Had a test drive in Munich

Had a test drive in Munich

I had a test drive on Jan. 26th. 2013 in Munich Germany. It was a Performace model. The result was mixed. I own a Mercedes CLS 350 CGI (300hp no Diesel). Please refer to this model when you judge my ratings.

Absolute Premium Performance!
Really fast reaction on the accelerator pedal.
Up to date air suspension.
Precise power steering (tight option).
Best computer screen I ever saw: My Mercedes has the 'big' (and expensive) navigation screen which looks like a tenth of the size of the Tesla.

Seats with no adjustable head rests. In the front just acceptable - in the back less than mediocre.
Too few storage places in the front for glasses, papers, tissues, cups, iPad, etc.
Far too few choices in wood colors. No warm, brown colors.
Side mirrors show a too small angle of the traffic behind.
Interior Feeling/Finish on an upper middle class level.
The offered all year tires are not acceptable for the given torque.
The back cover of the trunk looks like a lid for the iPad. As thin but as expensive. 300 EUR for a three fold plastic? You're kidding ...

The machinery and technique behind the car is absolute 1st class and superior to every car I drove in the past (BMW750i, Lexus GS 430). Accelerating, handling, braking - just perfect.

The outside of the car is also wonderful. Good gap tolerances between body parts. Perfect lacquer. And the design resembles the great grand tourisme like Maserati. I like this form (see the Mercedes from above)

Driving and seeing the car from the outside are the big pros of this car.

But as soon, as you open the door, you feel the missing - well - massiveness. I can not really find the words. The door is light. The door handle is light as well. The opening and closing sound is thin. The seat feels tiny and light as well. Head rests are tiny - there is a feeling of an unsafe car.

Sitting behind the wheel lets you forget all this lightness. The Wheel is thick and handy. The contact to the street very good. But as soon as you switch into the 'drive' gear (position), there is again this light-joystick feeling. The passengers in the back neither have the distraction by the big screen nor the steering wheel. They start touching the surrounding and there is quite nothing. No upper class feeling, no comfort transportation, far too small head rests, too few storage places.

Ok - energy is a problem in this car. And if you are speeding this vehicle (as we always do in Germany), you will end up with 250km/150mls range for the 85kWh model. Therefore the interior has to be light. But have to and getting used to are two sides of a medal.

Then you begin to compare the asked price with the 'value' you get in return. My Mercedes costs 90kEUR including a top premium inside. The Tesla 85kWh (no Premium) will cost 95kEUR (128k$). Germany is a high price country - especially if you look at cars. But you receive not only good motors and drive trains - but also a luxury interior. I am not quite sure, if the high price calculation of Tesla will succeed. Asking for this price will be one thing - getting it a second - but the real question is: Will people buy a second one, if you are not able to resell the old one for a good price, if the first competitors ask for less.

Carefree | January 28, 2013

It's not for everyone.

Whity Whiteman | January 28, 2013

by the way: it's electric

david_se | January 28, 2013

It is interesting how the original poster compares Tesla to ICE cars - it's great, because that's what Tesla is looking for, as opposed to a "it's great for being electric". Most consumers will go for the best car, not the best electric car. On the other hand, it's tough being compared in what is probably the world's most competitive premium ICE market.

As more and more countries are opened up, it will be interesting to get the reports. But European countries vary a lot - for example, in Germany you have the "Autobahn" challenge, where people drive very, very fast which consumes a lot of energy (and the fact that there are BMW, Audi and Mercedes cars everywhere. That's not really the case in most other European markets, with less luxe car fleets and speed limits on the freeway comparable to the US. In Scandinavia, you have the cold. In Southern Europe, the car size. But I'm sure Tesla will eventually adapt and overcome these challenges, as long as they listen to their customers' feedback and don't think Europe and the US are one and the same.

brooklynrab | January 28, 2013

Horst, I totally agree, very well spoken. The good news is that it would take relatively little for Tesla to solve most of these interior problems. It shouldn't be hard to give us parking and blind spot sensors (for such a big car with not the greatest site lines), grab handles, coat hooks and interior storage. The adjustable headrests and bolsters would be nice, and might come in a sport seat configuration. Also, the stereo needs improvement.

As David_Se says, if the car is to be really successful, it can't be the best electric car, but the best car. That is within reach, if Tesla adapts and concedes on some philosophical points.

ylyubarsky | January 28, 2013

I totally agree with your opinion about the interior. Car of this price should be on the same level as Lexus 460, Mercedes S-class, BMW 750 comfort wise. And unfortunately it's far from them. It feels like plastic toy inside. There is no comfortable feeling like in luxury cars. I am not even touching big shots like RR or Bentley.

