I am now a member of a select club: I'm one of the very few people who have driven Tesla's Model S. After handing over the keys to its first 10 Model S sedans to customers last month, Tesla hasn't delivered any more since. The company has conducted a few test drive events for some of those who have placed orders for the car, but not many.
On Friday, the company allowed a few members of the local press to test drive the car for about 15 minutes each.
The first words that come to mind are "fast and fun."
The car I drove, which is the top-of-the-line Performance version of the Model S, has got some serious pickup. Tesla says it will reach 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. I didn't test that figure, but after punching the accelerator a few times and feeling the car rapidly reaching highway speeds -- and beyond -- I have no reason to doubt it.
The car feels solid and takes curves tightly. Its onboard computers automatically lower its suspension as you get up to highway speeds, making it less likely to rise up as you take tight turns.
One impressive thing about the car is the degree to which you can personalize the driving experience. You can adjust the accelerator to make it feel like a standard transmission, where the gears help slow the car when you let up on the accelerator, or more like an automatic transmission, where there's less of that geared slowing.
You also can adjust the suspension up or down, so you don't drag the cowl when you dip into a driveway, say. And you can adjust the steering to make it tighter, like that in a sports car, or looser, like that in a traditional American luxury car.
The interior of the car feels a bit spartan. It has leather seats and wood trim, but overall is not super-impressive. What stands out is the 17-inch screen that serves as the car's center console. Through it, you adjust the radio, driving experience and climate control. You also use it to view video from the rear-facing camera, maps from Google (GOOG) Maps and even surf the Web through its built-in browser.
I'll have more of an overview later, but if I had $90,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I'd give serious thought to buying this car.
By Troy Wolverton
Courtesy San Jose Mercury
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