 and an '05 Pontiac GTO. I've had a couple other 3 and 5 series BMWs along the way and various muscle cars. We also own a '12 Volvo XC60 R-Design (325HP, 354 ft lbs of torque) and a neglected 67 Firebird with a 455 is sitting in my garage. Oh, and I still have a 97 M3, but my son drives it. In short, I like sporty cars and am fond of European sport sedans. The Volt has been (and continues to be ) a great car, BUT I do miss the power, solid feel, and handling of some of my previous rides.

    The test drive time frame
    It was too short - only about 15 or 20 minutes tops, plus a brief walk around and overview of the interior tech. The car itself was either the P85 or P85+ (really kicking myself for not noting that for sure). It did not have the air suspension unfortunately and I did NOT get to take it on the freeway (would not have mattered as construction makes it a nightmare right now), but may or may not have seen 73 mph at one point (I can neither confirm, nor deny).

    The good, the bad, and well, the rest...

    The Power...sweetness - I'll start by saying, the single most compelling thing about this vehicle for me is the acceleration. It is INTOXICATING. Now, I've owned some pretty quick rides, but this caught me a bit by surprise. I knew it would be quick, and I obviously knew what electric smoothness and torque were all about given my time with the Volt, but the pull here is on an whole other level....much like a BMW 528i seems like it is OK and then you get in an M5!

    The Drive/Ride/Handling - It drives and rides very similar to a big heavy German (i.e. 7 series, A8, etc.). Steering feel, suspension compliance, general "solid feel", etc. - all in line. I took a fast sweeper at a pretty good clip (not a lot of opportunities on this drive), and it stuck pretty well, but you feel the weight and it got a tad upset with me at one point. I could feel it start to push outward. I have not driven the latest generation of 5 or 7 series from BMW, but now that the 5 is more like a shrunken 7 (than an enlarged 3) I suspect the Model S may feel somewhat similar - especially since all cars seem to be losing steering feel these days. Having all the weight low, as every review notes, does help to keep it more planted. It is NOT a tossable sports sedan, but it was never intended to be and that's fine. Frankly, to come out of the gate with a car so close to the Germans is really impressive since so many car makers have been chasing that bogey for years.

    The Tech - The 17" iPad-like display is compelling. Yes, it still has some menus, but it is pretty dang usable w/o having to traverse layer after layer. The use of "swipes", and "pinch zoom" gestures is nice as well since the whole planet is now familiar with those (examples - swiping to open/close sunroof, dragging the stereo balance/fader position across a picture of the interior, pinch/zoom on google map, etc.). The internet connectivity was also nice. So obvious you are staring at the future here. Ideally, there would be a couple more dedicated buttons, but the screen size is big enough that it isn't a huge issue and there are enough on the steering wheel.

    The Interior - OK, just as others (including owners) have noted, this is just not up to par with other cars in its class (i.e. the Big Europeans). Like everyone else, I've seen the pictures, but it was a substantial step down from those cars. Is it bad? Hardly! It is perfectly fine, BUT, the competition at this level is just really awesome. Materials feel, style, the whole lot is just not at the same level and given that is where you spend your time and the importance the interior has to buyers these days (i.e. whenever someone I know gets a new car I ask them about it and they all talk about tech and interiors...alas, us car guys are a dying breed), well, that's a problem. It IS roomy...very roomy, but because that battery pack is under the floor, the floor is a bit high so when I climbed into the back seat I found myself sitting "knees high" (and I'm short at 5' 7"). Speaking of room, the hatch was nice and did not seem to drive up road noise as is so often the case (although, again, I did not get a nice grooved concrete freeway test drive to be sure). I know this section sounds a bit harsh, but the competition is tough here. It was still a nice place to be.

    The Exterior Style - Judge for yourself. Sure it cribs features from other cars, but lots of car makers do. Ford stole that whole Aston look for the Fusion (OK, they did own them for a while if I recall), and the Koreans, well, I think they just take pictures of other cars and xerox them for their own. While the Model S is definitely sharp, I think Tesla could have gone a step further here, but really...no complaints (especially after I saw the "my eyes, my eyes!" i3 from BMW). It is a very classy design that will no doubt look good for years to come.

