The moment of truth...first Model S test drive

The moment of truth...first Model S test drive

I am in the Bay Area for work and finally have a little free time this weekend, so I promptly scheduled a test drive at Santana Row on Sunday. I live in Houston and do not have a reservation yet. There is no timetable set for allowing test drives in Texas due to the dealer laws, so I was not going to miss this opportunity.

I have two questions for everyone here on the forum.

1) Is there anything specific I should know about test driving at Santana Row? Co-pilot to ask for, test drive route. parking, place to eat, etc. any tips would be helpful. Thanks.

2) Can I get a head count on the number of people that placed a reservation without consulting their significant other? (I am very likely to do this.)

I am about halfway though my three year LEAF lease and I already know a Tesla will be my next car. It is a little premature for me to reserve as I am about 10 months beyond the wait list right now. When I called to schedule my test drive, the associate explained that after the holiday season the wait may be longer than my lease and reserving and deferring was the safer option. Great sales work, I must say.

We can afford a middle of the row Model S, but we never spend this kind of money. Let alone without a sit down conference. So, in the event of total significant other flip out on the news, switching to Model X (for her) should be seamless right?

Can't wait to get some seat time!!!

Cattledog | October 27, 2012

kalikgod - Fellow Texan here, though born in California (now live in San Antonio). Lots of people have asked what they should do or check out for test drives. Our resident search engine, Volker, will probably give you a handful of links before the end of the day.

However, let me suggest something to you, and this is coming from a guy who is also pretty analytical, and not so well heeled that purchasing this car isn't a really big financial commitment...

It doesn't matter.

Once you drive that car for ten minutes, you will have an epiphany. Simultaneously your brain will radio, 'Of Course!', 'Why the hell didn't someone offer this 30 years ago?' and 'I'm never driving another conventional car again'.

Seriously. Then your left brain can kick in, do Teslanomics, think about national energy independence, helping our children, whatever.

It doesn't matter.

OK, I can only write this because my wife doesn't read these forums - it's sort of like being in love. You just know. Sure, you can analyze it, but where's the magic in that? BTW, being married costs a lot more than this car. And kids, don't get me started...

I think the most fun I've had in months was when my wife and I hosted a delivery party for dsm363's signature delivery. Everyone had a blast, he was super cool, gave rides, and even let me take my daughter and her friends for a spin. I punched it a couple times and everyone in the car screamed with laughter. Screamed with laughter! Just unlike anything you've experienced - the acceleration, the silence, the smoothness, the 21st centuryness of it. Other cars seem like extras from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang afterwards.

It's basically like you're buying your own amusement park, that just happens to do everything else your old car did, but better (OK except store drinks in the rear seat).

Have a blast anticipating it, driving it, then dreaming about it after you reserve.


Mark K | October 27, 2012

Heartfelt, and artfully written Cattledog. You captured the essence of that moment of revelation.

I took a couple of executives from my office and let them each test drive it.

The next day, one of them came to me and said it very simply:

"Driving home last night, everything else now feels 'old'."

petero | October 27, 2012

Kalikgod. I know you are going to enjoy your test drive. I can’t really address question #1 as I live in Southern California. I have visited the Santana Row showroom, but only to drool. The good news for you (now) is they will allow you a lot more seat than you would have gotten at a ‘Get Amped” driving event.

Question #2. I made up my mind I wanted an ‘S’ and placed my $5K deposit. My wife was getting tired of my ‘obsession’ with Tesla so I invited her to join me on a visit to the Fremont factory for the big intro and test ride (October 2011). She was blown away, loved the car. Now it is “her” car, but I can occasionally use it. Fair enough, I enjoy driving my old sports car. Wonderful wife did have two comments, first, why not upgrade to a Signature (I didn’t) and she encouraged me to follow up and place a second order for another to resell (I didn’t do that either).

I am getting a loaded 60kWh. My ‘S’ is by far the most expensive new car I have ever bought. But I must say, that test ride was amazing. Quiet, Smooth, Quick, the interior is starkly elegant. I don’t care about the little things (center console, ACC, power side mirrors, etc.). The ‘S’ is fantastic and I can hardly wait, my paperwork said Nov-Dec delivery but I suspect I will see mine in Feb 2013.

I second everything cattledog said. He is spot on, the ‘S’ is truly in a class by itself and a joy to drive.

EcLectric | October 27, 2012


I chose my screen name (eclectic + r) because everyone has a different reason for wanting Mosel S. Before you make your reservation, try introducing your wife to the car in some way. I think you should let her know you like it right away, so she's in on it. I let my wife know Model S was my obsession before planning to reserve. We kept going to the store to look at the chassis and pictures, which was all they had at the time. I think my wife likes it because it's rare and exotic. I just want to drive it! Regardless, she's fully on board after our test drive and we both can't wait to get ours!

