Tesla Model S 2014 Testdrive
Tesla Show Room Sunnyvale, CA Sunnyvale, CA, Photos and Stories.
Driving the 2014 Tesla S is an interesting experience. This car is a cruiser, roomy, and quiet with a great ride.
I went to Sunnyvale and saw the Future.
Many years ago I saw a painting of a horseshoer/blacksmith watching one of the first cars driving down a dirt road in front of his shop. I understood. He was seeing into the future.
The Porsche Club of America, Diablo Region members made a stop at the Sunnyvale, California, Tesla Motors showroom for a hands on driving experience. After a news worthy drought, the driving day fit in between some record rain storms. As the saying goes; Timing is everything.
Performance. Range. Weight. Safety. These are not the only measuring points on auto manufactures design-guidelines but they are at the top of the list.
Safety features add weight. Performance features add weight. Weight reduces Performance and Range. Performance, Safety and Range are selling features. These concepts are pretty much standard across the automotive market, and so it is with the Tesla cars.
Tesla Dealer, 750 El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, California
The Tesla is an all-electric, plug-in, luxury vehicle. The concept of a luxury vehicle denotes there are lots of 'things' added to the car to make it be luxurious. This also adds to the base or 'curb' weight of the car. Then we have the battery and the electric motors at the rear axle. This last point makes the Tesla Model S a bit like the Porsche 356 and 911, that are so prominent within the PCA, the Model S is a rear-engine, er' rear-motor-rear wheel drive car.
Even with the rain clouds all around the turnout was impressive and the Tesla people were well setup to handle the day
But! The Tesla Model S is missing a lot of things, which make up the internal combustion engined cars, that is the normal cars, on the road. First there is no heavy engine, radiator or cooling system. No drive shaft, oil, transmission, fuel tank or exhaust system. Just a bunch of electric motors of various sizes, and a very large battery. But those things are heavy.
Motor and battery are just inches off the ground and everything above is mostly aluminum and magnesium.
As every auto manufacture is doing now, Tesla is using aluminum and magnesium to fabricate the chasses and body, remember, 'Weight reduces Performance and Range'. From a performance consideration, with all the heavy bits just inches off the ground and everything above is mostly aluminum and magnesium, the center of gravity or 'roll-center' is very low. The torque of DC motors are best at the beginning, so the Model S moves off the line very quickly and keeps pulling right to the top end which is electrically governed. Example; the factory programmed high speed limit is much higher in Germany than in the US. From 0 to ...... X, the Model S is light on its feet, however I could feel that I was in a massive environment.
The 'steering assist' is provided through an electric motor and has 3 settings, 'Sport' 'Normal' and 'Luxury'.
The Model S is a rear-engine, er' rear-motor-rear wheel drive car.
There is no heavy engine, radiator or cooling system. No drive shaft, oil, transmission, fuel tank or exhaust system. Just a bunch of electric motors of various sizes.
That's it, the Tesla Model S running platform. Just add the body 'shape' of your choice.
Rear storage. In between goes the people.
The 'steering assist' is provided through an electric motor and has 3 settings, 'Sport' 'Normal' and 'Luxury'. The S was in Sport when I started out and for me it was too dead so moving to Normal dialed in some 'feel'. For me Luxury was a bit sloppy.
Serious brakes for a massive car.
Back to the Future.
Getting into the Model S requires negotiating the high sill. Once in, looking around I could tell, this was where the Future began. There are no knobs or switches and only 2 wheel-column levers and 2 selector wheels on the steering wheel. There is an oversized tablet-like screen in the center dash and a smaller one where the driver's gages used to reside which also displays the GPS information, making it much easier to see than looking over to the center screen. However GPS can be called up in the center also. The center screen appears to provide almost unlimited information stopping short of suggesting a menu and wine paring for the restaurant whose address you have entered into the GPS. The programs, which were visibly running on both screens, noted the energy usage and regeneration as I drove and calculating the potential driving range for the given driving style being used at that moment.
The 'box' between the seats was a hit with the women. A place for a purse.
My first impression of the screen controls were that they required full attention to operate, as there is nothing to create a tactful interface between the object, which causes the change, ie. a knob and the hand.
Everything within the Model S is silent. The center screen has a slider image to open and close the sunroof and there is a display that shows the roof position. There is NO SOUND. One has to visually verify what is happening.
My intrepid Tesla demo guide, Seth Clark. Seth and all the on-floor Tesla personal were very informed and helpful, not only about the Tesla car but informed about the overall alternative fuel 'movement'.
Once inside, moving the car requires one to select 'Drive' with the right side column lever which also releases the electric 'Parking Brake'. The 2 floor peddles control the motion and stopping. The Brake peddle is wide allowing ease of left-foot-braking, something I like when there is no clutch. Stepping on the brake, switches the drive motors to electrical generating mode and immediately slows the car. However stepping on the brake and the throttle peddle at the same time confuses the computer, bells ring and the S sort of stalls. I did that pulling out of the driveway into traffic. Ok So I stalled an electric car. What can I say?
There are no knobs or switches and only 2 wheel-column levers and 2 selector wheels on the steering wheel. Every other input is on the touch screen or by voice.
The computer screens were capable of displaying what seemed like endless variations of information and vehicle settings.
Driving the Tesla S is an interesting experience. My time on the road was short so I could not, lets say, get the full flavor of the Luxury component, which I think is where the S would standout. This to me is a cruiser. My time in the back seat was a good example. Roomy, and quiet with a great ride. Did I mention that the S can be ordered with 'Air Suspension'. The Future seems to be removing the driver from the driving experience and there is even talk about removing the driver.
So If the Model S is a cruiser, long distance is presently limited due to the early stages of recharging station deployment. So as a cruiser one presently has to look to shorter distances.
Cars that comes with information delivery systems of this magnitude, in my opinion should be backed up with full accident-avoidance systems or an onboard navigator/engineer like the latest Boeing Jets. Or maybe Google has also 'Seen the Future' with their Self-Driving cars.
Yea! That's the Future.
A Tesla Service update! They just 'Email' it directly to the car.
Two final things. As mentioned above, the day was set as a Porsche Club of America event; so most of us came in Porsches. One car was a lovely 356, who's owner, in his haste to have a go at the Teslas, left the lights on. Finding a dead battery, 2 PCA members gave the 356 a hand push of about 8 feet and the 356 fired up and moved smartly off. Try that with a Tesla Model S with a dead battery. Of course the S's computers most likely would not allow their caretakers to be so absent minded and shut themselves down; however.....
The last bit is this. I spoke with several who were excited about the Model S Tesla and how luxurious it was to drive. However I drive a standard shift 911 Porsche. I know when that the car is set to 'go'. I can hear it, feel it. I know what the road under me is like. I have knobs and switches to make things happen. I can feel them without taking my eyes off the road. I am the driver. I am connected with the car and the car is telling me about the road.