Tesla Model S review

Posted on 8/12/2015 @ 8:40 PM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 2803 views

Update: Tesla rolled out a referral program after I posted the below. If you find the below useful, and decide to pull the trigger, I would greatly appreciate if you would use my referral link: http://ts.la/sahil1254. Even if you don't, it's a nice car, and I think you'll enjoy it greatly.

About a month ago, and after many years of waiting, I finally purchased my dream car – the Tesla Model S. After having driven it for about a month, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this ultimate gadget, especially since most of the reviews online are a repeat of each other.

What I like about the car,

  1. It is an EV, which means good for the earth. Yes I’ve heard all those ‘long tailpipe’ arguments, those are absurd and ridiculous. Spare me the nonsense. And if it really bugs you, get a solar panel.
  2. It is Made in America, supporting American interests. I know a lot of people hate western values, I’m not one of them.
  3. It is the best driving car I have ever driven. I have driven BMW, Merc, for a similar price, they do not hold a candle to Tesla. Best driving car from a comfort point of view, and jump starty EV acceleration that ICE just does not have. You just cannot imagine with EV acceleration is, until you try it yourself. Merging is not an issue, inconsiderate drivers just cannot keep up. Orangish lights are not an issue, you simply depress the pedal and make the light before it turns red. And forget all that, just put it in cruise and enjoy the awesome ride .. its nice!
  4. It is the nicest looking car on the road.
  5. It is extremely practical, has a lot of carrying space.
  6. It is extremely practical, 5 people can sit inside very comfortably, the 2 rear jump seats are a gimmick IMO (more on that later).
  7. The fuel is cheap, much much cheaper than gas. Yeah I know gas has gotten cheaper lately. But even at cheap prices, it is still expensive. And well gas in the long term will only go higher.
  8. The no haggle sales experience, not having to spend hours ad hours bargaining.
  9. Tesla’s staff and service experience is top notch at least today.
  10. So much of the car is on ‘auto’ I wonder why other cars don’t do this? You have push button start? Why do we have that button, I am in the car, I have the key, I’m pretty sure I want to drive. And if I leave the car, why do I have to take the extra step of turning it off, or engaging the parking brake? Tesla does so much of this automatically, frankly I am getting spoiled. I am not sure if I will ever like driving the troglodyte cars that every other car manufacturer produces.
  11. That big screen, like I said – every other car manufacturer gives you a UX 10 years behind Tesla. It is puzzling to me why they are SO bad.
  12. The simplicity – every other car is a mess of buttons. Everything seems to be an afterthought, patchwork created by many teams not working together well. Only Tesla has produced a finished product, that looks like a product, not a garage concoction of a neophyte.
  13. The interior noise level – and this has gotten better over the years. The 2015 Tesla’s are very quiet inside. The older ones (2012’s especially) were not.
  14. The acceleration. Now I got the slowest Tesla (70D), and even with this, I have zero issues with acceleration. In fact, it takes a conscious effort to not speed. One of my friends has an 85D that we did a few jump starts in, and the acceleration of that is so much that I felt pukey. The P85D, and the P90DL, are just over the top IMO. At some point, it’s fast enough! I think 70D is fast enough, more than I’ll ever need or want from a car.
  15. The range. Here is the funny thing, the only people who worry about range, are the ones who are thinking of buying a Tesla. Range is a non issue. The range is so much that for normal in town driving, you will not run out of it, unless you are a UPS delivery driver perhaps. For all practical purposes, the range is ENOUGH. Secondly, charging stations are everywhere. There are MORE charging stations than there are gas stations. You do have to balance this with the fact that charging takes longer than filling up. But superchargers eliminate most of that. That said, yes there may be some trips, depending upon where you live where charging can be an issue. You need to learn some planning and you’ll be fine. Long story short, there are 3 things to remember about charging,
    1. For in town, and occasional out of town, the range is enough, charging is a non issue.
