I Took A Tesla Test Drive At The Mall

Model S Design Studio   Tesla Motors

The decision has been made. Fifteen years is long enough. My 1999 Mercedes SLK230 is back on its feet and running well&#185 after a recent trip to the car hospital, but it’s time.

There are lots of cars to look at. Today I looked at the Tesla Model S.

The Model S is quite the car. It’s an all electric, no gas engine at all. Built in California, its range is listed at 265 miles.

Tesla doesn’t have dealers. It sells its cars direct from company owned showrooms. There’s one about 25 minutes from here at Fashion Island–a mall in Newport Beach.

IMAG0224-w1400-h1400I’m not sure I can describe Fashion Island properly. Let’s just say valet parking doesn’t see too many Chevys! That’s two Lamborghinis in a row in that photo.

As with most shopping centers in SoCal, Fashion Island is mainly open air with lots of foot traffic. The are a few anchor stores like Macy*s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s plus smaller shops and kiosks.

IMAG0238-w1400-h1400We walked into the Tesla store and looked around. There were two cars on display, a Roadster and a Model S. People were crowded around both.

The Model S had its hood up. There was no engine there. It was actually a trunk. The trunk’s a trunk too!

Before long Jay walked up. His card says “Owner Advisor,” which means he’s a salesman. With some prodding from Helaine and Stef I asked if a test drive was possible.

Usually one could be scheduled in a few days, but maybe… Ten minutes later we were walking into the mall’s garage and climbing into the car.

It is a sedan. It’s a nice sedan, but from the outside not much nicer than any other car. The doors unlocked as we approached.

The Tesla is a fully electric vehicle, so there are a few immediate differences from what you’re driving now. It has motors, not an engine. When it’s not moving it’s silent. When its moving it’s still pretty quiet. The Tesla has no ignition key and no igntiion!

There are no gears. There’s no transmission. There’s no PRNDL. Push a small stalk on the steering column up for forward, down for reverse.

In front of me was a fully digital instrument panel. To the right was a 19″ flat display mounted so the long edges were vertical.

I gingerly backed out of the space then forward toward the street. Jay was telling me about the car, but I was concentrating on not hitting anything.

I am used to driving a powerful car. The Tesla is more powerful. At low speeds the torque is insane. It was obvious as soon I pushed down on the gas pedal.

We ran through some city streets then up into the hills overlooking the Pacific. Newport Beach is spectacular. I was taking a test drive in a location fit for a car commercial!

We made a right turn. Jay told me to hit it hard. The cars low center of gravity kept us firmly on the road as we accelerated through the uphill turn.

If a car can be unflippable, this one is. All the weight from the batteries beneath the cabin give it a very low center of gravity.

I hit 83 mph on one road before easing back. A man walking his dog gave me a dirty look. The car wants to run. I was at its mercy.

Jay showed me the GPS system and looked up something we were chatting about on the web browser. Yes, the car is on the Internet.

As we headed back toward Fashion Island we saw another Model S and pulled up to it at a light. I rolled down my window.

“I’m taking a test drive. Do you like it,” I asked? Two big smiles. Two thumbs up. Jay couldn’t have staged it better.

Like I said, it’s quite a car.

Using electricity brings the operating cost way down, as does the lack of scheduled maintenance. Of course this is offset by it’s astronomical price.

I’m considering it. It’s not out of the question. But, yeah, you have to swallow hard to pull the trigger on a purchase like this.

I’ll be looking at other cars. If not a Tesla, maybe another convertible–maybe the SLK250? I’m at the very confused stage of the process.

The Sun was going down over the Pacific as Helaine, Stef and I reunited. They’d done some ‘mall-ing’ while IMAG0231_PerfectlyClear_0001-w1400-h1400I drove.

We headed back to Irvine.

&#185 – Thanks Steve W. and Steve M. in Connecticut for excellent guidance that saved me grief and money in getting my car repaired recently.

22 thoughts on “I Took A Tesla Test Drive At The Mall”

      1. That’s what I was wondering – I’d only seen the headlines, and didn’t know if there really was a big issue, or if it was just a case of the other manufacturers looking for an issue, if you know what I mean.

