Tesla Motors put on a three-day test drive event, at the Hilton hotel in Southlake, Texas, Friday through Sunday (today). The hotel is a short distance from Classic Chevrolet, so I though, “What the heck,” and signed up for Sunday at 1:00PM. I requested a P85D, so I could experience “Insane Mode.” Remember, the reason I fell in love with EVs was the torque and acceleration of electric drive. Shortly after I signed up, Bonnie, my wife, texted me asking, “Are you doing this?” She had signed up for the test drive as well. On the same day. At the same time. I guess 20 years of marriage gives a couple telepathy…or Radar Love…
I was surprised, that there weren’t hordes of people queued up outside the hotel, when we arrived. They seemed to have planned the event very well, with the appointment times spaced enough that clients could start the drive very soon after arriving. In fact, this is what I’ve been wanting to set up for National Drive Electric Week: a fleet of Chevy Volts and skilled salespeople queued up, on a Sunday, to give test drives and discuss the advantages of driving a plug-in vehicle.
We were paired up with a part-time Tesla representative/college student named Ian and we walked out to the hotel’s roundabout, where we selected a P85D to drive.
Bonnie let me have the first drive, which included both freeway and city street driving areas. Getting on the frontage road, the Model S accelerated very quickly but I wasn’t pushing down much on the accelerator (formerly known as a “gas pedal” to the uninitiated…). Ian had me drive down to a u-turn and then onto the freeway. This time, I was ready to really accelerate, in order to access the freeway.
Like I said, I am used to driving plug-in vehicles of various brands. This was a whole new experience for me. Within a very few seconds, we had accelerated to XX miles per hour and it felt like the Model S was eager to do even more, but I’ve been on scary test drives (as the rep) and didn’t want to stress Ian out…too much. The ride was very smooth and quiet as with other EVs. The major difference was the acceleration, the HUGE touchscreen in the center of the dash and two gigantic sunroofs. Having almost wrecked my first Volt, on my first day of leasing it, by playing with the Volt’s touchscreen, I abstained as much as I could from messing with it. After stopping later, we were shown web browsing, the rear view camera, sunroof operation, navigation (including Supercharger locations) and audio controls on the touchscreen.
The Model S exhibited one of my pet peeves regarding plug-in vehicles: The shifter. I still don’t know why manufacturers feel an advanced vehicle has to have some new way of changing gear. We’ve all had years and years of shift levers. Why reinvent the wheel?!? That being said, once we were shown how to use the shifter, it was not an issue (other than my pet peeve).
Driving the Model S, the brakes were very responsive. Bonnie mentioned the brakes felt like when she gives driving lessons to our 16-year old daughter, Zoe. It took a few stops for either of us to brake smoothly, but we caught on quickly. We returned to the hotel, where Bonnie & I switched places and she took the same route. When we returned to the hotel at the end of Bon’s drive, she asked, “How do I turn it off?” Ian said you don’t have to. When you open the door and get out, it shuts down automatically!
Now, realize: Bonnie is not a gear head, when it comes to cars. She loves her Volt and is ready to get her next one.We started asking about option levels and pricing, mentioning that we would never be able to afford a Model S and were merely curious. Ian discussed leasing as well as demo vehicles. I was thunderstruck. Although I now work in auto sales, it never occurred to me that Tesla would mark down these test drive vehicles and then sell them (or lease them) at a discount. How much of a discount? That remains to be seen, but he definitely roused my curiosity. He mentioned what a three-year, 12K mile per year lease and down payment would run and I could sense Bonnie paying rapt attention. Could she be falling for a Model S??
All the vehicles at the test drive had the premium interior and I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed. The roof liner looked like suede and just seemed “off” to me. The backs of the front seats were plastic shells and previous passengers had scuffed them up a little, getting in and out of the cars. This was nothing that would prevent me from wanting to buy or lease a Model S, but it seemed a little inexpensive for a $100K+ car. Then again, most of the money probably goes to the amazing electric performance, touchscreen and gigantic panoramic sunroof. The trunk was also cavernous (think Chevy Impala huge) and the “frunk” (forward trunk) was decently sized as well.
We decided to speak with one of the managers about demos/leasing/buying, etc. Due to the Texas law that states manufacturers of vehicles cannot sell directly to the public and must go through dealerships, the manager could not put us in front of a computer to determine pricing. We decided we’d check that out on our own, once we got home.
We also discussed the build-out of Tesla Superchargers in Texas and the rest of the U.S. and Canada. We were shown a map of locations that was filling out nicely. The far West region of Texas didn’t have any yet and it was explained that installing Superchargers requires local permitting and that that area of Texas was “less cooperative” than other areas. I’ve had several customers come to my dealership, from that area of Texas, because they could not get a decent deal on a Chevy there. The oil & gas industry has experienced a boom, in the area. Salespeople know this and are reluctant to discount much. Perhaps the oil boom is affecting local politics, when it comes to Supercharger permitting… No. That can’t be. Oil never affects politics, especially not in Texas! 😉
What floored me was when Bonnie asked me if she and I could work out a sharing schedule. I did not really see that coming. She already has a red 2016 Volt in the order queue at my dealership! She really, really liked the Model S, but knowing me for as long as she has, she knew she could not have a Model S all to herself! Now things were starting to get serious indeed.
Of course, I mentioned this blog and video reviews of the BMW i3, the Cadillac ELR, and even the EGO Power+ lawn equipment, and asked if there was any chance of getting a Model S for a day or two to do a review on it, as well as an introductory tour of the Model S, so I could be thorough. Stay tuned… **UPDATE** Nope. Not gonna happen.
One other odd thing: Every time I mentioned vehicles I’ve reviewed or driven, the Tesla rep I was speaking with always asked about the Cadillac ELR! They never asked about any other vehicle, just the ELR. I can see how the ELR’s price point might make one consider it a competitor for the Model S, but having driven both, they aren’t competitors really. I like both vehicles, but they’re for different sorts of drivers. Like the Volt, the ELR has both gas and electric motors, eliminating range anxiety. Well, almost eliminating range anxiety. I still feel it, when my Volt is about to switch to gasoline. I hate it when that happens, not because it does so poorly, but that I’m starting to hate noise and sluggishness of gasoline-powered vehicles.