Cattledog | January 28, 2013

Sorry you don't like the interior, I love it. All of today's cars are about excess - interior, exterior, under the hood. Tesla is about what's necessary, and beautiful because of it. THAT'S my definition of performance.

We've had our car for almost a month, coming from a BMW and Lexus, owned a Mercedes in the past. I don't feel myself missing the urge to rub the leather or hear soda cans rolling around on the floor for lack of cupholders.

This car is for you if you are willing to meet it where it is, which is in a different space than every other car you've owned. A better space. I think you'll like it if you'll accept its invitation...

hsadler | January 28, 2013

Remind me of the cost of gas in Germany vs cost of electric.

nickjhowe | January 28, 2013

@horst - I agree. I looked long and hard at those things when I bought my Model S. The feature list is very short compared to an equivalent price BMW, Mercedes, etc. Likewise some of the interior trim is not up to Porsche, etc. standard.

But - I still think for me the car is great value for money. This is the best performing, most spacious, most economic, safest sedan on the market. And it has better driving dynamics than any car I've ever driven except my Lotus Elise.

With the current state of battery capability and charging infrastructure it is not as convenient as gas cars, but having a "full" car every morning when I wake up makes up for a lot of that.

There are definitely pros and cons to the Model S, and it isn't for everyone. For me it made sense, for you, maybe not.

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Electron | January 28, 2013

I think the thing that is confusing matters it the Standard Model S vs. the performance. The performance with all the options pushes the sticker well over $100k and into the rarefied territory of Panameras, M5s, and some nice Mercedes.

I bought the standard 85kwh model with a sticker of 86k and after rebates about 76k. That's in the Audi A6/A7 price range. Having driven both, I'll keep my Model S interior thanks. Understated and minimalist does not necessarily mean cheap to me.

But I can see your point when you start comparing to ultra-luxury cars.

Mel. | January 28, 2013

Best interior of any car belongs to not forget this is not a minivan. Tesla S is a drivers car, and is absolutely beautiful inside and out.

horst | January 28, 2013

Thank you very much for all the input. I am well aware, that we have to pay a premium for the new electric drive.

This car is a driver centric car. You have the best powertrain available in the world and I am sure, that the Tesla S can win the quarter mile on our German autobahns against 99.99% of all present cars. Sitting behind the steering wheel is fantastic. The car is also very representive. You are able to show it around.

The basics are well done.

The only missing thing is some work on the interior and the manual feeling. That should not be a too big effort. The car has definitely the potential for the best car in the world. I do not talk about adding dynamic, air powered seats like in my Mercedes, but more valuable wood decor, some cushion and additional storage for small belongings wood do it.

FLsportscarenth... | January 28, 2013

@horst As a daily Mercedes Driver (weekend and pleasure driving is for the Delorean, Mera and Firebird) I can understand your review. I consider how 'rich' the interior is and yes it is very durable and well designed car (except for the lack of bloody cupholders!). But honestly I do not miss the well appointed interior feel when I sit in the Model S - I do hope that durablity will not be a problem though (that is an very important aspect for me, but only time will tell for that)... I put over 100k miles on my Mercedes in all kinds of climates and road conditions and it has has performed superbly, the best non-sports car I have ever owned...

I do hope that Tesla will come up with high trim interior options to suit the tastes of customers such as yourself though. I guess I do not appreciate certain aspects of my current car but duplicating the interior trim level is not a option I would pay extra for - 60khw, SC, and pano roof is worth it for me though...

jat | January 28, 2013

I think people putting cars into a given category based on price is a mistake. While particular Lambos and a Rolls Royce may cost about the same, you can't really say the cars are in the same category. Likewise, just because the top-end Model S costs the same as super-luxury sedans, you shouldn't assume they are in the same category any more than a GT-R should be.

After all, you get essentially the same car for $50k, and you are just paying extra for range and performance upgrades.

So, if you are looking for luxury items and don't particularly care about the performance, extra storage, or the fact that it is electric, then maybe it isn't the right car for you now.

LazMan | January 28, 2013

If you buy a Tesla, you are paying for the privilege of being on the bleeding edge of battery powered cars. Today, in the world of EV's, no one comes close to Tesla.

On the other hand, if you want spend the same amount of money on a ICE care, you are spending it on all the luxury extras and still getting the century old internal combustion engine to move you along.

It depends on what is important to you.

