I mentioned last week that I signed up for a test drive. Following their instructions I turned up 15 minutes early for my 10am apt. It being a store in the mall though, they generally don’t open before 10am so I think there’s some confusion around that first slot for the day. They did open a few minutes early and collected my drivers license information. They only confirmed the car I currently have and then we headed off to the car. The Natick, MA store has 6 bays in a garage near JC Penny. Normally we would have walked through JC Penny but the store was closed so it was a bit of a detour around it to get to the cars. Evidently any Tesla owner can use those bays at any time to charge which is really nice, its walking distance from my office and something I hadn’t considered. I can save some home electricity charges if I plan things right.
The picture below shows the 3 cars that were there, 2 test drive cars and one owned by one of the Tesla employees (far right):
I test drove the red one which was a 60 kWh battery version. The sales guy said the weight/handling would be similar to the 85kWh version I was interested in since they pad the missing battery cells with equivalent weight. The car had the parking sensors on it (good since I wanted to see/test those) and the air suspension which I would have preferred not to have on the tester since I wasn’t interested in that option. It had the panoramic sun roof too which was good to see and the tech package. Other than the suspension and the battery capacity it was pretty close in features to what I was thinking about.
We spent a bit of time looking in the trunk and front trunk (frunk), folding down seats etc. Some interior spaces haven’t come out well in pictures online so I wanted to look in the nooks and crannies. Evidently the cargo net in the frank was free/included in the early cars, now I see it listed for $20 online at their site, so I think its not included any more. As I expected there was a lot of space but little interior lighting for it which is pretty well documented on the forums. He showed me the charger/connector and disconnected it and put it in the trunk. He said for people charging at home, if they’re just doing day trips within range they usually just leave the mobile connector at home. An extra one is $650 which, next to the price of the car, isn’t too much but i’m hoping its not needed.
Next we got inside and went through the all the features on the big touchscreen. It looks great online and in the videos, but even better in person. The screen is really sharp, the options etc are very responsive. Otherwise the features are pretty well documented and work as you’d expect from the videos online.
We didn’t go over the display in front of the driver much before the drive but I did change some settings a bit as I drove along. I thought there would be a few more options there but it seems those mini “applications” are pretty limited right now, room for growth I guess. Not sure what else i’d want but just had the impression it was limited. He said there was some way to control the sunroof from the steering wheel controls but he didn’t remember how. I short circuited a lot of the standard demo speech since I had done a lot of reading/viewing before the test drive and was pretty well informed.
The test drive was out of the mall parking garage, onto the Mass Pike (I90), then back along Route 9 East and back to the garage. A few impressions from the drive:
- The car was very quiet
- The speed pass worked fine when he held it up to the windshield where the black dots are on the right of the rear view mirror (people have had issues with this)
- When you accelerate hard you can hear the motor in the back whine a bit. Its only under hard acceleration and not annoying but I wasn’t expecting it as they tout total silence but thats not really true.
- It had good pickup, but I was expecting that and i’ve owned and driven a number of fast cars so it was what I expected.
- You can really feel the weight of the car. It feels heavier than my MDX, about the weight of my wife’s ML-350 diesel. I know the weights don’t match but thats sort of what it feels like (except the ML-350 doesnt move that quickly!)
- I found out for test drives they software limit the vehicle to 80 mph max. He explained that it accelerates so fast test drivers were getting tickets. No comment on how that topic came up :p
- I set all the settings for the drive to the “pure” experience with full regen braking etc to get a feel for it. For just a few minutes the regen braking is very new but you very quickly get used to it and appreciate the beauty of it. I think that will make commuting a lot better.
- I expected the car to drive very differently from an ICE car but it was very easy to drive and get used to.
- The rear visibility through the rear view mirror is very small and limited (the person who owned a Tesla at the store said it hasn’t been an issue) but the big rear view camera you can have on at any time (I had it on all the time) removes all rear blind spots if you remember to look in it.
- The controls for opening the sunroof seem too far buried/clunky. Im hoping they add some more software controls to make that easier.