    2. Remember you can charge Tesla at Superchargers, Public chargers (chademo – 60mi/hr, J1722 – 20 mi/hr, Tesla destination charging (30 mi/hr on single charger, and 60 mi/hr on dual charger (costs $2k more), RV parks (same as destination charging), and worst case, 110V at 4mi/hr.
    3. Now could you run out of all charging options and be stranded on the side of the road? Well with all these options, you’d be incredibly stupid to do so. Still, if you do manage to get yourself in that pickle, the downside is, AAA can’t bring you an gallon of charge.
    4. long story short, from my point of view, charging is a very minor downside compared to the convenience. In fact, I would want my next car to be an EV as well, the trade off is totally okay!
  16. Driving style and range – the top two things that will kill your range are, #1 cold temperatures, and #2 high speeds. Tesla has a very nice range calculator on their site, but practically speaking, again for in-town daily usage, range is unimportant with a Tesla.
  17. Tesla and EV advantages that you may not think of,
    1. You can heat or cool the car in your garage. You can’t do that with an ICE without killing yourself. Even better, you can use smart preconditioning to automatically cool or heat your car prior to an appointment, or heat or cool it from your phone.
    2. The heater is hot instantly. There is no warm up time. And the heater is pretty good.
    3. You never have to visit a gas station. Gas stations are filthy, smelly, and ugly. They are out of my way. They require planning – I always used to drive a distance to go to the cheap gas station, because gas is so damned expensive. Sometimes I’d get 1 gallon of gas at the expensive gas station to keep me going .. for now. Its amazing how quickly you burn through a gallon though.
    4. You don’t have to fill up when its cold or rainy outside. You will up in your garage while you sleep.
    5. You always start with a full tank, in fact it is the ICE drivers that worry about range all the time.
  18. The pano roof is REALLY nice.
  19. The car autoupdates itself and gets better over the lifetime of the car. Tesla does not nickle and dime you on such things. BMW or MB want to charge you 15 bucks a month or something silly like that for 1/10th the technology. Its just not right.
  20. The TACC (automatic cruise control) pretty much takes all the stress out of driving in stop and go traffic. Once Tesla rolls out Autopilot, it will be simply amazing.
  21. The speed limit reading and warnings make driving so much easier without the fear of tickets.
  22. Blind spot, parking sensors etc. are also nice. The car improves itself with software updates, so now I have reverse guidelines, and a top view of obstacles around me, making parking a breeze.
  23. No hassle oil changes, because there are no oil changes. I swore off the Jiffy Lube types many years ago because of an very expensive bad experience many years ago. So my last car always went to the dealer. Except, I had to get there at 8AM on a Saturday, because that is the only time I could be in and out in just 2 hours. The dealer had wifi and coffee though, which made it less bad. But when I bought the car, the dealer promised me free loaners, which in 8 years, I received a loaner ONCE! They just never had any loaners, conveniently enough. I felt cheated, and decided that my next car wouldn’t be from them.
  24. Safest car on the road. When I drive this, I know even if a truck hits me, I’ll walk out unscathed. This ‘medical insurance’ is worth it to me. Driving is dangerous, far too many overconfident teenagers on their cell phones that need to get off my lawn as far as I’m concerned.
  25. Slacker radio is simply superb, you just say “play <songname>” and it plays it. Thats all there is to it. Every song in the world is in your car.
  26. You can also copy over your entire music library on a USB stick, and plug it in the car. And yes it even plays lossless FLAC audio.
  27. Its clean and doesn’t drip all over my garage floor.
  28. 100% connected, I can control so many functions of the car from my phone. Its awesome.
  29. There is so much awesome stuff in the car that they don’t advertise. The lift gate and car height are GPS sensitive – it opens to preset heights at home versus a garage, it remembers based on location. Super neat! There is loads more that is ‘all auto ethos’ that I discover all the time, huge smiles.
  30. .. probably more .. sometimes I go sit in the car just to blast music on the car, or take a phone call.

