2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive Of All-Electric Sport Sedan Page 4

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2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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If the Model S has a sunroof fitted, a six-foot man sitting in the rear seat comes within a fraction of an inch of the headliner. But most adults should be comfortable riding in the rear over long distances.

Practical electric car for the family

Once you're past the wow factor of the central touchscreen, the Model S interior is relatively plain and unadorned.

Soft-touch materials cover any surface an occupant might come into contact with, but there are fewer of the kinds of power accessories for passengers than the lengthy options list of competing cars offer. 

The total interior volume of the Tesla Model S is rated at 95.1 cubic feet. There's 26.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the load bay with the rear seat up, a total of 58.1 cubic feet with the seat folded down, and another 5.3 cubic feet in the surprisingly large front trunk.

That makes it a practical family vehicle, in stark contrast to the subcompact interior of the Fisker Karma, with its absurdly tiny 6.9-cubic-foot trunk.

The early-production Model S cars appear to be well-built, at least after scanning four different models (serial numbers 106, 108, 111, and 116, for those who keep track).

About the biggest quality flaws we noticed among the four were a misaligned Velcro fastener patch on the front-trunk liner, and a recalcitrant rear shoulder-harness retractor.

Overall, A for effort

Overall, our early and brief impressions of the 2012 Tesla Model S are favorable.

It appears to be the first electric car that's simultaneously good-looking, fully digital in the best tradition of Silicon Valley innovation, and requires very little compromise for around-town use.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

Whether it will become a viable distance traveler depends entirely on whether Tesla launches its much-discussed SuperCharger network of quick-charging stations.

And whether Tesla will become a viable independent car company depends on whether it can ramp up Model S production while keeping quality high, and continue to add digital features.

The company will also have to manage the inevitable tweaks, updates, or quality recalls graciously, swiftly, and decisively in a way that convinces customers they're being taken care of by this audacious new carmaker.

The last car company started from scratch in the U.S. by entrepreneurs whose brand is still with us today was Chrysler, in 1924. Tesla still faces very, very long odds of survival.

But on first impression, it appears that they've at least gotten the product pretty much right.

Now the hard work begins.


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