Brant | January 28, 2013

I love the interior. I find by friends M5s and Panameras feel very cramped in comparison.

drp | January 28, 2013


Great to read your review.

Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words and videos even worth more. Check out this link here about the Mercedes-Benz AMG.

I'll just keep my iPad in my briefcase in the front trunk and it doesn't look like my coffee would spill at this point!


Getting Amped Again | January 28, 2013

@Horst - very complete and thoughtful review. Here's the cars I've owned:

BMW 318i
BMW 328i
Mercedes Benz CLK 320 (overrated)
BMW 528i
Lexus GS 300 (I lost my head that year)
BMW 530i
BMW 535i
Tesla Model S in 3-4 weeks

All bought brand new. What fantastic automobiles they were! I've never bought an American brand, and I've never participated in any online forum of any kind.

Now drink this Kool-Aid, and you'll be like the rest of us......

Brian H | January 28, 2013

Reputedly, a Caddy only costs about 20% more to make than a Chevy, but sells for 100% more. Buying a "luxury car" is not getting much structural value for money, it's getting status, exclusivity (price barriers to ownership), and superficial plush. TM supplies little or none of that. Your money goes towards actual tech and structural superiority. As time goes on, this will lengthen its lead in value-per-dollar.

GLO | January 28, 2013

Love my Model S and will never look back in regret to my Mercedes E320 which was a wonderful car! But no comparison to the Model S.

Superliner | January 28, 2013


+ 1 !! You hit the nail squarely on the head!! and I echo your sentiment. Just because Model S costs the same does not mean it is the same animal.

@ Brian H

I could not have said it better. BRAVO!!

spentan | January 28, 2013

I have owned a few cars in my time as a young driver (I'm 24 years old) and I have put down a reservation for a RHD Signature.

The previous cars I've had (in this order)

2001 Mazda Tribute (first car)
2006 Chrysler 300C V8
2004 BMW 745i (E65)
2008 HSV Grange (Aussie performance)
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
2012 Chrysler 300C Luxury

It will be interesting to see how the Model S Perf compares to these cars,

Being a bit of a computer geek, the firmware upgradability and the 17in touchscreen has me very optimistic :)

And us Aussies have to wait til early 2014 for our cars, so hopefully all the firmware bugs will have been ironed out by then.

patp | January 28, 2013

It's funny, but the interior of the Model S was an issue for me. I really didn't like the picture I saw. However, I have my car for a month and I'm really liking the interior and the minimalist theme. Actually, I find my other cars (BMW, Audi) interior too old (all the buttons, to much visual noise).

Velo1 | January 28, 2013

The Model S is simply fun to drive. Puts a smile on my face each and every time. That part is priceless.

dborn | January 28, 2013

The problem with the interior, I think, is that a car like a stock standard Camry has more storage and grab handles, and parking sensors are an easy add on. Yes many people like the minimal interior, but gee, give people an option. Even things like seats could be minimally modified Recaro or similar as an option. None of these things need to be engineered by Tesla, since many OEM suppliers will do the hard yards of integration for them. Whatever seat sensors are installed in the seats can, I am sure, be easily added by third party manufacturers.
We have been promised center console options from Tesla, also a rear console. Where are they? Many months since TESLA mentioned them, but absolutely nothing from them. 20000 enthusiasts, then what? Horst is quite right in this regard.

RedShift | January 28, 2013

Dborn: I fear you are right. Like I have said before, after the early adopters, what next? This is a luxury car, and will be cross shopped with other luxury cars.

To keep the price and weight manageable, Tesla is doing what it can. Soo, though they will need to rethink this strategy for Model S 2.0.

RedShift | January 28, 2013

Meant to say 'soon' not soo

Vic M | January 28, 2013

This might not be the right thread for this (Volker?) but having driven VIN 852 for over 5,000 miles now, the superiority of the Nav/display on the Model S is striking. The systems on other luxury vehicles are completely primitive by comparison (where is the traffic? why can't I pinch and drag? What does that silly wheel on the dash do?). Riding in a friend's LR4, the clunky interface and tiny screen just seemed like a joke from the last decade.

My wife an I are also in the market for a tow vehicle, so I was actually at a Mercedes dealer today to look at a diesel ML350. After mentioning to the dealer that I was disappointed with most display systems, I showed him my Model S. He just started taking pictures...

negarholger | January 28, 2013

@Vic M - right on. We have two late 90s German cars and we love them, but last year we went to look at replacing them. We went through all brands, sizes and models... very frustrating. 50% more price, cheaply build ( across the brands ), not really better mpg, cramped interior and full of useless clutter ( knobs all over the place and as intuitive as an old VCR ). Stumbled over Model S ( saw one in the wild in Los Gatos)... In the beginning I was concerned about the 17in screen being distracting, but during the test drive I learned you don't need the big screen, it is all there on the instrument panel and after 2 mins of instructions I felt in complete control of all functions of the car. What people do not yet realize that Tesla is not only about the drive train, but also how to interact with the car.

note: the clean, minimalistic interior is a big plus for me. | January 29, 2013

horst: "...papers, tissues, cups, iPad..."