At the end of the drive he asked me what the main impression I had from the drive was, and I said how quiet it was. Its very different to drive a car that makes basically no sound.
I really enjoyed the drive and the sales guy was very knowledgeable about the car. I had a few questions going in that I hadn’t really answered online yet, they’re here in case anyone else wonders the same thing:
- Bluetooth audio test – I wanted to see how easy it was to pair my phone since I play book tapes all the time. It was a simple process. It was disappointing it didn’t show the song name etc as even lower end Mazda’s can do that these days. I hope thats just a software update away.
- Ambient lights – the car inside has 4 LED lights in the cabin, 2 in front and 2 in the rear. Thats basically all the lighting. There’s no “base level” ambient lights. We drove during the day time so I can’t really say how bright they are. From my last few cars i’m very used to the ambient lights and I drive a lot at night. Ambient lights sort of make it feel like you’re not sitting alone in the dark for long periods. Anyway, it seems a pricy upgrade for $1,000 to add them but from what I saw I decided i’d want them versus getting stuck for 7+ years without them.
- Dashboard material – I don’t keep my cars very clean. So lighter colors inside and no gloss is preferred. The Obeche Wood Matte was the Model S on the show floor an it was just what I was thinking — won’t show fingerprints or dust easily.
- Body – i’ve been on the fence between grey and brown for a color. After looking at the combinations and talking to the sales folks I was firmly in the grey category.
- Rear hidden space – Didn’t come out in pictures so I wanted to see it in person. Its odd that it connects underneath to the side pockets in the rear of the trunk too. Definitely need something to stop things banging/sliding around.
- Internal storage – The only enclosed internal storage is the glovebox which is a pretty standard size and is not lockable. There is a small shelf under the touchscreen pretty much so you can rest your phone. The lack of internal storage space is a concern for me. I like to carry around a bunch of “just in case things” like cell charges, umbrellas, Advil, etc. Im in the car 3 hours a day, I need a place to put stuff. Tesla is working on a center console to add some storage space but its not available for order yet.
- Rear climate/seat heater controls – my family loves seat heaters and they love to set their own temperatures. I like it cold (permanently set to 66), they like it hot. Other than window controls there are no controls in the back. I’d get the cold weather package which adds seat heaters for all 3 positions in the rear — they just can’t control their own seat heaters as the only controls are via the touchscreen which is unreachable from the rear. This is just sort of odd. I have to control the temperature of my passengers rear ends. What engineer thought that was smart? I guess dual zone temperature (versus tri-zone) is normal for a car. My last 2 have been SUVs so this wasn’t something I expected to give up.
- Winter tires, are they needed/recommended in MA? Thats an extra hassle if so and not something i’ve ever had to deal with. According to the sales guy most people aren’t doing that, but he suggested I ask the service people too.
- Does GPS store favorites? It doesnt, or at least he couldn’t find it. This is a major oversight in the software and pretty simple to fix. It does remember recently used places etc. But you can’t save places and go to a short list of important places. When I’m driving I always have a destination in the GPS even if i’ve been there 100 times before. I like the ETA, miles left, etc and I also like it to remind me to make turns (silently!) since I get into those audio books.
- Can you enter an address while driving? Yes. My Lexus locked you out when you’re moving, my Acura didn’t. Tesla doesn’t thank goodness. That drives me crazy.
- The test drive had v5.8 of the software installed. 6.0 is a major update coming soon (Summer?)
- I asked him about how careful you have to be on the frunk open/close. He stressed 2 hands, evenly spaced etc. I don’t like having to be careful with things like doors and trunks. If its that delicate they should have put a motor on it. It means I won’t be using the frunk very often. Just keeping “just in case” stuff there like extra jackets, etc. You never know when the weather will change in Massachusetts.
- Parking sensors – they’re front and rear and work well. I parked front in and then back in. They seem to start warning you about 2′ out. Between them and the camera there should be no excuse for poor parking. I’ve never had the sensors on a car but its an addition i’d like in my next one.
That was about it for the test drive. When we were done we went into the showroom to talk options and choices. I’ll cover that in my next post.