David M. | October 27, 2012

Cattledog nailed it. My feelings exactly. Next week, it will have been 2 years since I placed my reservation. Waiting hasn't been so bad, right up until my test drive in July 2012. After that day, it's been like an eternity waiting for my Model S.

Let us know what you think after your test drive.

Sudre_ | October 27, 2012

You might have already taken your test drive but I was going to share that I have not and will not test drive. Crazy right? I am buying a $72k car and without a test drive. From reading the reviews in this forum I know that I will go absolutely freaking nuts if I drive the car and then have to wait months. Seriously. If I had taken the test drive many months ago when Sigs were still available I would have had to upgrade just to get the car a few weeks maybe a month earlier. The safest thing for me is to trust the people that drove the car and just wait. I know what I like in cars so I know what to order.

mrspaghetti | October 27, 2012

@cattledog +1

Bleeds On | October 27, 2012

As I've said before, I went into my test drive with skepticism about the Model S. I believed in Musk's vision, I believed in Tesla, but I had serious doubts young Tesla could refine a car to the standard that centuries-old automakers have. I was pleasantly surprised. The fit, finish and feel was that of the luxury automakers. However, the drive was completely revolutionary. When was the last time driving your car was FUN? This car will be daily fun, and on your test drive, you'll immediately see why. Enjoy.

biwamura | October 27, 2012

I put down my $5k in Feb of 2012 since it is fully refundable before you finalize your order. The San Diego store opened this past Friday and my wife an I went down because she had some questions and I wanted to check out some of my interior selections. My final order is in and due sometime in Feb/Mar if next year. So I bought without a test drive and they did schedule one for us this coming Friday. It will probably make the wait seem even longer!!! Happy driving

Steve841 | October 27, 2012

Here's my advice for the test drive...

Show up an hour early and play (and I do mean PLAY) with the showroom model they have there. Play with every possible aspect you can think of while you are sitting there which is pretty much the screen ... but play with the mirrors, seat, hatchback, climb in and out a few times ..front and back.

Now, when you get to test drive. No music, no one to distract you (other than Tesla rep who should be helpful)... drive the car. FEEL IT! Again, play with steering, regen and other Tesla only settings and feel the car. And without any concern, floor that sucker and feel the pickup and lack of shifting.

cpetrush | October 27, 2012

I also placed my order without a test drive. I decided I had to have an electric and it had to be luxury. Easy...Tesla. And since I am "the wife" here's how I sold it to my husband. I had been driving our '96 Chevy Tahoe around for the last few years and despite the fact that I don't actually go anywhere (work, school, market, soccer, swimming, etc), I was putting up to $100 a week of gas into this beast. This disappears in a monthly credit card statement so I kept every gas receipt for a 4 month period. I then presented to my husband that we do indeed spend about $400 a month on gas alone for just this vehicle. Convert that into a car payment, eliminate gas cost, and voila, mama's got a new car. The next consideration was Leaf or Tesla. Come on, he's a guy, end of discussion. I might even let him drive it sometimes.

mrspaghetti | October 27, 2012

I put down my reservation just to do a test drive at the Houston Get Amped event, fully expecting to get it refunded once I'd experienced the novelty. Nothing doing, I was hooked.

RedShift | October 27, 2012

Ask for a cloverleaf and interstate to be included. Drive like you stole the car, seriously. They don't mind.
I took the Santana Row test drive a few weeks ago, put down the deposit without telling my wife. No issues.( stress that the deposit is refundable to your spouse, you will be fine!)

nickjhowe | October 27, 2012

@Kalikgod - Santana Row is located in a very built up/busy area. The only place to have a little fun will be drag racing from the lights and on the freeways next to the store. If it isn't too late you might want to look at the Menlo Park store as the roads are a little more open up there.

The time will FLY by. Seriously - the drive will be over before you realize. I agree with StephenR about showing up VERY EARLY and play with the car. You don't want to be spending time with the 17" display when you are driving.

TRY to pay attention to the displays behind the wheel. I hardly glanced at them while driving and wished I'd paid a bit more attention to speedo and regen indication just to get a feel for them.

Test drive performance or non-perf? Not sure where I stand on this one. If you are already committed to one vs the other, you might want to choose the one you are NOT buying just to get a feel. Max fun will definitely be in the perf model, but...

If you get a chance, try reversing to get a feel for rear visibility, camera, etc.

Have fun!!!

Cattledog | October 27, 2012


+1 "Drive like you stole the car, seriously."

