Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Preview: Quick look at the Tesla Model S

Earlier this winter, I had the occasion to pay a visit to the Tesla store in Santa Monica, CA where they had the Model S on display. While I have seen the Tesla Model S in photos, this was the first time that I had seen the luxury EV in person and I must admit, it looks every bit as impressive in person as it does on paper. In addition to being able to see the exterior, I had the opportunity to sit in the car and play with some of the controls, touch the surfaces, and see many of the cars basic functions in action. Unfortunately, a test drive was not in the cards, but I was able to spend enough time to get some good impressions of many aspects of the car.

Examining the car from outside, the paint exhibits excellent depth and luster and the plastic surfaces that make up the "grille" in front as well as some of the exterior surfaces look glossy and luxurious. Walking up to the car, it greets you with an extension of the door handles. A light pull and the substantial feeling door glides open with the well-damped motion expected of a car in this price range.

Sliding into the seat, the new car small enveloped me as I explored the interior. The first thing to catch my attention is the large 17-inch touch screen, which controls nearly ever possible function in the car. The transitions between screens is fluid and everything is logically laid out, making them easy to find and easy to use, though I suspect it will be distracting when actually driving. Turning my attention to the instrument cluster, the cars vital information is on display and easily legible. Controls on the steering wheel allow for a substantial amount of adjustment, though without taking the car for a drive, it is hard to determine if the screens are useful or distracting.

Sliding my hands across the different surfaces, the piano black surfaces feel like they came off a real piano, the leather is soft and supple, the minimal switch gear (much of it borrowed from Daimler) offers just the right amount of resistance, and the car exudes the perfect combination of luxury and sport, much like the interior of the Porsche Panamera. The one major difference, is that, unlike the Panamera, the interior feels positively spacious, offering excellent head, shoulder, and hip room. The massive panoramic sunroof does not intrude on headroom at all and offers those in the back access to a substantial amount of sunlight. And since the floor is totally flat, those stuck sitting in the middle seat in the back do not suffer the same amount of intrusion as they would in a traditional gasoline powered car.

All told, it is hard to fault this car on build quality as every seam lines up nicely, nothing felt out of place, and the advancement in technology is hard to deny. Without a test drive, it is hard to get a good sense of the overall feel for the car, but as a first impression, I have to admit that I am quite smitten with the appearance. Hopefully, the opportunity will arise to take a test drive in the not too distant future.

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