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

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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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