Are you a girl?

Adam Carolla was right: in 50 years, we'll all be chicks.

anton.arnesen | January 29, 2013

It took years for Toyota and Volkswagen to match BMW and Mercedes with theirs Lexus and Audi brands. So if Tesla survives I guess that the comparability between Tesla and the four will disappear within about 5-10 years. Unfortunately for us being first-movers some concessions are necessary.

I understand that most car-buyers internationally have troubles with their arguments whether you should go for a new brand, a new concept and an alternative energy platform and in addition, paying the same price as a top-notch BMW, Lexus, Audi or Mercedes. But, Tesla offers something quite unique in a very interesting packet.

As I read in the different Tesla forums, Tesla owners truly love their car. Even though they know there are limitations on several issues. However, being forced by the global car-industry and unmotivated governments to buy diesel and gasoline cars has had a very bitter taste. Yes, a very bitter taste for the local environment. Maybe you few that read these “enthusiast” pages, and still is skeptical about the Tesla. Think twice, and buy the car! We are about to revolutionize the car industry, nothing similar has been seen since Rockefeller, Ford and the rest of the zombies killed the electric car industry. Since then the electric car has been dead, and buried dead since there has been so many incentives to keep the fossil-fuel system intact.

The only bad thing with Tesla, is the long waiting list.

olanmills | January 29, 2013

horst I think your criticisms are all reasonable. The Model S is like buying a new piece of technology that just came to market. It's generally more expensive than existing alternatives and there's usually less options/models/etc.

ManuVince | January 29, 2013

@ horst

It's funny that you find the gear hanger light, they actually come from Mercedes... German quality isn't what it used to be I guess...

Brian H | January 29, 2013

What really killed the (previous) electric car was lead-acid and NiMH battery limitations. They were just not "fit for purpose". The reason TM could create a superior car is that the batteries existed to permit it.

Objective1 | January 29, 2013

Thank you for an objective review.

Is anyone else going to comment on the Munich Get Amped test drives?

Or can anyone summarize the feedback from the German-language boards?

horst | January 29, 2013

Thank you for all the wonderful answers. I am not a person who spends 125k$ without asking questions. I think reasonably green but I am no extreme green guy who would pay all if the label is right.

I am an engineer and like all the technical aspects of the Tesla. But I also think in an economic way. What I pay and what I get in return has to compare in some way. For me, the P&L is positive. But I also have to argue in my family and what they will say, if I arrive in such a car.

Jewsh | January 29, 2013

"[...] I also have to argue in my family and what they will say, if I arrive in such a car."

I have had some family members ask why we'd buy an expensive car that can't go as far as some gas models. I've learned to ignore their arguments although I have to admit I'm ready to let some people know to mind their own business. Soon.

Captain_Zap | January 29, 2013

+10 Kleist

I looked for a new car for a long, long time but I was so unsatisfied until I found the Model S for the very same reasons you mention!

I love the car.

Captain_Zap | January 29, 2013

+10 for anton.arnesen too.

Brian H | January 29, 2013

horst & Jewsh;
"Eat my dust!"

Vall | January 29, 2013

All fair points, but complaining about overpriced accessories (300 eur cover) is a bit ironic, considering mercedes has many more ridiculous highly priced options, like the lighted door step with engravings for 600 eur. Not to mention the CLS itself, which is a reskinned E-class, offering less interior space, less rear headroom, but a 10k eur premium for "styling". And just give your ipad to the passengers on the back seat, that way you don't have to worry about putting it anywhere, and the passengers will be distracted and not touch every surface in the car and be disappointed by the lack of premiumness.

