Sunday, November 6, 2011

Model S Beta - Classic Car Club: Manhattan

On Sunday October 30, after a fun filled night of Halloween activities, I shot over to the Classic Car Club: Manhattan on Hudson near Canal in NYC. Having previously worked in the area for a while, I'm used to seeing impressive old Mercedez and Porches outside. On Sunday, there was an R8, an M5 and a Nissan GTR, all parked on the sidewalk completely unconcerned with any laws they might be breaking. As exciting as those cars are, I was there for something a bit less... noisy.

I've previously seen the showroom mint-green Tesla Roadster and the Model S at the event in Princeton, NJ, but this time it was different. Tesla has launched a tour of North America featuring the Beta version of the Model S. While the event in Princeton has the Model S prototype, built on a Mercedes chassis, this tour features a purpose-built Model S Beta on a Tesla chassis, and is said to be 90% production intent. Also different, this time we could touch- we just had to wait in line for 20 minutes.

Mike Sexton of Tesla worked the crowd, doing a great job of answering the questions while we all waited in line. Mike highlighted how aware Tesla is about getting charging stations set up along important corridors. Most impressively, I think, is that they are talking to their customers to help define these corridors, not government studies or marketing hype. It's the reason they've placed a charging station in the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT (great write up here) as well as in Philly- so Roadster owners can make the NYC to Boston and NYC to DC trips with a single recharge. Tesla kept that same approach during the event, taking feeback from all of us about the shape, about the seating, and about that pesky slamming hatch - twice it came down with a loud BOOM as curious people tried to close it and let it go too soon.

The interior of the Model S was spacious and comfortable. We noticed the AirCon was on and the Tesla rep commented that the car had been on the whole time. The center console touch sensitive screen dominated our attention, though. Currently running on Linux, the rep suggested that Tesla is still considering having it run on microsoft, Linux or even a custom OS from Tesla. I'd prefer not having to reboot- Linux please.

As beautiful as the Model S is, I wasn't particularly fond of the dashboard. As the place (other than the road) that a driver will likely spend the most time looking, the dash was surprisingly bland. While it provides all the essential info, there isn't any texture or character to it. It's just a flat digital screen. For a car that has done such a great job merging form and function, the dash is decidedly functional. Definitely disappointing, but not sure it's a showstopper.

Here's looking forward to a few more close encounters- maybe on a test drive?

A few more shots:

My shutter was a bit to fast for these -

Some exterior shots

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