Test Driving A Tesla Model S With A Tea Party Pundit: Part Two


Driving the Tesla Model S is like riding a stick of butter across a hot skillet- it just goes. My Tea Party pal, John, had no problem adapting to the car’s electric drivetrain and, by the time we got onto the Massachusetts Turnpike, it was clear to him that driving a Model S is just like driving any other car.  Just, quieter. John didn’t have a lot to say while he was behind the wheel, though he did ask our Tesla specialist about recharging options.

John’s questions about charge times brought up the the topic of the Tesla Supercharger network, which can deliver an 80% charge to the car in just 30 minutes.

“Oh, where are those?” John asked.

“Well, the closest one is in Rhode Island.” the salesman admitted “But there are more coming soon!”

“Ah,” John said. Not the answer either of us were looking for, obviously.

The drive continued without all that much conversation, which gave me a chance to enjoy the amazing quietness of the cabin. Without a big engine under the hood, the Tesla Model S rides like a whisper on the wind, though no car is completely immune from road noise. That said, there was very little residual noise from the drivetrain, though John later told me it “wasn’t as quiet” as he expected.

I’m not sure what a man used to 1,000 horsepower drag cars was expecting, but I thought the Model S was pretty damn quiet and comfortable from my perspective.

When it came time to switch drivers however, John struggled to get out of the driver’s seat. The Model S has several ride height options, and ours was pretty damn low at the time of the test drive. John’s a bigger guy all the way around, and had a marked difficulty getting in and out of the Model S. A sharper salesman (or, one on commission?) might have raised the ride height for the much taller than average pundit, though the seat-adjustment feature wasn’t explained until after our test drive.

In the back seat with me driving, the situation was even worse for John …

tesla-test-7A longer Tesla Model S with more rear seat room is apparently in the works. According to my pal, it’s a much-needed addition to the electric car.

.. and while our salesman mentioned that a new, longer Model S with a more backseat room was in the works, I could tell my friend wasn’t very comfortable riding back there.  That said, I also didn’t care too much, because it was finally my turn to drive the Tesla Model S.

Believe me, I didn’t hold back (Ohboyohboyohboy!).

I’m not sure what the cop at the toll station was thinking as I silently rolled past him onto the turnpike, but I doubt he saw us because (as I quickly found out) the 60 kWh Tesla Model S, even with three embiggened adults inside, gets up to speed quicker than my blood alcohol level on a Friday night. I had no trouble zipping past traffic on the turnpike and effortlessly guiding the 4,500 pound sedan around the many potholes and bad drivers that constitute Massachusetts’ Interstate highway system. With the regenerative braking turned off, the driving experience was remarkably akin to that of any other car, minus the grunt of a large-displacement engine under the hood.

Good as it was, the 60 kWh Tesla Model S simply lacks the neck-snapping acceleration that I was hoping would “wow” John, and a glance in the rearview mirror revealed a bored, unimpressed old man. A 5.9 second 0 to 60 MPH sprint would have left a Corvette in the dust a few generations ago, but it wasn’t enough to impress our drag-racing pundit.

I feel like the 2-seconds quicker-to-60 85 kWh Performance Plus variant would have given John a more exciting ride. Despite what I perceived as boredom, though, John was still asking questions about the car. Every now and then he’d ask about some detail, and, once I had the Model S parked in the garage again, our salesman went in-depth into the touchscreen system. This was the one feature John seemed genuinely taken by.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the car, every function on the Tesla Model S is controlled by the touchscreen. Every function, that is, except for the glove box opener and the emergency hazard indicators (which are mandated to have their own button by federal law). That big screen is how drivers interact with the car. As such, the touchscreen system is easily the most important part of the Tesla driving experience. If it hadn’t been just right, it I don’t think the Model S would have received all the praise heaped upon it.

tesla-test-5 The most impressive part of a $100,000 electric car? The tablet touchscreen, apparently.

Going through the systems and the wide range of adjustable options, from ride height to charging rate to automating the heating system every morning, left perhaps the most favorable impression on John. He was particularly impressed by the responsiveness of the Model S’ touchscreen. “That’s really good,” he admitted, taking more than a few swipes at the touchscreen. Though no technophile, John is fluent enough in modern technology to operate a tablet or send a text message (which is more than I can say for either of my parents). He found it intuitive enough to like it.

Another feature John was fond of was the front trunk, or “frunk” as Tesla Porsche people call it. We did another walk-around of the Model S that included an explanation of the charging feature, and how the Model S battery can be monitored from a fully functional app. “Yup, that’s pretty cool,” John said, his demeanor decidedly warmer since extracting himself from the back seat. We went for a walk back to the store, where John asked for a pamphlet with some more information.

“Unfortunately we don’t have those as one of our green initiatives. But you can find all the information on our website!” was what we were told.

That was the first and only time on our test drive John gave me his patented “Is this guy serious?” look. I’ll admit, even I didn’t know that. Considering we had a 15-minute drive back to John’s vehicle, a pamphlet would have been welcome reading material. Maybe Elon Musk’s plan to change the way we buy cars still needs some work, because it was a more negative note to end the experience than I’d hoped for.

In the end, I’ll admit to being clueless as to John’s real feelings on the overall Tesla Model S experience. While we did have a few minutes to talk on the way back to his truck, it wasn’t until a week later I was able to catch up and really get his thoughts on the Tesla Model S.

What he said during that phone conversation surprised me, though not for the reason you may think …

You can read Part 1 here, and Part 3 here.



Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.