Friday, August 3, 2012

Tesla Get Amped Model S Tour

It's here. It's real. It's... well read on. This should be 2 posts. Just read halfway and come back  ; )

Financial "Planning"

Back in May I did some mental math. I've been pining for a Tesla Model S. You've seen the other blog posts here and here. I'm obsessed. It's not healthy. 

So I had a decision to make. The opportunity cost of reserving a Model S was something like $25. That's roughly how much the deposit money would earn in interest sitting in my savings account for about a year (the expected wait time for delivery). Sure, there is a risk that Tesla will go belly up and take my deposit money with it, but I think there is a reasonable chance that Tesla will live for another year. At this point in my attempts to justify making a reservation, I was being really persuasive - to myself.

Unfortunately, though, the total cost of the Model S, even after incentives, is pretty steep. I live in NYC. I have access to 24/7 gypsy cabs, 14/7 yellow cabs (they seem not to make it to my neck of the woods too long after dark) and 3 different express subway lines. Not to mention that I'm 10 minutes from the commuter rail. PLUS, my 12 year old Mitsubishi Eclipse, occasionally referred to as Grimmie XP,  sits parked on the street 5 days out of the week. I often don't even move it for street cleaning rules (Don't tell Bloomie!) So, I guess you could say I don't need a car. Especially since, even if I rented a car every weekend of every month, it would still cost less than monthly Model S payments and a garage. So, no, I don't need a car, much less a new car. I definitely don't need a new Model S.

All true. But I want one. On May 25th, Tesla opened a new store in White Plains, NY.  As it happens, I was driving up to Boston that weekend. Somehow, I detoured, stopped at the White Plains Mall, and left with a Model S reservation.My girlfriend didn't leave me. We had bad mall-chinese food from Panda Express (or similar). It was sorta awesome.

Even if I don't actually go forward with a purchase, which I probably won't, for $25 of lost interest plus $5k in the Bank of Tesla I get to pretend I WILL buy a Model S. More importantly, I was invited to the Tesla Get Amped Model S Tour to test drive the Model S in Mahwah NJ on July 21st. What a drive it was!

Capacity Planning

The Model S seats 5+2 when you include the optional pair of rear facing jump-seats. The passenger row holds 3 people and Tesla was more than happy to have a driver and three passengers. I invited my girlfriend, my brother and his wife. The three of them fit comfortably in the back seat. My Tesla appointed Co-Pilot happened to be Mike Sexton, who you may know, is not a short man.  All in all, the Model S handled a full load (minus two screaming kids in the rear-facing jump seats) remarkably well. My passengers all commented that they were comfortable in the back row, and the lack of the central "hump" in the floor made even the middle seat quite comfortable. The only concern was the rear passenger seatbelt which was not locking. Mike assured us it was specific to this pre-production/early production car. (Alpha -. Beta -> Pre-Production -> Early Production -> Perfection?)

Wedding Planning

Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps by shear marketing genius, there happened to be an Indian wedding with 400+ guests at the hotel in Mahwah where Tesla set up shop. Dozens of guests flocked to the Model S to ask questions and press the rear hatch button while 6-foot-tall reservation holders sat in the rear jump seats. Never fear, a Tesla rep quick stopped the hatch from sandwiching the hapless future owner before he was smushed in much the same way a city garbage truck compresses trash.  Several Tesla reservation holders hovered around to watch the wedding as it progressed. It seemed like a lot of fun. There was loud music, dancing in the streets, and a groom on horseback with a baby in his arms. Not bad for a Saturday in Jersey.

The Drive

In retrospect, I wish I had been a bit less excited. I might have taken the time to soak in some of the features and nit-pic a bit with the design and workmanship.  But I was giddy and eager to put the Model S through its paces. It performed like a champ. Acceleration was predictably smooth and linear. Handling was steady and controlled, though I only just started getting comfortable as the drive was coming to an end. I can vouch for how well the Model S hugs the corners though, as I pushed it 45-50 MPH on a 25 MPH rated curve, then accelerated out of the turn onto the running lane to merge into freeway traffic. I was in the standard model, not the sport, and I was still impressed with the seemingly limitless power I had available. I thought I detected a bit of oversteer, but again, I didn't have enough time in the vehicle to really test it out. Also, it's not like I do this for a living. Maybe it was just swooning.

Perhaps even more than the acceleration, the regenerative braking was amazing. You read about this regen braking in blogs and reviews and somehow they don't really capture it. Yes, it's a bit like 2nd gear in a manual, but second gear causes a car to lurch as the engine brakes the vehicle, and then gradually fades as the car slows. In the Model S, the deceleration persists even as the vehicle slows. It definitely took some getting used to, but not in a bad way. It was just something new. My passengers were amazed that I was able to slow almost to a stop at an intersection without touching the brake. So was I!

Maybe if I save, work really hard, and move out of NYC I'll have a Model S by next Summer. I'll settle for another test drive and my $5k back. 

I'm working on getting video edited to share. In the meantime, enjoy some more pics!

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