Tesla Model S

I have thought more than twice about writing this review. It’s an expensive car and I really don’t want to sound like a show off post.

But I frequently write about new products I’m using so not writing about this particular one feels inconsistent.

So here goes.

A few months ago I went to the Tesla website and ordered a Model S. I had tried one out previously and was completely impressed. And I have wanted an electric car for a long long time.

Less than 3 months later the car arrived last Monday. Mine is back outside and black inside. Just like my camera :) 

The car drives like a dream. It’s responsive, fast and smooth.

There is an enormous touchscreen inside that displays the media system, navigation, phone, other apps and car controls.

The navigation system is incredible. It’s google maps and it just works like it’s supposed to. You can search for a place instead of a laborious data entry system. You can pinch and zoom on the screen. Tap a button to see a traffic overlay or satellite overlay.

Our iPhones paired to the cars without a hitch. It also syncs the address book as well as recent calls. I haven’t tested voice commands yet.

It’s fun to plug in my car to recharge the battery. I’m beyond thrilled i don’t have to buy gas each week. A full charge gets me about 250 miles. Amazing.

The audio system is very good but not the best. My last car sounded better. I messed around a bit with the levels which improved things.

Model S comes with built in 3G connectivity. The browser app is slow and I don’t think I will ever use it. But built in 3G means I can play internet radio stations easily. I’ve tagged a few favorites already including kexp and some indie ones from Europe which are new to me.

The car has this cool user profile system. When I get in the car I tap my name (batman) and the seats and mirrors go right into place. When lauren taps her profile (batgirl) her seats and mirrors adjust accordingly.

I would love to see music, maps and other apps tied to the user profile in a future software update. I love my wife dearly but our music taste doesn’t always overlap. I’m told Tesla regularly updates their software so I’m hopeful.

The big touch screen is stunning but there are some disadvantages of having so many soft buttons. To open the rear hatch requires two taps. Same with the sunroof.

The interior is sparse with a minimalist design. There are no storage areas on the driver and passenger doors. The globe box is small. There isn’t a center console storage box. The cup holders are slightly awkward but completely usable. There aren’t any cup holders in the rear seat which for me is a feature not a bug :)

I thought the lack of interior storage was going to be an issue but I’m pleasantly surprised to discover the opposite. This car feels open and will have less clutter as a result. I’m happy about that.

There is a Tesla Model S mobile app. From my phone I can remotely honk the horn, lock/unlock the doors, locate the car on a map and manage the climate control. Again that’s another benefit of built in 3G.

My glowing review would be incomplete if I didn’t mention one serious problem.

This past Sunday we went out to dinner. When we returned to the car after dinner the car was completely unresponsive. It would turn on but I couldn’t put the car in drive. Basically my car was bricked.

I called roadside assistance and they towed the car to the Tesla service center. The customer service people were attentive and got me a loaner the next morning. They fixed my car the next day and we swapped the loaner for my fixed car by evening.

They described the problem to but honestly I’m not completely sure I understand the technical explanation. The local manager said he never experienced this before and I believe him. The car seems to be working perfectly now but it was a buzzkill.

Tesla stock has been on a tear and I can see why. They are innovating like crazy and it’s inspiring. I hope they can build a product family that is more approachable for mainstream customers.

At the very least it will be a kick in the ass to the competition that has been serving up cars with awful dated user interfaces and harmful emissions for the planet.