The Tesla Model S is a giant step towards the future of automobiles, earning countless positive reviews and awards over the past couple of years. But nothing beats actually getting behind the wheel of a car to experience it yourself. I stopped by Tesla’s showroom in Palo Alto to go for a test drive and recorded the experience using Google Glass.
I’ve seen dozens of Teslas driving around San Francisco and Silicon Valley, examined samples at trade shows and sat in the passenger seat for a quick drive on the highway. But I hadn’t actually had a chance to actually drive one. As the lease on my family’s sedan is coming to an end, I figured I’d might as well consider all of my options.
After speaking to a Tesla Motors salesperson by phone a couple of times I stopped by the company’s showroom in Palo Alto for the test drive. The small showroom only had a couple of cars in it and a bare Model S chassis. But there were a handful of demo cars in the parking lot, including the gray Model S P85+ I got to drive.
The Model S is large, roomy sedan that I thought would accommodate my 6′ 4″ frame without any issues. But as I settled in behind the wheel and started making adjustments I immediately noticed that the headrests are too low and aren’t adjustable. The back seat had even lower headrests that some Model S owners say interfere with child booster seats. The interior is pretty sparse compared to other luxury cars, but that’s a tradeoff Tesla has to make in the interest of reducing the car’s weight and improving its range.
I asked the salesperson to give me a tour of all of the adjustment and electronic features. He ran through an impressive array of settings screens and options on the car’s massive display. But there were some glaring omissions that I would’ve expected to be standard on a car in this price range. The Model S doesn’t offer any sort of lane-keeping assist or warning system. There are no collision avoidance features. It has a single backup camera rather than a surround-view camera system, like the ones found on some BMW, Mercedes and Audi models.
Speaking of Mercedes; as I was adjusting the mirrors I noticed something familiar. The window and side-view mirror control buttons were borrowed from Mercedes. As I went to shift the car into drive, I noticed another very familiar part. The gear selector on the Model S is borrowed from Mercedes as well. A lot of cars borrow parts from others, but seeing components that are several years old cheapened my first impression of the $110,000+ Model S P85+’s interior.
The interior’s flaws quickly faded to the back of my mind as soon as I steered away from the dealership and headed toward the highway. The acceleration is simply incredible. There are a handful of expensive cars that can accelerate from 0-60 in four seconds or so, but I’ve never felt a vehicle accelerate so smoothly and silently. I can absolutely confirm that how it drives lives up to the hype. It’s sure-footed, powerful and easy to control.
The Tesla Model S doesn’t have a transmission, and there are a few other quirks that I assumed would make the car’s controls feel foreign. While there wasn’t any way to downshift, the car’s regenerative braking mostly made up for it.
The Tesla Model S is indeed amazing. No question about it. However, by the end of my test drive I had a few more reservations than I did before it began. I’d still like to own a Tesla at some point, but I think the company needs to further refine its cars so that those shifting from other luxury cars don’t give up safety features and creature comforts they’re used to.