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I ran into an article that implied that Tesla considers the Model S an expensive and fast car, but that it is not a luxury car. I don’t know if that is really the company official stance on things, but that’s a real hard sell if so. Elon has been caught calling it a luxury car, so I think the signals aren’t clear. Look through the forums and how people are treating the car with paint protection films, paint sealants, doing custom lighted logos, etc. At close to $100,000 per car people are going to expect luxury regardless of what you say.

From all reports Tesla is really close to hitting the luxury mark on the items they do provide and their build quality. I think perhaps the statement is more that the car does not include any unnecessary features, options, or half baked ideas. When I got my MDX, the iPod connector was a lot like that. It was a relatively expensive upgrade ($150 or so) and once plugged in (old port type) it locked you out of the controls on your iPhone and the car couldn’t control anything on the phone except play, pause and skip. With 100+ songs that makes it unusable. The cable was too short for the driver to reach, it was buried in the glove box, wasn’t future proof etc. It was immature technology and poorly delivered. I made my case to Acura and they refunded my money in the form of service credits (used on all those oil changes i’ll never need again). I don’t have my Tesla yet but the cars are definitely not loaded with even some of the more mature technologies.

Things you get/expect these days with even a Jeep-class car like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and other useful/safety features just aren’t there. There are a lot of things that are there, but several that aren’t. The one that i’ve never had that I wish the Tesla had is adaptive cruise control. Surely the range-geniuses could have argued that encouraging cruise control all the time to justify it? Its a pretty mature technology these days. I drive a LOT on cruise control. I would have paid for it but i’m not a big fan of 3rd party additions, especially ones that clutter the car.

In the fit and finish department, the things that stick out to me are the odd/missing/inconsistent items. I do think it’s great that they are re-thinking every aspect of cars. For example, Tesla doesn’t have a spare tire. Its not included and you can’t get one. In the last 400K miles i’ve driven on my last 2 cars i’ve never had a flat tire (watch me get one in my remaining 4 weeks). That seems like a very reasonable call.

There are other things that just don’t make sense to me and seem like mistakes:

  • Very limited driver accessible storage. Drive 3 hours a day, take cross country trips, and this is a real pain. Where do I keep the Advil? Umbrella? Charge cables? etc. They have an announced center console option with a 6+ month wait list for it. I’m on the list. I’ll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile my wife has some creative ideas we’ll probably try to gain some storage. There’s a tray/shelf under the big screen that is big enough to store your phone and perhaps sunglasses and then an odd/queer pocket on the front of the driver seat (only). Thats it. No center console storage, no door storage, no nooks in the dash or anywhere else for change.
  • No cup holders or storage at all in the back seat. You’re going to call this a family car and have no cup holders or storage? What family do you come from? Cars are tools, they’re meant to be used. Live in it, drive it, live life. No side pockets on the doors, no pockets on the backs of the seats, no fold down armrest in the middle of the back seat. This is just a terrible set of decisions. Their only answer so far? Wimpy bands on the floor where the kids can kick the drinks over. There are skunk works pictures of a center storage/armrest thing but nothing official. Sad. If you get the cold weather package they take it to a new level where you get heated seats in the back that the rear occupants can’t control. Really?
  • No grab handles. There’s many reasons for the handles in the cars. People joke that they’re for when you’re driving fast or crazy, but people who are old or sick or just need extra help need those. They can also double-duty as garment hangers (since those are also excluded in the car). This is not only an omission but an affront to people that need the extra help.
  • The cup holder location looks crazy, its too far back. There are 2 cup holders in the car (front seats only) in the middle which doubles as an arm rest (not sure you can both rest your arm and have a cup of something yet as you have to slide the arm rest back to access the cup holder) (and it has no storage). My MDX has 8 cup holders, i’ve rarely used more than 7 simultaneously… Its almost like didn’t want to put them in so they made them near useless. I don’t have the car yet so i’ll have to see how bad they are.

Then there are the odd decisions which seem to conflict with the whole minimalist concept:

  • The USB ports are in an odd place, out in the open, so is the car power port. The car doesn’t support CDs/DVDs etc, the only way to play external stuff is through their 3G network connection via the services they decide to support, over bluetooth (likely the main thing i’ll do) or via a USB stick. The USB sticks (unless you find a fancy rotating/right angle one) stick out like a sore thumb and are bound to get broken off or damaged in regular use. Why aren’t they hidden/buried out of sight? Why not have some easily accessible and some more hidden? Probably comes back to the lack of storage. What about those rear seat occupants again? No charging for them. My only conclusion can be that the guys that made the car don’t have teenagers.
  • The front trunk (frunk) warps. This is a car they expect you to use, and use a lot. Meanwhile they have instructions, videos and warnings all over the place telling you where to place your hands to close the frunk without creasing the aluminum. Couldn’t they have re-enforced it or added a power-frunk option? Someone hasn’t dealt with it yet. People say because of this they don’t use the frunk much.
  • Tire Camber. I don’t know much about tires but reading the forums can sure put you off if you think about the tires, the angles, how fast they wear, how nobody seems to get them right other than the very limited service centers. I’ve never thought about such things on any other car. Why is this special? Why did they let it become a thing?

Don’t get me wrong, i’m a fan and shortly (not soon enough!) an owner. But these small things can really detract from the amazing things they’ve done. I’m sure, like other Tesla owners out there, i’ll find a way to make the space and decisions work for me but even if it isn’t a luxury car, why should I have to re-invent storage for my car?