In late March, I happened to be in Tokyo and had a free morning to go for a test drive in a Model S. The small showroom is in Aoyama near one of the subway stations. There was an exhibition of Model Ss in Hakone that day, so the only model available is the one above. This is the same car that you see on the Japanese Tesla homepage (to date). It's a signature Model S, meaning there are no more available; you had to order one early to get this beautiful red. I made an appointment through the Japanese web site. I got a call back to confirm; it was very easy and painless. When I arrived, I showed my driver's license. While they were processing it, I was shown around the office and the car.
The car is big, a bit longer and wider than my Honda CRV. It's very roomy inside, front and back. However, if you have really tall friends, they will want to ride shotgun because of the shape of the rear of the car. It's designed to minimize drag to get the best gas mileage (sorry, I don't know how to say 'gas mileage' in kilometers; help!) I'm used to stepping up and into my CRV, so the low profile of the Model S will take some getting used to. On to that panel:
I'm pretty sure the 17-inch panel is the heart of the car. There are very few buttons, save for those on the steering wheel and for the windows. All the other controls are accessed from the center panel: air conditioning, drive-ability, entertainment—everything. You can split screen or full view pretty much what you need to do. Take a look at a couple of the views:
I think one of the coolest features of the car is the fact that whenever something needs to be changed in how the car works, that change is...wait for it...downloaded through the included 3G wireless system! Need to change the height of the car? There's a fix for it coming through the airwaves. The possibilities are endless.
Because there is no engine or gas tank, front or rear, both spaces are available for storage. The shot above is of what is known as a frunk (cf. the Cayman I wrote about below). There is a massive amount of storage space in this car.
The car was a joy to drive, even if it was just around the (big) block. There is no ignition switch; you just need the fob to get in and start driving. You put your foot on the brake and put the car into drive or reverse, and away you go. During the last few hundred meters, I found myself at the front of an intersection with a red light. That gave me a chance to check the car's pick up. Even though I didn't use much pedal, I could tell the car was really ready to take off.
One big concern I have is the noise of the brakes. The day of my test drive, it was raining. Every time I used the brakes, they moaned in pain. I'll need to find out what the remedy is in the case of such problems. I'm nowhere near a Tesla dealer. A small concern was the bit of pressure I felt from the salesperson after the test drive. I kept telling him I wasn't ready to order one yet, but he kept trying to get me to commit to paying the reservation fee with my credit card. To the office's credit, no one has called me back pushing sales, so again, it's only a small concern.
Since I wanted some more time behind the wheel, I've made a reservation for tomorrow for another drive in Osaka. There's a nice fellow from California working there, so I'm looking forward to the trip. More coming up soon...