    Yeah, so...would you buy one?
    OK, first of all, I am not dropping $100K+ on a car. I might be able to talk myself into justifying it, but c'mon. Of course, when you say that, people bring up the Model S P60 which starts at much less, etc. Ah, but here is where it gets interesting for me. You see, the P60's range would be fine for me, and sure I could option up a stripper and tell myself I wouldn't miss some of the features, etc, but then you get back to the first item on my list...the power. You see, one of the ways Tesla gets big power out of their rides is with a big battery. Current battery tech generally allows for more juice to be drawn out more rapidly it seems (I have some experience with this flying electric R/C airplanes) with a larger pack ("C" rates and all). The 0-60 time for the "quickest" Model S is low 4s, but that moves to the 6+ second range I believe for the P60. Not slow by any means, but not the "Holy Apollo Rocket Acceleration, Batman" level of the P85, P85+, etc - and remember, this is its defining feature for me. Admittedly, a P60 test drive would confirm that one way or the other (would also like to experience the acceleration on the freeway too). However, they had several cars there waiting to be picked up by owners and no P60s. Coincidence the P85 series series was released first and all magazine tests were with the big battery (and often performance versions) of the car? I think not.

    Overall, this is an incredible machine and if someone plopped one out there for $70K with that kind of performance I would be standing in line with my check book, but as-is, I can't quite go there. If I had the coin would I? Ew, tough...very tough. I am easily seduced by power, but as I have gotten older I value other features in cars, and would be seriously cross-shopping other cars in this price segment. I admit, the Model S would be tough to compete with.

    Finally, I will say I was SAD about one thing. I can see Tesla simply not making it. When I drove the car, I realized the drive train (inc battery) is what makes this car, and it and virtually everything else can be duplicated by another car manufacturer (Audi, BMW. Mercedes, Cadillac, etc.). They can all build a nice luxury sedan and stick a fat battery and electric motor in there and then the most compelling argument for Tesla will start to evaporate. The only question is "will they?". They all seem to be headed to the plug-in hybrid space (which is fine), and the correspondingly smaller batteries they use will likely limit "full power" modes to those where the engine is running (not quite the same thing as the P85 experience).

    Oh, and how does it compare to the Volt? Well, they both have 4 doors, wheels, batteries, and electric motors, and...yeah, that's about it.
    Last edited by cab; 12-20-2013 at 11:37 AM. Reason: typos
    2012 Blue Topaz Volt - Loaded
    2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
    1997 BMW M3
    2002 BMW M5 (Sold to buy Volt!)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    MN
    Posts
    254

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by cab View Post
    Finally, I will say I was SAD about one thing. I can see Tesla simply not making it. When I drove the car, I realized the drive train (inc battery) is what makes this car, and it and virtually everything else can be duplicated by another car manufacturer (Audi, BMW. Mercedes, Cadillac, etc.). They can all build a nice luxury sedan and stick a fat battery and electric motor in there and then the most compelling argument for Tesla will start to evaporate. The only question is "will they?". They all seem to be headed to the plug-in hybrid space (which is fine), and the correspondingly smaller batteries they use will likely limit "full power" modes to those where the engine is running (not quite the same thing as the P85 experience).
    Nice review, thanks.

    The quote above is a key point. When asked about the Tesla Model S in an interview, Bob Lutz responded by saying (paraphrasing) 'It's a beautiful car but all of the big car manufacturers have access to the same technology.'

    I think the simple answer to the question of whether or not the big companies will copy Telsa is yes, if it will make them money. We are all eagerly awaiting a $30K electric car with >200 mile range but in reality I wouldn't be surprised if the big car companies first started introducing electrics in the high end/luxury space. Right now electric cars are not profitable for manufacturers at $30k sale price without significant trade offs.
    2014 Crystal Red, Pebble Beige

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    449

    Default

    Keep in mind this is really model #1. The roadster was a conversion, so it doesn't really count. Of course other automakers can make similar cars, but will they? GM just put a gussied up Volt on the market for the same price range as a Model S (not a P85, granted), I think that says a lot about the will to duplicate Tesla's efforts and pricing.

    Tesla is unique in ways that aren't about fit and finish, but in overall experience. From the buying experience to service, ownership, charging, and of course, performance.

  4.  

    Advertisement

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    MN, USA
    Posts
    1,131

    Default

    Nice review, thanks for sharing your impressions.
    Are you sure it didn't have air suspension?
    I have yet to see a P85 or P+ without air suspension. Or is it possible you test drove a standard 85?

    That acceleration is intoxicating. Similar to how smooth and responsive the Volt is under electric drive, but at a higher level (due to the number of batteries as you mentioned).
    The 0-60 time of the 60 is 5.9 seconds.

    Can I ask what the steering mode was set to? I like standard myself but I know of some car enthusiast owners that like the stiffer 'sport' setting. Just wondering if you tried turns on a couple of the settings and what you thought?

    As for Tesla being around for long, I am much more confident they will be, than I was a couple of years ago.
    Sure, any of the big guys could make a Model S. Heck, they could gussy up the interior more for those that don't like the clean, modern styling. They could have also included heated back seats, wipers, parking sensors from the start and adaptive cruise control and 360 degree top down parking camera and a HUD display.

