My first Tesla experience, my take

I haven’t had one show up at any of the dealers I service until today. Here’s my opinion on general overall quality, so much has been said over the years I was always curious. I have a background in the collision industry and currently am in the interior business doing cosmetic repairs, so I pay a lot of attention to interior materials and quality. I took an fairly close overall look, but didn’t inspect it thoroughly as I feel that requires much more time and at least some seat time with varying road conditions.

Outside, the first thing I was curious about was the panel gaps being as they draw so much attention, this car being white it made it easier to pick up on (most body techs I know don’t like white cars). While I wasn’t offended by it overall, there was some inconsistencies with the tolerances, white being the worst offender for showing it. I’m thinking that other colors may not announce it as much. As such it wouldn’t change my mind if I was shopping for one. Paint looked nice, but white car/sunny day didn’t give me the best environment to pick it apart. But looked to be a quality finish. Overall I found it solid with the panel gaps being it’s only glaring weakness. Closing the doors felt solid.


Inside, I like it, but it is sprinkled with a few disappointments. I like the design and layout. It’s comfortable and attractive in my opinion. I find the screen to be a little big, but not so much that I have any feels about it beyond that. The software was intuitive in my brief walk through it. The switches and all the gear on the stalk are all Mercedes, something I didn’t know. I find that a plus. The trim on the dash also looked very Mercedes as well. The seats, while comfortable, are the low point for me. The leather in this one felt, looked and wore like a mixed bag of average Japanese and domestic offerings. Think Toyota quality if I had to choose the closest comparison. While it’s not bad stuff, it doesn’t belong in something trying to compete with any major player in that price range. The door panels you can tell are made in lower production technique found in stuff like a Ferrari, giving them a nice appearance and feel. This could be something that doesn’t hold up well with age. If the glue starts to let loose and the material starts to shrink it won’t be pretty. This car exhibited this very issue on the B pillar trim, but it is a high traffic area which could have contributed. This car being a 5 year old example bodes well, however it has low miles (39k) and appears garage kept. I’d be curious to see a 5 year old with twice the miles in Southwest U.S. conditions to see how it’s holding.

I don’t know what, if anything, has changed since the 2013 model year or different models. But assuming there’s progress with the panel gaps, some plastic trim bits and choosing different seat material could make this car direct competition with the German offerings. If they continue to offer this very thing they will get dusted when the bigger companies start offering something in direct competition...because as it stands they are their only real competition at this point (premium electric models).


TL;DR: All told I like it, and I’d consider one at this point after spending a short time with it. If anything, even if Tesla doesn’t make it, this is an important car, in my opinion, as it jump started the segment like the Prius did for hybrid models. Things like the door handles and some of it’s other features are nice touches...and it’s a looker.

Illustration for article titled My first Tesla experience, my take

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