Now this wouldn’t be a proper review without, well, what I don’t like about the car. So..

What I don’t like about the car,

  1. Its expensive. Every EV has compromises, Tesla’s compromise as of now, is price. I know the Model 3 will be cheaper, but personally speaking, Model S was advertised as $49.5K, but in reality MOST Model S’s are close to 100K. I don’t think Model 3 will be 35K, it’ll be more like 50 or 60K. And I don’t think it’ll come out in 2017 either (see Elon stretchable time below).
  2. The ‘gas savings’ are misleading – Tesla should not resort to such crafty price structuring. What if you had a Volt that you drove 500 miles every month? Are your gas savings 10K over 5 years? I don’t think so.
  3. Low maintenance costs are a myth. Tesla charges $600 per service which you are supposed to get once a year. You can prepay $1900 for 4, or $3800 for 8 bringing the cost down somewhat. Still, it isn’t cheap. Okay its cheaper perhaps compared to a comparable car (top end merc or maserati etc.).. still .. not cheap!
    1. Still, I will be willing to say that, it is a low maint. hassle. Once a year service is far better than oil changes 4x a year. And most people (wink wink) get the service done every 2 years. And Tesla gives you a pretty nice loaner too. Also, I’ve never had a ‘pleasant oil change experience’. That 100 point check? We all know that is total BS. I have far too many bad stories to share about traditional car dealers, and I am sure you do too.
  4. The car is a giant rolling computer on wheels, and software in it can be buggy. Sometimes I feel there is too much going on in the car. Just know that this is a computer, and you may have to ctrl_alt_del it sometimes. No it is not an UNSAFE computer that will kill you. Just that the minor bugs are annoying at times.
  5. Expectation vs. reality
    1. The voice control, you’d think in a car like this, everything would be voice controlled. No it isn’t. In fact voice control is very very basic, basic navigation, phone, and media .. and that's basically it.
    2. The nav, you’d think with google maps it would have the best possible nav. Again, not true. The nav is exceptionally bad. It doesn’t let you even customize the route, you can’t say ‘avoid tolls’ for instance. It gives you one route, whether you like it or not. And usually that route is terrible. When my previous 2008 semi-luxury car had better nav, you know what I mean.
    3. Some basic stuff you’d expect is missing – like it doesn’t tell you tire pressures. It will tell you which tire is low, but it won’t tell you the exact pressures! C’mon Tesla, this is a cheap fix.
  6. Very cheap interiors, and I got the premium package. Still, the interiors are nowhere close to a Mercedes S class or BMW 7 series. Not even in the same zip code. The interiors are not terrible, but I’d put them at the level of an entry level Acura/Infiniti/Lexus. Look at it this way, you want swanky interiors – skip Tesla. You want otherwise the most awesome car ever, get a Tesla.
  7. Finicky sensors, in 1 month, I’ve had the autopilot camera malfunction twice – both times I had to step out, wipe dust off the camera. I wonder how this is going to hold up in snow and salt in the winter months.
  8. Aluminum body and high repair costs, there seems to be a reputation that Tesla’s are incredibly expensive to repair. I think some of it is true, which is also causing most insurance companies to raise their insurance rates. This is because aluminum is expensive to fix. But that's not a big deal since a lot of cars have started to use aluminum parts. Hell the BMW i3 and i8 are carbon fiber composite, I’d hate to know those repair costs. The issue here is, Tesla’s can be repaired ONLY by Tesla authorized shops. And those shops sometimes have to wait for weeks for the parts. (Atleast this is what I’ve heard). This means a simple dent that will cost $1k on a honda to fix, will cost $20K on a Tesla. I am not exaggerating. This is something Tesla can easily fix, but lowering their prices of spare parts and making them more available and working with more repair shops. There has been evidence lately that Tesla has indeed slashed the price of their spare parts by 1/3rd. So this issue may go away, but still something to consider, atleast today.
  9. Add to #7, Tesla’s can dent easily.
  10. Supposedly Tesla’s paint is soft. Now, everyone had me scared to wits about this issue. Some people spend as much as 5K on TOP of the car, covering it with XPel. I didn’t do any of that, and the paint looks fine to me. Time will tell though. I’m not saying XPel is bad, but I’d love to see some scientific measurements and proof that Tesla’s paint is indeed soft before I believe this. Maybe this bullet does not belong under the ‘negatives’.
  11. Very expensive accessories. Tesla lugnuts are $60, a small Tesla model car is $210, and a simple tote bag is $150. What? Not much of a third party accessory market either.
  12. The car is huge! I can’t imagine it’d be very sensible driving this without parking and blind spot sensors. I wish the car was a bit smaller though. Some parking lots around me are just too small for Tesla. And yes I park way the hell out of everyone’s way because people are inconsiderate assholes who will ding your car and not bat an eyelid. The good thing is, its actually easier and quicker to find a parking spot in the far corner :).
    1. It would be fair to also add that, some people prefer huge cars. Huge also means loads of space for people and stuff inside.
    2. And that the car does not feel huge when you drive it – it feels very agile and nimble. Its when you turn around and look how big it really is .. a bit disconnected with what you’d expect :-).
  13. You need a place where you can park the car and charge on a daily basis. Yeah I know there is charging network etc. but I would imagine it would be inconvenient. So if you live in a high rise, with no charging parking, well sorry but this is not the right car for you.
  14. And finally my biggest criticism of the car is “Elon Stretchable Time”. I’ll take the example of ‘Autopilot’.
    1. In October 2014, Tesla advertised autopilot. They had this awesome event, where they talked of the feature available in ‘present tense’.
    2. Their website is misleading, they seem to talk about Autopilot as if it is available today.
    3. Their sales guys (some of them), seem like fresh out of school types who irresponsibly tell you inaccurate information, including Autopilot.
    4. Elon Musk said in October 2014 that 90% of driving will be autonomous in 2015 (video).
    5. March 19th, Elon said Autopilot will be available in 3 months.
    6. June, he said it’ll be rolled out to Beta testers by end of June.
    7. July, said the same thing (so it hasn’t been rolled out?)

It’s almost August 2015, and promise after promise has been blown off. And all this while cars half the price of Tesla have rolled out their versions of autopilot.

.. what the hell! I just wish their website was not misleading, and they actually kept their promises and timelines. The car is awesome enough, as it is .. you don’t need to do these things to sell it.

… anyway …

Long story short, it’s still an awesome car. I’m happy I got it. But as some suggested improvements from a happy well wishing owner,

  1. Keep your promises, don't have a misleading website.
  2. Reduce repair cost bills
  3. Improve navigation and voice commands
  4. Improve the interiors
  5. Allow everyone to write apps for Tesla, and the Tesla API.

So #1, #2, and # are fixable via software updates, but we don’t know when/if that’ll happen. #5 would be ridiculously cool. #4 – well that's not improvable on existing cars at least.

Final word: Nice car. If you can responsibly afford it, I recommend it. 7.6/10… which will change to 9/10 if they roll out Autopilot in the very near future (next week).

Sound off but keep it civil:

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