2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012Enlarge Photo
In the Tesla Model S, you can easily find yourself not only pulling away from traffic, but traveling 20 mph over the speed limit. And as in the Roadster, at least in the Model S Performance model, you'll want to do it again and again and again.
Michael Sexton, who runs the Tesla Store in Manhattan, says that it took him about six months before he stopped using his Roadster that way and just drove it--knowing that he had sheer acceleration on tap when he wanted it.
Less regen than Roadster
Smooth but aggressive regenerative braking was a hallmark of the Tesla Roadster. There are only two settings for regenerative braking--Normal and Low--in the Model S, and the (highest) Normal setting felt less aggressive.
Experienced electric-car drivers often prefer "one-pedal driving," planning ahead enough to use solely regenerative braking to slow down almost to a stop. That's not quite as easy in the Model S, since its weight gives it more rolling momentum.
But the new and much larger pool of tech-oriented luxury car buyers who will consider the Model S (Tesla hopes) are likely to want it to drive in a familiar fashion, like an automatic BMW or Audi sedan. In that, Tesla's new sedan succeeds.
The handling inspires confidence, with an obviously low center of gravity, but the Model S is a little heavier-feeling than we'd expected. It was more like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class we recently tested than the last BMW 5-Series we drove a couple of years ago.
And we look forward to the head-to-head comparison tests that traditional auto magazines are likely to do whenever they can get a Model S for more than an hour at a time.
Big fast touchscreen a generation ahead
Sitting behind the wheel, the driver sees three control stalks on the left and one on the right, all seemingly identical to those in Mercedes-Benz cars.
The two on the left are an upper cruise control and a lower turn signal, meaning that Model S drivers will try to signal with the cruise lever until they retrain themselves, just as in a Benz. There's also a tilt-and-telescope adjustment for the wheel.