Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tesla Model S mini review

Tesla mini review

Thanks to my friend Étienne, I got to take a short drive in a Tesla Model S 85 the other day. Étienne picked me up and we drove one lap of the mountain. Here are my impressions.

Sorry for the lousy night-time photo!
When I first entered the car, I noted the interior seemed current and nicely finished. I was most surprised by the sheer size of the central screen. It seemed like a 17-inch computer screen tipped on its side. I didn’t scroll through all the menus, but it seemed easy to navigate, compared to the system on a friend’s Mercedes. There did not seem to be a bunch of useless menus or settings. Also, I was surprised to realize the car was a hatch-back, as I had never noticed this before. I went and sat in the back seat, where there was ample leg room (I’m 6-foot-2) . However, the ceiling was less than an inch from the top of my head and I can imagine hitting it when going over a bump in the road. I guess this is the price to pay in any sleek-looking sedan. It would be nice if Tesla engineers could come up with thinner seat cushions to lower the rear passenger by an inch or so.

As I began to drive, I immediately noticed how quiet the car was. I'm sure everyone says this, but it really is that noticeable. It sounded just like a car coasting to a stop after the engine has stalled. Other than that, it felt like a normal, relatively large sedan. The power delivery is smooth, as one would expect. I was a bit surprised at how much “engine braking” there was once you ease off the gas. It felt as if you were letting go of the gas at maybe 4 000 rpm in a typical gasoline-powered car. You can reduce this effect in the menu. 

The suspension was a bit stiff, and did not deal well with the first few potholes we came across. However, the over all handling was quite nice and the car cornered flatly on the twisty road leading up to the top of Mount Royal Park.

Visibility out the front is good and the car seems smaller than it is from this perspective, as the nose is quite short. You realize that most of the girth of the car sits behind the driver. Visibility out the back is not great, as the rear window is just not that big. Again, this is something you can get used to, although I did not have to parallel park the car at any time.

As for the actual power, it is pretty spectacular. I floored the “gas” pedal briefly climbing Parc avenue beside the mountain and the car just quietly WENT. It’s not the fastest car I have ever driven in a straight line, but it’s plenty fast for the street. The acceleration is actually astounding from a car that is both so quiet and so big.

What is crazy is that after only a few minutes, it felt totally normal to be driving this quiet, electric car. Apart from travelling long distances in a single day, I can’t imagine what this car can’t do that any other sedan can. As a result, I can’t see why someone in this price range would buy anything else, considering the massive savings in fueling an electric car (a few dollars to travel almost 400 km instead of 70-80$ for a large gas-powered sedan).

Although my time in the car was short, I came away with an excellent first impression. The future of driving is not bleak for car enthusiasts if other companies can build electric cars like this one. Now if only someone could invite me to try out the Roadster...

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