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2012 Tesla Model S Initial Driving Impressions: Video

 
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Easily one of the most anticipated cars of the year, if not the decade, the new 2012 Tesla Model S is in very hot demand, so getting a chance to drive one has been next to impossible.

Even those fortunate enough to be given some time behind the wheel have only been allowed to drive the thing for around 10 minutes, though our colleague John Voelcker who recently took a Model S for a spin on the busy streets of New York City got 20 minutes and was able to ride along as a passenger as well for around double that time.

Read the full report over at Green Car Reports.


The test car was the limited-edition ‘Signature Series Performance’ model, which features the Model S’ biggest battery, an 85 kWh unit, as well as its most powerful motor, rated at 416 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque.

It also packs the most luxury, yet accelerates from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, which is about as fast as a BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. Lower trim Model S sedans are quoted at 5.6 seconds for the 0-60 mph run, which is still faster than most cars in the luxury sedan segment.

Here is a quick breakdown of Voelcker's initial driving impressions.

He found the performance of the Model S to be very addictive and “quietly spectacular.” He said there was no hiding the car’s 4,700-pound curb mass, though it would still surge swiftly and effortlessly away from other vehicles.

The EPA-rated range for this particular Model S trim is 265 miles and an 89-MPGe efficiency rating, which should eliminate any trace of range anxiety for regular daily use (outside of long road trips), but as Voelcker found planting the throttle all the time can virtually halve that range.

To make sure it’s as comfortable as its rivals, if not more so, the Model S gets an air suspension setup. This was found to offer a ride quality that’s firm over small road imperfections, with a little more feedback transmitted than might be expected. Handling of the car inspired confidence, with an obviously low center of gravity, but the Model S was a little heavier-feeling than expected.

Something else unexpected, at least for a Tesla, was very mild regenerative braking, even its highest regenerative mode. Experienced electric-car drivers often prefer "one-pedal driving," planning ahead enough to use solely regenerative braking to slow down almost to a stop. That's not quite as easy in the Model S, Voelcker points out, since its weight gives it more rolling momentum.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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As for the interior, Voelcker found that the giant 17-inch touch-screen based interface put most other systems to shame. “The Mercedes-Benz COMAND system, BMW's notorious iDrive, the mass-market MyFordTouch, and others are instantly outdated and primitive,” he explained.

It wasn’t all good, however. He found that the interior was relatively plain and unadorned overall, once you got over the hype of the car.

Tesla is currently building an initial run of 1,000 Model S Signature Series Performance models after which it plans to start building lower trim examples. The company is taking its time with production to ensure there are no initial quality issues but is adamant it will reach its stated goal of delivering up to 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of the year.

Hopefully we'll be able to bring you our own comprehensive first drive report soon.

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Comments (12)
  1. I love everything about this car. Once it's been on sale for a few years, and the reliability of the technology is proven, I'm buying one. I've always thought automakers have been so slow to adopt new technology. I hope Tesla really shocks them, just like Apple did with mobile phones. It's so funny to see leaders like Nokia and RIM now struggling. It will happen in the auto industry too.
     
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  2. The problem this car faces is what Musk has been avoiding - tests that demonstrate that Tesla's "300 mile" range is an impossible dream when driving on actual interstate highways, or with the air conditioner or heater running, or hilly terrain, or a full load, or all of the above. Not to mention the yearly decline due to battery deterioration. Owners will be shocked,I'm quite certain.
     
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  3. You again? This petrolhead has posted negative stuff on almost every Tesla article out there.
    A 300 mile range is achievable driving at 55 mph, so says Tesla. No one will be shocked unless they hide under a rock, don't read articles about the expensive car they just bought, and ignore what the Tesla rep tells them during their personalized customer orientation.
    Tesla has provided a range curve on one of their blogs to show the relationship between range and speed. At 70 mph, 235 miles is what it can do with a 300lbs of load (one passenger and a couple small suitcases). The car is capable of over 400 miles of range at city speeds. The Performance version can get to sixty in 4.4 sec. and do the quarter mile in 12.6 sec, beating every rival.
     
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  4. I wouldn't waste any time on Kent. He clearly doesn't 'get it'. Not only is the Model S kicking gas car butt in performance, but what no one is really mentioning is that electric cars will kill them in reliability and running costs too. Once the newness of the technology is gone, people will be flocking to electric cars.

    Much lower fuel cost (plus no foreign oil).
    Brakes last longer thanks to regeneration
    Barely any moving parts, hardly any servicing
    Cleaner air in the cities
    Option of using solar power at home for FREE fuel.

    The list goes on and on.

    The Model S is a bit too much car for me. I'm waiting for the 3-Series rival.
     
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  5. Just about every car can half its range by flooring it. In fact, some supercars get 4 mpg at the track. With a 15 gallon tank (which I doubt they have) that's only 60 miles of driving between fill ups. If the Model S can do 133 miles while being driven hard, that is impressive for a super sports car.
     
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  6. The Roadster only got about 55 miles by flooring it then slamming on the brakes repeatedly as proven by Top Gear.
     
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  7. Hi Samuel,

    We certainly aren’t criticizing the Model S for that. We’re simply pointing out that like a gas car, if you’re going to drive fast expect your range to drop.

    Also, we haven’t fully tested the Model S yet. The range dropping was based on the Model S’ estimate during only about 20 minutes of driving. We can’t tell how the range would change if we drove like that for more time.
     
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  8. Electric cars are older than the gas engined ones. Inevitably, are the future of short commuting...
     
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  9. Correction: I meant to say that electric cars are the future of the short commuting...
     
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  10. I very much doubt that. Electric cars will be the future of commuting. Period. Here's why -

    Batteries are only going to get lighter and capable of storing more power.
    Charge times will only be getting faster and more infrastructure appearing.
    Finally, we already have long-range electric cars. They're called extended range electric vehicles or EREVs for short. They will rely on gas, diesel or fuel cell tech to act as their range extenders.

    See my earlier post for the reasons why no one will want a gas car. It may not be today, but it will be sooner than you think. Just ask the people at Nokia, RIM, Kodak....
     
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  11. Comment disabled by moderators.

     
  12. I hear that the tire on the Tesla coupe wear out in 5,000 miles, will this be the same for the Tesla S?
     
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