Impressions From the Los Angeles Test Drive Event

Impressions From the Los Angeles Test Drive Event

The test drive event is being held at Tesla's Design Studio at the Hawthorne, CA Municipal airport. The test drive is a rectangular route that takes you east on Jack Northrup Ave along a specially coned off lane where you "punch it", then north on Crenshaw Blvd. to the I-105 west on ramp, I-105 west to the Prairie Ave. exit, and south on Prairie to Jack Northrup Ave. The only spots you can hard corner the car is the on and off ramps.

Nothing to add about the performance of the car that hasn't already been said from the factory drives last weekend. They gave us a choice of driving a Performance or non-Performance Model S. I chose a non-Performance with 19" wheels. Smooth ride and plenty enough acceleration to convince me I really don't need the Performance model. They told me all the test drive vehicles are production models. There are several Beta's on static display.

Some specific questions I was asked to by other forum participants:

For Volker.Berlin: Driver's seat headrest. I took a tape. The measured distance between the seat cushion and top of the headrest was 34 inches. I am 6'0" with an average length torso. The center of the back of my head was well within the headrest cushion. Hope that helps answer your question.

For mvbf: 1) Audio system. Was able to listen to the standard audio system. Have to say the tonal quality was pretty darned good. Was going to get the upgrade but I'm leaning toward not. The car is so quiet, the extra power in the upgraded system isn't necessary to drown out the ICE and road noise. Don't want to get into a big discussion with the audiophiles out there, but suffice it to say, if you can't afford the upgrade, I don't think you will be disappointed with the standard audio.
2) Air Suspension. Very Smooth. They would not let me measure the height when raised. Too many people to push through in too little time. Interesting that the co-pilot had me take the return driveway entrance at an angle. It didn't seem that steep, but maybe he was just being cautious.
3) Pano roof open and close while driving. My test vehicle didn't have one so no help there.
4) Jump seats. No children under 8 were allowed to ride. All children were seated in the back seats so no opportunity to get anyone's impression of a jump seat ride.

Some other impressions:
1) No side-to-side pitching in the hard acceleration. I drove the green non-performance with the 19" wheels.
2) Rear seat headroom. It is definitely a problem in the non-pano hardtops. As mentioned above, I am 6'0" with an average length torso and I could not sit up straight without crunching my head on the headliner. If you are going to routinely carry back seat passengers 6' or taller, you need to get the pano roof for the extra headroom. Additionally, the non-adjustable back seat headrest did not extend beyond the middle of my neck. No head support at all. Seems like that would be a safety issue but I don't know what the regs are on that.
3) Rear view mirror. Properly adjusted, I had no problem seeing out the back, but your field of view is definitely diminished due to the slope of the hatchback.
4) Obeche Wood. They had a sample with the matte finish. Very dull and unappealing. I commented to one of the associates and she asked if I had seen the gloss finish. Duh, no. She brought up the matte and gloss finish side by side on her laptop and all I can say is WOW! The difference was night and day. Very bright and somewhat similar to the banana leaf in appearance. I'm definitely getting the Obeche Wood gloss and would recommend anyone considering it, make the comparison. Hope they post the two side by side on the TM Website if they haven't already done it.
5) Tinted Windows. All the test drive vehicles had factory tinted windows which I'm was told was standard.

Scwins | June 29, 2012

thanks. This is great!

toto_48313 | June 29, 2012

"No children under 8 were allowed to ride"

Did they mentionned it when you take the appointment?
Will it be for all states, or only California?

I was planning to go with my kids (the youger is 7)that's a bad news

stevenmaifert | June 29, 2012

toto_48313 - This weeks blog post from GeorgeB ( has a couple of lessons learned from the factory test drives last weekend and advises of the 8 year old ride restriction and the cars being limited to 75MPH. The area where you enter and exit the car reminded me of the Autopia Ride at Disneyland. Very busy. They were showing the Cars movie in the lounge for the kids too young to ride. As for the top end speed restriction, I can say from personal experience today, it in no way affected the acceleration.

Teoatawki | June 29, 2012

The sign up page for Seattle under passengers says, "Please, no children under 8 years old."

adn | June 29, 2012

How did they validate the age of children? Or was it honor system?

Chris DC | June 29, 2012

Judging from the initial reports about the (non-adjustable) rear headrests it might be safer not to allow anyone OVER the age of eight to ride in the back.

But seriously, is this becoming a real safety concern now? The driver whose model S was hit from behind said his wife's head was severely bounced back and forth.

I can imagine that the headrests are blocking the already very limited rear view and TM decided to limit the height. That would not be acceptable if it poses a safety risk. I am going to inquire about that.

mvbf | June 29, 2012

Steven, great report. Thanks for trying to answer all my questions. Were you able to actually able to drive the car in the raised state at low speeds?

ckessel | June 29, 2012

@Chris DC, I've never owned a car where people in the back seat didn't obscure the view. There are cars that don't even have a rear view window (some vans for instance). To call someone in the back seat obscuring the view a "safety issue" is hyperbolic fear mongering.