krissu | January 30, 2013

I very much agree with the author here. I did a testdrive week ago in Miami. Really nice drive, pros we know. This car had very poor quality of body and interior. Very bad gaps in body parts, loose plastic interior, leather stitching etc. Standard was on chinese level. The salesman told that this is the preproduction car never to be sold to customer and all these faults are not present on real production. I'm very happy to learn that the Munich testcar is different and fine. There were though couple more things I did not like. There is no whatsoever comfort on back seat, me beeing in that car only on drivers seat will not complain. For kids I quess it's fine. The other thing is already described- lightness, sound of interior, frameless doors etc create quality feeling which is clearly behing any German production. These are things I forgive to such a new producer and it for sure will get better. Most carproducers have very long history and experience, considering this Tesla has done wonderful job. I hold European reservation ca 2480. As I live outside any country listed with pricelist, meaning I live in other Europe, then I had some challenges to get a reservation. I could do it under "other Europe", got confirmation, but nothing about payment or reservation number. I did this last year to qualify for discount. After couple weeks I got worried and managed to get on hold of their Amsterdam rep. He advised me to use one of the certain countries to get a reservation. We managed to do it under Germany and got the reservation finally. Altough this was done first days of this year I hope that they respect the discount as I did get "confirmation email" last year. Luckily our incentives here are valid until end of 2014, then I do not have to worry like Dutch to get their cars rather fast.

vouteb | January 30, 2013


well written and balanced

Despite all the 'electric fans' Tesla will need to compete with other upscale cars if they want the volume to be profitable.

And yes that includes items as you described(and parking sensors!).

Lets hope that tey keep upgrading the hardware and not just the software.

Fred O | January 30, 2013

It's nice to get all the tax incentives (I'm in Holland), but I will not buy the Model S for savings on energy bills. Diesel is 1,50 euro per liter, electricity is 0,25 euro per kWh. With me doing 30k km per year it will save me less than 900 euros per year.

Electron | January 30, 2013

Sigh. If I hear about parking sensors one more time....

Fred O | January 30, 2013

On topic: I'm with Horst for the most part. Very nice car to look at, but lacking on the interior. The test drive next week in Antwerp will have to take away my doubts.

For comparison, I had a test drive this afternoon in the new Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid. The electric drive (Pure as Volvo calls it) is nice and quiet, but nowhere near as spectacular as I hoped for after reading your reviews on the Model S on this forum. The big D5 diesel engine (ev+ice = 265hp) was powerful enough. But that is not what I have in mind when thinking 'electríc'. The exterior is like ... well ... a V60. No surprise and nothing special. The interior has all the luxuries Horst is talking about.
It will cost me nearly 70.000 euros. That is close the Model S 60kW mark. Unfortunately (or fortunely from a Tesla perspective) the Volvo is sold out in 2013. That makes it a no-go.

jat | January 30, 2013

@FredO - you can't expect a PHEV to compete with a pure EV for performance, as when you have two drivetrains you have to make compromises with each of them compared to just having one drivetrain that you put all your effort into. A bigger electric motor would need bigger batteries, and before long you are just carrying around a gas/diesel engine as dead weight. I view hybrids in general as just a stepping stone to pure EVs (and I drove one myself for 5.5 years).

SD Supercharger | January 30, 2013

I personally find the comparisons to BMW and Mercedes very interesting. To me, the comparator is a Porsche Panamera GTS. Go to the Porsche web site, look at what they charge for every single upgrade. Loading the car with the same options as a P85 will cost you about $150,000.00. With that you get a smaller car, less interior room, less storage, maybe equivalent handling, an and an enormous gas bill every month. If you feel the need to compare it to a BMW--the new M5 is getting lackluster reviews. I don't think comparing the P85 to the german Luxo-Barges like the 7 series , the S or the Audi 8 is a good comparator at all.

stealth_mode | January 30, 2013

@SD Supercharger
+1 That's what i think!
I love the reduced clean straight fortward interior! No need for multiple "cup holders"- the more storage room inside the more cluttered.. so for me no thanks.
i'll get Amped this saturday in Zürich. :-)))

rch1708 | January 30, 2013

I'm happy for all you guys who are able to get a test drive during the European Get Amped tour. I had a reservation for Antwerp next Thursday and was counting down the seconds. But in the meantime I have to head to Stockholm for a customer meeting. :-(((( I suppose that getting the customer has to come before getting the nice new car. Unfortunately, business & family obligations prevent me from taking advantage of any other date.

But the points that Horst raised are well made and double my desire to get a test drive before having to cough up the readies. Fortunately a friend of mine in the US recently took delivery of his S... ...but it's a damned long way to go for a test drive. Would I win a prize for the most determined customer if I flew to the East Coast just to drive a Tesla. ;-)

GLO | January 30, 2013

I LOVE my Model S. It is simply fun to drive. I couldn't go back nor want to to a Mercedes or any other high end luxury wehicle. I love the clean interior and I AM a chick and do have lots of "stuff" but love the uncluttered interior.