Love it! So true. Made me laugh.

Brian H | October 27, 2012

Unusual. Almost unique. "Lead us not into temptation...".


billbaggy | October 27, 2012

I have been watching this company for the past 6 years or so, watched the Model S announcements with hope, and waited way too long to reserve my Model S. After a bunch of hand-wringing and hemming and hawing (and a push from my extremely supportive wife ;-) I reserved my Model S in March of this year. I felt relief at that point, as if I had a weight off my shoulders.

It was strange for my wife and I to put money down on a car, sight unseen (except for internet videos and pics), but I believe in what Elon and Tesla are trying to do.

I finally got to test drive a Model S standard (didn't want to even try the performance, as I know I would have wanted to upgrade) in June of this year. It was amazing, exhilarating, thrilling and then extremely depressing when I had to drive back to work in my regular gas guzzler. It felt like I was going at a snails pace.

Now, I dream of driving my Model S (in the carpool lane in CA), while I sit in traffic during my daily commute.

Supposed to get ours in Feb/Mar - seems like an eternity. Time is slowing down.

Cattledog | October 27, 2012

kalikgod - Knowing that you're going for your first test drive got me all amped up, literally, as in remembering wistfully may test drive in Austin this August.

So I went digging and found my post from the TMC forum the night we got back...

Austin Test Drive

There have been so many great accounts of the test drive experience, so I’ll be brief.


Tesla flipped a quarter and landed it standing up on its side – a driving experience so unique that it leapfrogs the status quo while also one so natural, intuitive, and familiar that one is instantly comfortable in the car.

They’ve even nailed the sequencing. When you buy something from Apple, the joy starts with the beauty of the box – with the Model S, it’s the door handles. Artful, scientific, high performance, beautiful – the handles tell you the story of the whole car. You expect a different experience when those things present themselves to you. And you get it.

Acceleration? Fabulous, and we drove the standard so if I buckle and spring for the performance we’ll have another amazing moment. Handling? Superb. The car felt more agile than nimble, more fast than quick, and with the right settings, better than my BMW. But it didn’t feel too big for us. Aesthetics? Beautiful. I love the exterior and interior, the materials are quality. Front storage is coming, more cup holders, reading lights, mirror lights, etc. OK, I’ll take them, but I’d drive it out of the storefront and through the mall as is. Display? Totally bitchen’. My 10 year-old son has found his first love. What else? Pano roof, trunk/frunk, stereo, seats, etc. I guess you’ll find flaws if you look for them, you’ll find a lot of greatness too.

Here was a cool takeaway - as quiet as it was in the car, what was more amazing was watching one pull away, silently. Remember the landspeeder hovercraft Luke Skywalker cruised across the desert. Yup, that’s what it sounded like.

It feels like we should have been driving a car like this for the last 50 years. Can we please correct our course over the next 50?

The Tesla reps were cool, said they made it from Houston to Austin on 61KW, driving 70+ with AC on, 60 some odd miles to spare. Probably a 175-mile trip. Glad to hear of an Austin store and showroom by the end of 2012, can’t wait until they stretch 80 miles further south to San Antonio….

When we got back into our 5-series BMW to drive home, my wife, who was a skeptic 60 minutes earlier, remarked, “It’s kind of a letdown,” to which I asked, “What?” And she replied, “This (BMW)” My daughter, after complaining about getting dragged up to Austin from San Antonio, stopped texting and said, 'Dad, that was cool'. My son asked if it was too late to get a Signature.

That sums it up.

All in.

kalikgod | October 27, 2012

Thanks everyone for the tips and advice. I love your descriptions cattledog. This won't be my first time driving electric (driving a LEAF for 1.5 years now), but fully expect to be blow away.

I picked the Santana Row location because they had the brown that is my wife's favorite color from the website. I want to get some live pictures and impressions for my explanation to her. And that just happens to be a performance :).

When I spoke with her today, I told her about making the test drive reservation. The response was "Oh No"...hopefully she is mentally preparing herself.

I will respond tomorrow evening with my experience and impressions. Also if anyone has questions they would like me to ask the reps, let me know.

ltd | October 28, 2012

I had a test drive at the Santana Row store about a month ago.
Kudos to the Tesla folks that helped organize that.

Biblically Fast. Better handling than a Mini Cooper Works. BMW/Mercedes/Audi: you need to be worried. Very worried. Ford/GM: You're screwed.

I'm P29 in Australia, will probably be ~12 months until its possible for me to actually have the car, the wait is going to be very very hard.

Mark E | October 28, 2012

Ltd: I can relate to that. Also in Sydney, but haven't driven an S yet. Sat in a prototype in April..