EdG | June 29, 2012

I'm pretty sure that the distance from the top of the rear headrest to the roof line is small enough that a head could not fit between the two. Any rear end accident may not be pleasant, but at least your head won't be able to snap backward.

ddruz | June 30, 2012

I posted a long comment on rear seat headroom with and without pano roof under the "Rear seat headroom" thread. Bottom line: Hugely more rear headroom with pano roof. Night and day difference. I took a tape measure. Almost 2" more with the pano. I'm not planning on many options but for almost 2" more rear headroom I'm springing for $1,500.

Chris DC | June 30, 2012

@ckessel, I was not referring to passengers blocking the view but merely wondering if TM opted to have very low headrests in the rear to not further limit visibility (from the headrest itself). There are multiple reports that the headrests stop at your neck and would not support your head in case of an accident (as had already happened).

Can anyone who rode in the rear shed further light on the headrest issue?

EdG | June 30, 2012

@ddruz: because of your posting, I took a road trip to two Tesla stores (yes, there are two within driving distance in NY). One had a pano roof and one a hard top. I'm 5'10" on a good day (177 cm), and my head touched the fabric under the insulation under the hard top, but didn't touch the pano roof. (My head barely touches the cushion behind the roof on both cars, but that didn't bother me much. And there's no choice on that.)

So I changed my order to include the pano roof. When I have passengers as tall as myself in my expensive new car, I don't want any significant negative distractions. Worth the money to me for the time I expect to have the car.

jerry3 | June 30, 2012


I hear you on the not wanting any negative distractions. But I also really don't want to spend the money on a maintenance prone, leak prone, and heat prone item. Allowing 20% of the heat to pass through the roof is just not a viable option here in Texas.

EdG | June 30, 2012

Better check the specs with someone who really knows. I've heard 80%, 98% 96%, 92% blockage. I don't know the real number. But the look of a very bright indoor lamp through the pano roof reminds me of a spacecraft looking back at the sun from the orbit of Jupiter.

jerry3 | June 30, 2012

Tesla says "blocks 81% of the heat"

I rounded it to 20%.

Sudre_ | June 30, 2012

If I get to test drive I hope it's on a 106 degree day like today. That's one good way to test the Pano roof and A/C. The temps in LA will not touch the 100 degree summer highs of St. Louis which are becoming the norm. I imagine Texas is like a convection oven.

BYT | June 30, 2012

In regards to the jump seats, they're not finalized yet anyway so they go!

BYT | June 30, 2012

There you go*

stevenmaifert | June 30, 2012

mvbf - "Were you able to actually drive the car in the raised state at low speeds?" The short answer is no. The co-pilot was not willing to tinker with any of the adjustable settings on the car except the regen, which he did to demonstrate the difference for me. If the air suspension was raising and lowering at the various speeds, it was imperceptible, which I think is a good thing.

jerry3 | June 30, 2012

The only time I've ever been able to feel the height change in a car that has adjustable suspension was on start up when the suspension would pressurize and you'd get that cool hovercraft sensation. This wouldn't be noticeable during the GetAmped drives because it only happens on the first drive of the day (at least that's how the adjustable suspension car that I had worked).

I'd be really surprised if you could feel the changes while driving.

mvbf | June 30, 2012

You are supposed to be able to use the air suspension to raise to two different levels manually. Each has a different slow speed limit before I guess it would automatically lower. Because I live in an area with snow and frozen mud ruts at times, the drivability even at low speeds of this feature is important to me. If possible I would appreciate it if someone could test this feature at low speeds. Thanks.

Amos' Tesla | June 30, 2012

I've got side by side pictures of the obeche wood. I'm happy to post but don't know how. I have been back and forth on this finally decided with the matte finish as I was able to see a live sample.

jerry3 | June 30, 2012

There is a picture of the setting screen here:

It appears there are four driving settings plus the jack settings. I'd guess that "very high" will not lower on speed.

mvbf | June 30, 2012

Thanks for the photo. Only one way we will know for sure ...

Mark2131@CA-US | June 30, 2012

Just got back from my LA test Drive.

Once again, my compliments to the Tesla Event staff. It's such a pleasure to experience a well planned and executed event. Now to the car.

I intentionally chose to test the performance version since I'm on the fence about it. I had to let several "standard version" drivers go ahead, but eventually I got the performance car (Black). My conclusion, after this drive... I don't need that much performance! Holy CR@P! that's a fast car!!! My decision was reinforced by my ride home on the 405North.... at 6 MPH!

