We Ride In the World's Only 2012 Tesla Model S Prototype

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2012 Tesla Model S - waiting for our 90-second ride

2012 Tesla Model S - waiting for our 90-second ride

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Sometimes it's all about being in the right place at the right time. That's how we got our ride in the world's only running prototype of the 2012 Tesla Model S just before midnight last night, joining a long line of Tesla owners and soon-to-be owners, potential customers, and the occasional friend-of-Elon.

With the cheerful Zak Edson Zack as our driver, the ride was all of 90 seconds, including getting in and out. Very quick impressions:

- PERFORMANCE: It's no Roadster, but you wouldn't expect it to be. Rather than the Roadster's pure-jet-engine thrust, the Model S accelerates away quickly and smoothly. Tesla quotes 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and we'd say that felt about right.

- SOUND: Like the Roadster, the Model S is all but silent as it moves off.

- STYLING: It's a handsome car in the flesh, and getting in and out of the rear isn't too tough. The rear-quarter heaviness we sometimes see in photos isn't apparent when you're looking down at the car.

- INTERIOR: The rear seat is close-coupled but comfortable, with large bolsters on both sets of seats. The 6'4" rider next to us, David Brussin, fit fine in the rear--and really loved those seats.

- INSTRUMENT PANEL: The huge display and control screen is as cool as it looks, though in our 90 seconds, we couldn't work out which parts were live and which were just a simulation.

We noticed the prototype's anti-lock brakes don't seem to be working yet. On a run after ours, Zack slammed on the brakes just 50 feet from the waiting crowd and locked up both front tires in a haze of smoke. But since this is still one of the handsomer development mules on the roads, we can't ding it for that.

Our total seat time was far too short, but given the procedures--sign up for a ride, wait to be paged, acquire pink ticket, cross highway, wait in line--we were happy to have had it.

- BOTTOM LINE: For a development mule, the 0-40 mph acceleration feels like it meets the promised speeds. The interior is comfortable and lives up to the standards of the class.

- TBD: Ride comfort. Range. Durability. Production schedule. Option list. Final pricing for battery-pack options. Cost of new 480-Volt charging system. Build quality. Tesla's survival.

Our ride was held inside the cavernous Chelsea Piers sports complex, across the West Side Highway in Manhattan from Tesla's swanky Model S New York launch party, held yesterday evening in the bluelit lobby of architect Frank Gehry's IAC Building.

We rode with Tesla fan and soon-to-be-owner David Brussin, CEO of startup Monetate, who'd come up to NYC from Philadelphia to see the Model S in person and chat with other Tesla owners. Brussin expects the 2009 Tesla Roadster Sport he ordered to be delivered this summer. We hope he enjoys his Roadster as much as we did the one we road-tested.

2012 Tesla Model S - Your Ride, Sir?

2012 Tesla Model S - Your Ride, Sir?

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2012 Tesla Model S - instrument panel display screen

2012 Tesla Model S - instrument panel display screen

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2012 Tesla Model S - and away they go

2012 Tesla Model S - and away they go

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Tesla Model S launch party guests, IAC Building, Manhattan

Tesla Model S launch party guests, IAC Building, Manhattan

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