Gray, Where did you test drive the car?
I drove a brown P85 at one of the dealerships in the Chicagoland suburbs. I was able drive onto I-94 for a short time in the rain.
Any other first impresions on the drive? I got to sit in one last week at the Denver dealership. I was impressed by the interior. I've been running the numbers and I am temped to get on the waiting list for the S. The batter range will be even better at altitude with the lower air density. It will be a great Front Range car.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a big-soft-couch-luxury-car kind of guy. I'm used to spartan interiors, purely functional controls, a harsh ride, and little sound deadening. A Honda Accord EX is the most "soft" car I drive regularly.
That said - this car is smooth
. The ride is the smoothest of any car I've even been in (this includes an old Buick that a family friend used to own). Needless to say, at 55mph, the car was as soft as my Evo IX standing still (with the engine off). Those of us who have driven a hybrid are familiar with the feeling of "regen" deceleration. It's like decelerating on an automatic transmission by taking your foot off the gas - only in the case of the Model S, it's very very apparent. It's more like letting off the gas at 4000rpm in the Elise. As for the power delivery: the engine/drive/whatever response is instantaneous. This is a word that I think automotive writers have been abusing for a long time to mean "very fast." When I say it, it's because you push the pedal and the electric drive wants to GO. Right. Now. The power delivery is like being on boost - the car pushes you into the back of your seat. It's not quite as brutal as the way the Evo accelerates while on full boost, but I can imagine that it's something you'd do after telling your passengers "check this out!" The steering is nice and direct - the car was set to "sport" most of the time I drove it (as this was the performance model). The rep was demonstrating the variable steering response and turned it to "comfort" while we were doing 5mph in the mall parking lot - my response was "please don't turn it to anything but sport." I didn't get to try the variable height suspension - that option was apparently locked out for the demo models. I was amused by the fact that my mother asked "why wouldn't you always leave it at the lowest setting?" Given that I had already freaked out the rep (only a little), I didn't want to test the handling prowess of the car in the rain on the highway offramp. A couple of small irritations - the stalks on the steering wheel are not where I expect them. The right side stalk is much lower than the location on a lot of modern cars (at least those I have driven in my limited experience). Also, I wish a lot more of the controls had actual tactile buttons so I wouldn't constantly be taking my eyes off the road to make adjustments (I'm just the type of person to be messing with the HVAC while I'm driving as opposed to set-it-and-forget-it). As good as the touch screen interface may be - it won't beat buttons and knobs I can feel without looking while driving on the highway.
I personally don't like the aggressiveness of the traction control/stability control - I honestly don't think a car moving in a straight line, when starting to lose grip should react as violently as I experienced. Unfortunately, it seems that the user community at Tesla Motors Club overlaps with the Apple demographic where the response to "I don't like the way the car seems to be unsettling itself" is "It's your fault! You're doing it wrong!" I'm a little disappointed by the idea that a 4500lb luxury sedan is something that I have to approach like the Lotus - driving it with the understanding that the car is trying to get me killed (e.g snap oversteer). I highly recommend going for a test drive in the snow or rain if you can and give the traction and stability control a try for yourself.
After quite a bit of discussion, we decided we wanted a "lowly" 40kwh model. It won't run M5s, it won't go 300 miles on a single charge, and it won't supercharge - but honestly, we don't need any of that. We need a reliable car that will do 80 miles per day that is reasonably well built, and will fit our two dogs. I honestly believe that there is sufficient R&D going into battery research that 8 years from now when the car is due for a battery replacement, we will be upgrading battery capacity anyway. Even if the battery technology completely stagnates where it is now, we don't really need more than what the car is spec'ed for. From an engineering perspective, we need the car to cover the 90% case, not the 190% case where we can envision trying to beat Alex Roy and going 1000 miles in a day and needing the car to charge in 30 seconds. Yes, we could get a Nissan Leaf, but honestly the Tesla is not that
much more expensive, and the Model S is clearly a better car.