Just to be clear, the performance version was outstanding, but I just don't see me going 135MPH anytime during my daily commute. I also don't want the temptation to go 135MPH... and hence the tickets. I'm in on the performance wheels, the 80KWH battery, and maybe even the dual charger, but
that much torque is not needed for me.

A nice touch at today's test ride were the cops. They had a street closed off just for "speeding". It was quite unusual to have a cop count you down, "Three, two , one... hit it!".

I also decided on a color today (Silver). All in all, a great day. Thanks, Tesla!

cmlaff | June 30, 2012

I'm driving in LA tomorrow at 11:00. It seems like most, if not all, questions have been answered. Anybody with anything else that I can reasonably address while I'm there?
I'm going to ask about the valet setting, insurance recommendations (understanding that they may not be allowed to offer an "official" statement), manual utilization of the air suspension since on occasion I enter a steep driveway which causes my current car to softly bottom out, and why the rear seat head rests are no longer adjustable.
Really liking the glossy obeche wood, but the practical side of me is wondering about fingerprints.

mvbf | June 30, 2012

Great cmlaff. Would you (if they allow you) actually drive the car in the different height settings to test handling and see what happens when you go over the theoretical speed limit of the height setting selected?

cosmomusic | June 30, 2012

I think folks are misunderstanding the point of the "Test Drive". It is to see how the car performs and weather you feel comfortable in, and with the car itself. The verdict is already in from the professional reviews - The car is spectacular. I have test drove many cars and never went there with tape measures, hammers, screwdrivers, and the likes...

Just drive the car and enjoy the remarkable experience. All the stats and measurements can be gotten from TMC website or other avenues. If you go for the drive, enjoy the ride. You have an obligation to yourself and your wallet to determine if the ride suits you and yours.

BYT | June 30, 2012

I agree, enjoy the ride like I did and then bombard them with questions after your test drive! :D

stevenmaifert | June 30, 2012

cosmomusic - Your point is well taken, and I don't disagree with you at all. I thoroughly enjoyed my "Test Drive". But, for many of us who don't live near a Tesla store, this test drive is our one and only chance to give a production version of the Model S a critical review (beyond the drive itself) before we make, what for many of us will be, the second largest purchase decision in our life.

jerry3 | June 30, 2012

What do you mean "Second largest"? :-)

TikiMan | June 30, 2012

Although I likely won't be getting the pano-roof option, I will say that it didn't feel any hotter than what I drove there in (with a solid roof), in mid-80 degree temps, with full sun. However, it does really brighten up the interior with all the extra light (some may like this, and others might not). The touch screens had no glair what-so-ever!

jerry3 | June 30, 2012

Has anyone driven the car when the sun was at a low level (coming in from the side windows)?

olanmills | June 30, 2012

jerry3, I'm assuming steven meant the largest purchase decision for most people is a home.

Capt601 | June 30, 2012

Cmlaff. I asked about the suspension today on our test drive because we also have a steep entry to our driveway. He showed my wife how easy it is to do on the screen. 2 buttons touches is all it is. He just showed us on the screen, not actually doing it. I forgot to ask him before we pulled back onto the service road.

calsailor | June 30, 2012

I had a great time at the event and was glad to finally be able to DRIVE this car I've been dreaming about.

That being said, I was a little disappointed with my drive. It didn't last nearly long enough and my 'minder' wasn't willing to adjust anything on the car. He couldn't even tell me what regen mode I was driving in. I had some reservations about the steering and suspension feel, but didn't get any chance to adjust them to a more 'sport' like setting.
But, there will be plenty of time in the future for longer more complete and satisfying test drives. I'm happy for now.

I would suggest to any future test drivers. I found a wide range of Tesla people at the event. Not just salespeople, but mechanics and designers and engineers. Chat them up and you can get a lot of information. I must have spent an hour talking to one of the suspension guys. Someone who's driven 100s of miles in this car and knows every little difference that we sit here online and speculate about.

It is refreshing to see people so passionate about the car they designed. I have a big thank you out to Elon and all the staff and employees at Tesla. It's nice to see the return of 'passion' to the design and production of vehicles.

mdennick | June 30, 2012

My experience today was very good, mostly. There are many similarities to drkrause's comments. I also echo your compliments; I love the passion and desire to achieve, from many of the Tesla employees. I spoke with several of them over a couple hours and it was fun and very educational. That was great; take advantage of it if you can.

My test drive was a little too much touch screen descriptions and not enough ride conversation. If I had to do it over again I would have had the copilot limit the comments to instruction and experience the ride. There were a lot of folks at my 11am time slot so things were understandability rushed.

I drove one of the performance models, necessary because I needed to see how I would fit with Pano Roof. They only had Panoramic on the performance models there. I'm 6'5" (sit about 39" tall) and was concerned the side "frame" would bump the side of my head too much (the side is lower then the standard roof and it seemed to hit my head sitting in the betas). Fortunately it wasn't a problem when driving, settling in I was just under it and it didn't bother me. I was very pleased.

