The Tesla Model S Performance Sedan is Amazing!

The Tesla Model S Performance Sedan is Amazing!

Watch the test drive video here:

This is a test drive of a Tesla Model S Performance Edition in Chicago, on 7/28/12. I made my reservation on a Model S in May of 2009 and have been waiting over 3 years to drive it for the first time. As you know, the Performance Edition has an 85kWh battery and offers amazing acceleration of 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. The test car was electronically limited to 80mph, and it pulled strong until it hit that limit. One word sums it up – amazing. I had high expectations before the test drive, since I read practically every review article I could find before going in, and the test drive still exceeded my expectations by a mile. My car will arrive in fall of 2012, and I can’t wait to get it. Here are my impressions of the car after about 10 minutes of driving:


It’s amazingly powerful. It blows my Infiniti FX 50S (5.0 seconds from 0-60mph) out of the water. I test-drove a Tesla Roadster before, and thought that was a really, really fast car. The Model S Performance is just as fast (actually it felt faster), and much more refined for everyday driving. As you can see in the video, shortly after I started, there was an instance where I wanted to pass the car in front, but hesitated at first because there was a red light ahead. I decided to punch it and see what the car could do, and man oh man the car just took off. There was no wait for gear to down-shift, it’s max power instantaneously every time. The power of the engine (I meant motor) proved itself again in the 0-80mph acceleration – I don’t know what sitting in a launching rocket really feels like, but I think I came as close as I could on earth today in the Model S Performance. And that’s with 5 adults in the car!!! And yes, I was driving on a public road with a speed limit of …. what speed limit?


It‘s amazingly smooth. The lack of a gas engine and transmission make the car feel silky smooth at any speed. You don’t feel any gear shifts. Just keep your foot on the pedal and like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going and going.


It’s amazingly quiet. As expected, without a gas engine, this car feels stealth. This is especially helpful because I love the speed but don’t like the engine noise. Some people say the engine noise is music to their ears. Well, not me. I like a quiet car that goes fast. The Tesla Model S delivers. In fact, the loudest thing in the car is the turn signal chirping at stop lights!

Fun Factor

It’s amazingly fun to drive. I read about the low center of gravity helps the car’s handling, since batteries are placed under the car, and I paid special attention to see if I could notice the difference. And yes, I can tell you the handling on this car is excellent. It feels like the car is glued to the road. Again, with my Infiniti FX50S as the benchmark, the Model S feel much more solid. Before I purchased the Infiniti, I also test drove a BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, and the Infiniti came out on top. I know it’s not fair to compare the handling of a sedan with that of a SUV, but the Model S offers so much storage I feel like it’s even more spacious than the X50S.

Touch-Panel Screen

The center Infotainment control screen is amazing! I can write a review just on that topic alone. Just take my word for it, if you like gadgets, you will love the center console. My co-pilot showed me the suspension settings, steering settings, where you have granular control over how the car feels. I actually looked for pot holes on the road to test the suspension system, and it felt like it was able to smooth out all the bumps. There is a noticeable different between the steering settings, from Comfort (like an old Cadillac), to Standard (like a Mercedes), to Sport (like a BMW).

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking – it is very easy to get used to. Basically regenerative braking allow the momentum and coasting power of the car to recharge the battery. There are two levels which can be set from the touch screen, Light and Standard. From the online reviews I read, I expected a significant slowdown when I let go the gas pedal. Not really. I altogether forgot about it altogether until the Tesla guide brought it up.

Stopping Power

I was prepped while waiting by the Tesla employees that the Model S has massive brake rotors. I didn’t think too much of it until I gave it a try. After accelerating to 80mph (electronically limited on the test car), I slammed on the brakes and the car came to a screeching halt while feeling solid and in control. There was not veering, minimal nose-dive, and as expected ABS kicked in to help. I don’t know the official stopping distance from 80 mph, but it felt like a short distance and seemed good enough for me to avoid most accidents.

Refuels and Repairs

Once common questions for any electric car are where where to refuel and how to get service. Of course there are a few charger options available for the Model S, and the onboard charger can be plugged into any wall outlet, although charging using an 110V outlet will be painfully slow. I believe there is also a national charging grid being worked on, not sure about timing when this will be ready for use. As for service, I was told that Tesla will come to you!!! Yep, they will drive a service van to wherever you are, your home, office, whatever, and service the car in the field. Of course, some major service still needs to be performed in their service center. Thankfully they have one in downtown Chicago so it won’t be so bad for me. But knowing they will come service the car in the field is very, very convenient. And for $100, Tesla can send a flatbed truck to pick up the car, take it to their service center, and return it after service.

Other observations:

  • The steering wheel is thick an beefy and reminds me of the Hummer steering wheel.
  • The disappearing door handles are very cool.
  • The car is vary spacious inside.
  • It has a completely flat floor in the back seat, which is uncommon for a rear-drive sedan. The back seats are wide and three adults fit with room to spare.
  • The trunk is huge.
  • The car is wider than I thought.
  • The silver wheels are painted, and match closely to the silver paint cover. The graphite color wheels are also painted, and didn’t look as good to me. I expected the silver wheels to be shinier, but I can live with the stock color.
  • The key is a miniature Model S car. There are no obvious buttons but you can press different parts of the car key to lock/unlock the corresponding doors.
  • I thought push button start was cool in my Infiniti and a big convenience feature. The Model S goes one step further and you don’t even need to push a key. Just carry the key in your pocket and sit down, and the car will wake up.
  • I learned from an Tesla employee that the traction control in the Model S works surprising well, since the computer controls the drive motors directly, instead of trying to apply braking to a conventional gas engine driven car. He said even in deep snow, you can floor the accelerator pedal and the computer will control the wheel spin and (1) accelerate as fast as physically possible, and (2) keep the car in a straight line.
  • Visibility through the rear window is somewhat limited. I believe it’s due to the slope of the back window, the gap that you see through is even smaller than my Infiniti FX, which is already smaller than most cars
  • The gear shift stick is made by Mercedes
  • If you lift you foot off the brake pedal at a stop light, the car may roll backwards a little bit.


Overall, I simply can’t wait to take delivery of my car. One big problem I see is how to deal with all the speeding tickets I’m going to get. Oh well, with great power comes great responsibility.

Watch the test drive video here:

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