Well, what can I say? I went to Osaka on Saturday for the express purpose of getting in another test drive in a Model S. While the test drive around the block in Tokyo was just too short, the trip to Osaka surpassed my dreams. First, the important contact information and thanks to the helpful duo in the tiny Tesla display in the Panasonic Center Osaka are in order. I didn't catch the woman's name, but she helped me work through the Tesla Motors Japan homepage and looking at the samples of paint colors and seat covers. James Williams, a fellow Californian and fan of Kyushu did a great job of answering my questions and giving me the scoop on Tesla cars and company. If you would like to take a test drive or just ask some questions about the cars, give him a call at: 090 2482 8442. [UPDATE: There's now a link to make a reservation for a test drive in Osaka on the Tesla Japan homepage.]
On to the cars. I had back luck again with the weather; I've had rain both times I went for a test drive. The two cars in the photo above were in the garage, so the colors don't stand out. However, the black P85 was just off the delivery truck; James was bringing it in when I first arrived at the Tesla shop. Look at the panel shot below, the gauge on the left side shows the car's battery usage; it shows a long, straight yellow line across the bottom. That's the time the car spent in the factory, before it was finished. The lines at the far right show its testing and transport to Osaka. Look just below the usage gauge, and you'll see 34 km on the odometer. That's how far the car had been driven before I was the first to take a test drive (insert big grin).
James leaves the parking lights on the cars in the parking lot; the cars look VERY cool parked like that. While we were sitting in the car talking about features and displays, the driver of just about every car that went by took a good look at the cars. The black car with the black anti-grill (no need for a grill to cool the engine because there's no engine) looks like a good candidate for Batman's next car. Power side mirrors working off a button in the door is a new feature for Japanese Model Ss, and right-hand drive is to be standard here.
The lines of car are smooth and rounded in the right places. Extensive testing was done to improve energy use. The hatchback door is large and opens up high and out of the way. Take a look:
There is plenty of storage space, even with two-four passengers. With one or zero, you can fold those rear seats down and take a visit to Costco or your local hardware mega-store and pretty much fit whatever it is you want in there (don't forget the frunk).
I was offered the chance to drive both the black P85 and the blue P85+, and I took the black one out first. James has at least two courses he uses, one of which includes a run on the loop highway around Osaka (handy, that highway!) I'm always a bit conservative starting out driving someone else's car, so I took it easy getting out of the parking garage and out on the roads of Osaka (last time I drove there was around 23 years ago). Both cars have ETC (the system used in Japan to automatically pay the highway fees), so I'm hoping those systems will be a part of the standard package. Highway on-ramps are usually uphill in Japan, and with no effort on my foot's part, we were on the highway cruising along. The car has good visibility, but no rear window wiper, so if you're bothered by rain left there (I'm not), you might want to take notice. You can turn the back camera on for added visibility; with the huge center display, you can have it on full screen or split with your map readout.
The car handled very well. Steering is tight and very responsive. There were no vibrations, and the car is very quiet. You will hear wind sounds when you're driving at highway speeds, and you might even think those sounds are louder than they should be. They are not. What you are used to is hearing an engine working away plus wind, so you don't hear so much wind. I like a quiet car, and both Model Ss were even quieter than I thought they would be.
Acceleration? lol How fast do you want to go and how quickly do you want to get there? The P85 exceeded my expectations by far. To put it bluntly, the car hauls ass. I hit the pedal several times; the acceleration is so fast, I couldn't do it for long. I'm grinning big-time as I write this. Here's the odometer reading after the drive (James was kind enough to let me drive 26 km in his brand new car; thanks, James):
Notice the right side of the panel shot above. That's Otis Redding playing from Internet radio. The car comes with 3G wireless, so you can use the features of the Internet using that gorgeous center display.
Again, sorry about the photos. The lighting doesn't really show the difference in the colors. Both black and blue look great.
The big differences between the P85 and the P85+ are different tire widths in the back and the suspension. The P85+ has 21 inch rear tires for more traction (sorry, I didn't catch the width of the black P85's tires) and reworked suspension to keep the tires on the road.
I took the P85+ plus out on the same route as the first test drive. I'm happy we drove the cars in the order we did because I was more comfortable driving the second time and hypothetically did a couple of things I haven't done since I was in high school. Because the car is tuned as a sports car, I felt the bumps of the loop highway, but nothing out of the ordinary for a sports car. The car handled really well, even better than the P85. It has excellent acceleration and I could put the car anywhere I wanted on the highway. I got honked at only once (stupid Kei-car driver). At the end of the drive, I may have been at the front of a line of cars at an intersection. I may have taken my foot off the brake and had it on the accelerator because the car was set in non-creep mode. And I may have floored it at the green light. If I had, the car would have taken off like a rocket with the wheels spinning only twice because of the wet road, but quickly adjusting because of the traction setting of the car. If that had happened, I would have had an incredible adrenaline rush and a huge grin on my face. If I had looked in the rear-view mirror, I might have seen all the other cars still back at the intersection. I think it may have just been a dream.
The photo above is the charger set up. Just plug it in. There are settings for how much of a charge you want and what time you want to do it. If you want to keep the batteries maintained, you set for that. If you're taking a long trip, you set for that. If your community has varying rates in electricity based on time of day (mine is cheapest at night), you can take advantage of the lower rate period. Two more awesome features: 1) the car has its own app. You can adjust the charge settings from the app without having to go into the car. Several other features are a part of the app and more will be added as time goes by. For example, you can honk the horn, unlock the car, and start the heater/air conditioning before you get to the car. 2) the car is basically run by a computer, which means any time a change is needed (a fix or a new feature), an update is downloaded through the wireless system.
All in all, it was a great couple of test drives. Thanks again to James and his co-worker for taking care of me. I'll add more later. I think I've broken a few length rules for a blog post as it is.