    The question is, will they?
    Actually, the other question is why haven't they when they could have squashed Tesla like a bug?

    I don't see anyone competing with them in the BEV market in the next couple of years. If no one beats them to the 200 mile 35k BEV I don't see them going away.
    Last edited by Zythryn; 12-20-2013 at 11:35 AM. Reason: Tesla existence question

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Grapevine, TX
    Posts
    739

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mk2 View Post
    Keep in mind this is really model #1. The roadster was a conversion, so it doesn't really count. Of course other automakers can make similar cars, but will they? GM just put a gussied up Volt on the market for the same price range as a Model S (not a P85, granted), I think that says a lot about the will to duplicate Tesla's efforts and pricing.

    Tesla is unique in ways that aren't about fit and finish, but in overall experience. From the buying experience to service, ownership, charging, and of course, performance.
    I agree. As noted, I don't see anyone else pursuing the big battery/big electric motor combo - instead they look to all be headed to plug-in Hybrids for the next gen. The partial exception is BMW with their i series which seems focused in a very different direction (funky - I'm being generous - looks, light weight, etc). One thing BMW will have going for it is a lower price point for better market penetration.
    2012 Blue Topaz Volt - Loaded
    2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
    1997 BMW M3
    2002 BMW M5 (Sold to buy Volt!)

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    449

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by cab View Post
    I agree. As noted, I don't see anyone else pursuing the big battery/big electric motor combo - instead they look to all be headed to plug-in Hybrids for the next gen. The partial exception is BMW with their i series which seems focused in a very different direction (funky - I'm being generous - looks, light weight, etc). One thing BMW will have going for it is a lower price point for better market penetration.
    We are in agreement on the "funky" part And I do sincerely hope Tesla gets their Fit & Finish up to par, and I believe they will.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    1,021

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by cab View Post
    Finally, I will say I was SAD about one thing. I can see Tesla simply not making it. When I drove the car, I realized the drive train (inc battery) is what makes this car, and it and virtually everything else can be duplicated by another car manufacturer (Audi, BMW. Mercedes, Cadillac, etc.). They can all build a nice luxury sedan and stick a fat battery and electric motor in there and then the most compelling argument for Tesla will start to evaporate. The only question is "will they?". They all seem to be headed to the plug-in hybrid space (which is fine), and the correspondingly smaller batteries they use will likely limit "full power" modes to those where the engine is running (not quite the same thing as the P85 experience).
    Quote Originally Posted by realdb2 View Post
    The quote above is a key point. When asked about the Tesla Model S in an interview, Bob Lutz responded by saying (paraphrasing) 'It's a beautiful car but all of the big car manufacturers have access to the same technology.'

    I think the simple answer to the question of whether or not the big companies will copy Telsa is yes, if it will make them money. We are all eagerly awaiting a $30K electric car with >200 mile range but in reality I wouldn't be surprised if the big car companies first started introducing electrics in the high end/luxury space. Right now electric cars are not profitable for manufacturers at $30k sale price without significant trade offs.
    It seems a rather simplistic view to assume that a company's ability to implement the car technology is sufficient to mean they are capable of delivering a Tesla-like car. The electric drive train, safety features, and other "standard car" stuff is probably possible but there's a lot more that Tesla is bringing to the table. Others have already cited the buying / ownership experience so I won't touch upon those. However, there's also the whole way the car is designed to be managed. It's a heavily software oriented design that has allowed Tesla to make significant changes to existing cars. That's something the existing car manufacturers, with their complex design processes and supplier setups are completely unable to just change to even if they wanted to.

    The existing manufacturers are very large entities and aren't at all nimble in virtually every way. They have an existing design and manufacturing approach to cars that isn't easy to change to a different model. Tesla's advantage isn't just that it has delivered a competitive car in the luxury car market. It's that its whole business process is radically different than the existing players.

    By the way, nice review. It very much mirrors my impressions when I did a test drive (although I was able to take the car to 100 MPH).

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Grapevine, TX
    Posts
    739

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Zythryn View Post
    Nice review, thanks for sharing your impressions.
    Are you sure it didn't have air suspension?
    I have yet to see a P85 or P+ without air suspension. Or is it possible you test drove a standard 85?

    That acceleration is intoxicating. Similar to how smooth and responsive the Volt is under electric drive, but at a higher level (due to the number of batteries as you mentioned).
    The 0-60 time of the 60 is 5.9 seconds.

    Can I ask what the steering mode was set to? I like standard myself but I know of some car enthusiast owners that like the stiffer 'sport' setting. Just wondering if you tried turns on a couple of the settings and what you thought?