I may not be going for the performance, but it was very very nice. We had the car loaded with 5 people but still did 0-60 well under 5 seconds (and I believe over some train tracks).

It was a perfect day too, lots of sun. So I tried to grab pictures of all the colors (with my limited locations to shoot from). The link is below. There's lots of duplicates but I'll clean it up tomorrow.


kbekaert | July 1, 2012

@mdennick I was looking at your pictures and i noticed that several cars have the same licence plates. Ara CA licence plates not supposed to be unique?

Brian H | July 1, 2012

Yes, there are only 2 numbers used, I noticed. 68106, and 63277. Perhaps those are dealer plates?

BTW, photo 165 shows both reds (Sig foreground, Sunset background).

jerry3 | July 1, 2012


I was assuming that's what he meant too :-)

Thumper | July 1, 2012

Thanks mdennick for the great pictures. It is helpful to see all the colors from so many different angles and all the seat colors together.

Tesla229 | July 1, 2012

I agree with stevenmalfert's comments. Attended the L.A. test drive event yesterday. WHAT A RUSH!! My one and only disappointment - I'm production #229 (Sig-Perf) and was told by my "Co-pilot" that I could expect delivery by late August-early September. I was somewhat disappointed, having hoped for delivery within the next couple of weeks, but after waiting for 2 years already and now having driven this magnificent piece of work, I must say it's definitely worth the wait. Hope this helps some of you estimate your delivery timeframe.....

toto_48313 | July 1, 2012

Does anyone as a chance to try the windshield washer and the wiper?

At stop and on the highway.

During spring time here the window get dirty very quickly and need to be clean often.
So this is important for Canada owner.
Thank you for your feedback.

mbcaffe | July 1, 2012

I attended yesterday afternoon. like most everyone else,I was very impressed with the acceleration and the handling. I have a bmw 535 and the handling seemed even better. After killing the on ramp for the 105, i commented that the steering did not feel non responsive like some of the reviews mentioned. fortunately my handler was able to show me that i was in sport mode. there are 3 modes; comfort, standard and sport. also the seat seemed good in lateral support. One thing I forgot to ask about was the details of the battery warranty. Does anybody know at what point is the battery deemed it should be replaced under warranty. I would think volker or brian know the answer


stephen.kamichik | July 1, 2012

In one video where Steve Jurvetson test drove a beta, the windshield washers came on automatically.

ddruz | July 1, 2012

mbcaffe, I asked about battery warranty at the test drive yesterday. The rep said they haven't published the details yet.

Brian H | July 1, 2012

Just for a fun comparison/contrast, here's the CNET full review of the Roadster S when it first came out:

Note the wee nav screen.

dantir | July 1, 2012

Just dazzling. Incredible head snapping back of seat acceleration. I drive the same 405 and have no hesitation in getting the performance model - love the acceleration for lane changes and on ramps. Talk about "on ramps" - the curved one is for 25mph and most of us took it at 50-60mph (I can already hear Car & Driver moaning about the lack of road feel and the tail end not washing out, etc, etc).

One important point in scheduling your test drive - I think Sunday AM is the best as there is so little traffic - coming out the gate my co-pilot said "floor it' and we were up to 60mph on a side street in the proverbial 4.4sec (no traffic on Sunday).

Also, the Hawthorne location was you make the turn there is a great big sign..."SPACEX" and a smile crosses your face and it stayeed there for the next hour. A truely memorable day.

petero | July 1, 2012

My wife remarked, “The ‘S’ is amazing, I drove a 21st Century car! Everything I have ever driven, is so … yesterday!”

We took our chaperoned drive. As said by one and all - an excellent adventure. Judging by the vids, the Fremont route was far more dynamic/dramatic. Hawthorne was too controlled, no real turns except for the freeway on-ramp (we were slowed by a mini-van) we had no way of judging the handling characteristics. The hang loose, go for it camraderie at Fremont was not to be in Hawthorne (thanks Jack). On the “floor it speed run” the straight-a-way was not long enough.

We drove the base model S, 19” wheels, and clothe interior. The rear headrests are low (it was low for me and I am 5’7”) and not adjustable. I guess TM doesn’t want to impair rear vision. 3 positive surprises: the fabric interior was nicer than expected, the tan leather color was fine (not great), and the rear camera. The backup/rearview camera provides an amazing rear view while driving or backing up. It is a big plus.

The interior accents were all disappointing to me. The piano black, lacewood, and obeche matt seemed ordinary. If you want rich-elegant wood look at Jaguar’ accents. The staff was gracious and plentiful, TM is thoughtful and we appreciate all their efforts