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2012 Tesla Model S: First Ride Report

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Tesla Model S launch

Tesla Model S launch

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On Saturday, exactly one year after it took ownership of the former Toyota NUMMI facility in Fremont, California, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA]  held a series of test-drives aimed to show off the latest Model S Betas to the press and Model S reservation holders. 

We’ve already told you about some of the surprises CEO Elon Musk had in store for the assembled group, but now it’s time to share details of the short chauffeured ride around a small section of NUMMI test track in the 2012 Model S. 

First impressions

Pulling up for our ride, the Model S beta was extremely quiet with no discernible whine from either the electric motor or its power electronics. As two Tesla employees reached towards front and rear door handles -- which electronically retract into the car’s body to reduce aerodynamic drag when moving -- we noticed large amounts of heat coming from the car’s huge 21-inch rear wheels and brake discs, an indication it had been worked hard on previous rides. 

Sitting in the rear seat, there was plenty of headroom and legroom for this 5 foot nine writer, with fit and finish appropriate to a premium luxury car. 

Tesla Model S Alpha build

Tesla Model S Alpha build

Enlarge Photo

Technology, technology, technology

Ahead, the large 17-inch display dominated the center console with a live-updating Google Maps-derived GPS system.  Using satellite images instead of the more traditional wire-framed street-view, the system placed an arrow on-top of Google-streamed map data. 

Although we felt the highly-detailed satellite images were beautifully rendered by the Model S’ high-resolution displays, we wonder if it will prove too detailed -- and too distracting -- to use on a daily basis. We’d expect most customers to stick with the lower-quality but easier-to-understand line-based maps, switching to satellite or street-view images to identify difficult intersections or final destination. 

Underneath the GPS information on the display was enough room for additional information, from audio track details to details about the car’s range. 

Other displays showed the car’s speed and energy consumption history, giving the driver a wealth of information we assume is completely customizable given the digital nature of the dash and center console displays. 


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Comments (11)
  1. Sounds like the Model S is going to be the game changer the electric car world needs. All the major manufacturers may find themselves playing catch up, because Tesla is about to take the lead.

    Great article Nikki, I can't wait to hear more.
     
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  2. Tesla's a great company with great things to come. Can't help but wonder what the sticker price will be. 50G + I'm guessing.
     
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  3. Yes, it's known. Base $57K, loaded sports model with all options, >$90K -- minus any tax breaks and rebates. Total cost of ownership likely to be similar to cars with 35% lower sticker.
     
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  4. This positive news really isn't that much of a surprise, given what we learned from the Rawlinson videos. Sounds like a Rolls to me.
    A Rolls on steroids.
     
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  5. great post
     
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  6. All the respect in the world for Tesla and I hope the company makes it, but calling a very low-volume model that will sell for $50k-$80k a "gamechanger" is a stretch, in my opinion. Niche vehicle, still, and thinking that this will outsell the LEAF or the Volt is puzzling; how many people do you know that will spend $60k-$70k for the Model S compared to a LEAF or Volt?
    Again, the more successful EV makers the better, but there's a reason no new automotive OEM has emerged in decades. Costs to create a company now are higher than ever and subsidies may be on their way out. Where exactly will Tesla make the money necessary to build billions of dollars it will need for dealers, development, legal teams, etc...?
     
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  7. The Model S will be a game changer, how many other premium ALL ELECTRIC sport sedans do you see coming to market?
     
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  8. Yea, Model S isn't competing with the Leaf or Volt, its competing with BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus.

    The Roadster was 40x less production and still a game-changer in the industry by anyone's standards. You can thank the Roadster for every Volt that Chevy sells. The Model S is the next step in the revolution, and while it may not outsell the Volt or the Leaf, it will open people's minds to an electric car in a way that neither of those cars can.
     
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  9. Actually, the limitations of the Leaf and Volt are already restraining the sales numbers, and I think this will continue. With the Volt already priced within 20% of the S, I think it's likely to be seen as a less attractive choice, e.g.
     
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  10. @Brian: With respect, the sales of the Leaf and the Volt are being restrained not by demand but by supply (of both cars) and by limited regional rollout (for the Leaf). There remain waiting lists for each one.
     
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  11. if the cars sells for under $30,000.00 then alot of people will buy it. I'm waiting for the Tesla Hard-Top Convertable to come out then I want one.
     
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