    As for Tesla being around for long, I am much more confident they will be, than I was a couple of years ago.
    Sure, any of the big guys could make a Model S. Heck, they could gussy up the interior more for those that don't like the clean, modern styling. They could have also included heated back seats, wipers, parking sensors from the start and adaptive cruise control and 360 degree top down parking camera and a HUD display.

    The question is, will they?
    Actually, the other question is why haven't they when they could have squashed Tesla like a bug?

    I don't see anyone competing with them in the BEV market in the next couple of years. If no one beats them to the 200 mile 35k BEV I don't see them going away.
    I am 82.3% positive it said P85 on the bumper...that's the best I can do. It did have the red brake calipers. The steering mode was initially set to standard and I we switched it to sport mid-drive. When we were on that screen I asked the Tesla rep if it had the air suspension and she indicated it did not and if it did we would have seen options for the suspension on that same screen.

    I actually think the major car manufacturers simply dismissed the idea of a big battery/electric super sedan and are probably a bit embarrassed by that given Tesla's success! I'm sure some folks have received a butt chewing at those companies as a result.


    I hope Tesla makes it, I really do. Having an awesome AMERICAN car that changes the game stay on the scene would be awesome. As you note, Tesla can probably add the missing features more easily than other car makers can replicate their total package...although I'm not sure if Tesla can do it and make money. Time will tell.
    2012 Blue Topaz Volt - Loaded
    2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
    1997 BMW M3
    2002 BMW M5 (Sold to buy Volt!)

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    MN
    Posts
    254

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by focher View Post
    It seems a rather simplistic view to assume that a company's ability to implement the car technology is sufficient to mean they are capable of delivering a Tesla-like car. The electric drive train, safety features, and other "standard car" stuff is probably possible but there's a lot more that Tesla is bringing to the table. Others have already cited the buying / ownership experience so I won't touch upon those. However, there's also the whole way the car is designed to be managed. It's a heavily software oriented design that has allowed Tesla to make significant changes to existing cars. That's something the existing car manufacturers, with their complex design processes and supplier setups are completely unable to just change to even if they wanted to.

    The existing manufacturers are very large entities and aren't at all nimble in virtually every way. They have an existing design and manufacturing approach to cars that isn't easy to change to a different model. Tesla's advantage isn't just that it has delivered a competitive car in the luxury car market. It's that its whole business process is radically different than the existing players.
    Yes, Tesla has done some things very differently than traditional auto manufacturers. The question is, if [insert big name car company here] introduces an electric vehicle with the same or better performance and safety as the Model S at the same or better price, will the "other stuff" that Tesla adds be enough? Again, we don't even know if the big manufacturers will do it.

    One thing you didn't mention that I think provides Tesla with a huge jump start is the Supercharging Network. Any of the big manufacturers could copy the concept but it couldn't happen overnight.
    2014 Crystal Red, Pebble Beige

  11.  

    Advertisement

  12. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    1,021

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by realdb2 View Post
    Yes, Tesla has done some things very differently than traditional auto manufacturers. The question is, if [insert big name car company here] introduces an electric vehicle with the same or better performance and safety as the Model S at the same or better price, will the "other stuff" that Tesla adds be enough? Again, we don't even know if the big manufacturers will do it.
    That's really my point. I don't think the inertia of large corporations allow for the nimbleness necessary for them to just easily decide to create such a drastically different car. There are a lot of forces against it - dealers whose revenue streams are at risk, middle management who only know how to implement cars manufactured with disparate parts suppliers, executives who are so linked to the existing model that they will create passive resistance to any change, etc.

    The idea that any existing car manufacturer can just slap some electric motors and a big battery into an existing model to compete in the BEV market is seemingly untrue. Look at BMW. They spent all this time and effort to develop the i3. Why didn't they just convert an existing 3-Series platform to a BEV? I'm asking that rhetorically, because there are obviously a lot of reasons, and they aren't just engineering ones.

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 4 1 4 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 54
    Last Post: 06-17-2013, 12:36 AM
  2. My test drive of the Tesla Model S
    By the43k in forum Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Competitors
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 04-04-2013, 05:33 PM
  3. My test drive of the Tesla Model S
    By the43k in forum Chevy Volt General Discussion, News, and Events
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-25-2013, 02:46 PM
  4. Tesla Falls After N.Y. Times Model S Test-Drive
    By PowerTrip in forum Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Competitors
    Replies: 113
    Last Post: 02-25-2013, 10:04 AM
  5. First Tesla Model S Test Drives Appearing...
    By cab in forum Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Competitors
    Replies: 32
    Last Post: 07-28-2012, 06:21 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts