If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

Tesla Model S: review

I drove a Tesla Model s recently and thought oppo may want to hear my thoughts. Of course you have nothing better to do than read the musings of a fellow driver, right?

The car:

2014 Model S. Black. Base model.

Like this, except black:

First impressions on the exterior:

It looks very nice (in my opinion). Enough to warrant its price tag, but not so much as to go full Dave Chappelle “I’m rich, $*&%.” Most cars look good in black, and the Model S was no exception.

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It looked bigger than I expected. By comparison, my 3g TL did not look like it was in the same class of car size. I thought it was more comparable to a large sedan from BMW/Mercedes/Audi in terms of scale.

Once inside:

A Tesla does not ‘start’ or ‘run’ in traditional terms. Coming from a gas car with a manual transmission, this was not at all what I was used to. Instead of gauges, it has screens. The screens are really quite interesting, and full customizable. Here is a picture of the interior:

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The cabin was nicely appointed, but honestly I was disappointed. It felt a little too sparse. I expected more quality finishes and touches for a car with this sort of price tag. To the cars credit, it looked very modern and it was quite nice. Everything I touched was soft, and comfortable. It was natural to get in and go - not a ton of adjustment, which I thought was impressive given the level of technology here. Overall, there was no single element that I felt was lacking, I think it was more of a general feeling that it did not live up to my expectations. I know you are paying Tesla primarily for other reasons besides luxury, but I couldn’t help but think that I liked the interior in my 3g TL far more – that should not be true of a car that costs this much. Would it kill you to make it feel special & nice? I’m looking at you Elon Musk. To be fair, it has some really cool features (like the large by huge screen in the middle) and I was generally happy with it, just not as luxurious as I thought it would be.

It had more space than I expected. It all seemed very usable, and it was generally well-designed and well-appointed (just maybe not for $75k). The seats were very comfortable. With very little time, I was able to adjust the seat, mirrors, and controls into a good position for me. I am 6' and had plenty of head room. The controls were unique but remained intuitive. For example, it does not have a gear lever like a traditional automatic. Instead, it has a stalk on the steering wheel that looks and feels more like a turn signal. I found it easy to use, much easier than say a Prius with its Gameboy-esque paddle gear selector.

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Driving impressions:

I think this is what you pay for…. It drives very, very well. It has a very low center of gravity, and you can tell as soon as you attain any speed at all. It handles well from what I could tell. Steering feel was very light at low speeds but seemed to build. I was not able to take it on any challenging roads in terms of handling, so I could not really gauge the suspension and brakes for handling, nor the steering for feel at anything above 4 or 5/10ths. The suspension felt complaint and gave a nice ride. I had the sense I could tell where the car was and what it was doing. I was definitely satisfied with the way that it drove, but I would prefer to take it through some twisty roads to give it the real test (or, in DeMuro style, enter it into an ice race demolition derby cannonball run combo).

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Acceleration was superb. It felt like a fast car to me, probably mostly because the torque is instantaneous. I felt as if I would never be wanting for more power or speed, the car went as fast (or faster) than I wanted it to every time, all the time. I was not able to measure acceleration in traditional terms, but it felt really strong coming out of a stop and equally strong from a roll.

It was initially weird to not have any engine sound, but I quickly got used to it. Really, I did not really notice the lack of noise after a few minutes – particularly true when driving with music or a companion. The ‘transmission’ was good in the sense that I did not notice it – it did not interfere with driving (I’m using quotes here because I honestly have no idea what transmission the Tesla uses, if any). Overall, I found the drive enjoyable. I think it is fun enough to wring it out when you want and really enjoy it, but comfortable and practical enough to transport the family or business associates, go to the grocery store, etc.

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The biggest surprise was the intrusion of regenerative braking into normal driving habits. If you are on the gas, it drove like a normal automatic car minus the noise, and plus power (depending on what you’re used to). As soon as you left off the gas, the regenerative braking kicks in and kicks in hard. To give you an idea of how effective it was, I could basically drive with only the accelerator. I only used the actual brakes to come to a complete stop, and even then you only need it right before you are about to stop – the regenerative brake will take care of it. When I did use the actual brakes, they felt more than adequate. I did not really test them much because I did not have any twisty roads and the regenerative brake system was so darn good.

Will it baby? Yes. The owner has small children, and it appeared to have ample room. While I was not able to personally test this, but reports were good and it looked plenty adequate from what I saw. Also, it has a frunk which helps with storage of child-related items (and potentially children if you’re really brazen).

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I honestly believe that I would purchase this car (or perhaps a similar Tesla yet to be introduced with a cheaper price tag). I think it has enough of a nod to the enthusiast while remaining comfortable, practical, and environmentally friendly. It helps that I live in an area with a service center and really do not need more than ~150 miles of range at a time. As far as charging - won’t you be home at night anyway? I believe it takes about 4 hours to get a full charge. I realize it won’t work for everyone, but for me, if I need more than its range, I could take my wife’s car.

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