  1. No offense, but you wont live long enough to re-coop the cost…………they are ridiculously over priced….. and now that you are in the land of eternal sunshine, why would you give up having a convertible? Get another rag top !

    1. Richard, You might be right. Then you see stuff like this (from USA Today, talking about Consumer Reports):

      Owners of the long-range electric Tesla Model S give it the highest satisfaction scores of any car in the magazine’s annual survey. In fact, CR says they are the highest marks it has seen in years: 99 out of 100.

      The results come from 600 responses in the survey and CR says owners’ findings match its own high test scores for the Model S. Earlier this year, CR said it was one of the best cars it ever tested. It scored 99 out of 100, the same score that owners gave it in the survey.

      That’s tough to disregard.

      FYI – the SLK230 is a hardtop convertible. A ragtop doesn’t have the same appeal to me.

      1. I used to be lured in by high end cars and all the bells and whistles…… I have since realized there are many cheaper viable options at a smaller sticker. I am onm my second VW Jetta, this one a diesel, which I love. It’s German (Mercedes) Engineering at the cost of a VW……just do yourself a favor, go look at and or drive the VW Eos, also a hard top convertible…… I know the Mercedes is, but I still refer to them all as rag tops. But with all the hard top versions which give you the best of both worlds and keep the winter cold out (shut up !! 🙂 ) Day two here of real cold and I hate it already, got a room I can rent?

  2. Fashion Island. Even when I lived there, there was nothing I could afford to buy there. White Front and Zodys were my speed…and still are if they still existed 🙂

    1. The last two comments were sent by the same person via Comcast in New Hampshire. That person has also commented as Jan B and Chris.

      Here’s what I don’t understand. Why would someone with this animus toward me lack the integrity to use their own name?

      Life is full of mysteries.

        1. >>Disgruntled former station managers


          BTW Geoff, my niece has the Tesla and is quite satisfied.
          That said, they have a couple of “normal” cars too as the Tesla’s range won’t let them drive to Vegas to see her mom.

          You might consider keeping the SLK as it might occasionally allow you some utility as well as the fact that you’ll probably miss having a sports car. (Something I’ve learned the hard way, having had 1 Porsche Cabrio plus 5 Alfas at one time or another, but no sports car currently.)

  3. Hey Geoff why not try an Ford Fusion Hybrid? VERY nice car, nowhere near as expensive as a Tesla. We had a customer in one for a couple of weeks while his Mercedes was in the shop and liked it SO much he couldn’t stop raving about it. Said it was just as good if not BETTER in some aspects to the Mercedes.I suggested he get one as a second car. He REALLY liked that idea.
    I’d also suggest a Hyundai Genesis or a Toyota Avalon. Chrysler 300 is much improved over previous models and the Buick Regal has a neat push button gear shift now.

    1. It very well may be overpriced (though I believe they are still losing money on every car sold), but it’s quite an experience behind the wheel. That power and low center of gravity turn a sedan into a sports car.

      Yes, there’s definitely a ‘toy’ factor involved. However, it’s pretty nondescript for a ‘hey look at me’ car.

  4. What is the cost for the Tesla? I have heard rumors that they are around $90k. Is that accurate? There are a few in the Boston area. They are sharp looking cars.

    1. There are all sorts of tax credits, so it’s tough to say exactly. The model I test drove had everything. It was over $100k. The model I would consider is around $70k. As I said earlier, that’s a lot of money. However, I kept my current car 15 years and my car before over 10 years. That makes spending a lot a little easier to take.

  5. It really is an amazing car. It may not be perfect right now but it will be very soon. It is the way of the future. New adopters often pay more for new technology. The fact that it is zero pollution and does not rely on fossil fuels are the two best reasons to buy this vehicle. The acceleration far exceeds any other car that you have driven. It handles and drives as good as a Lamborghini and is totally unpretentious. And it’s high-tech. Right down your alley!
    The fire occurrence in this particular automobile is far below the average of standard production cars. The news story hit big because of the way Tesla markets their cars. Imagine if we all could buy cars directly from manufacturers and not from dealers. Not the best big business scenario.
    Good luck in your decision!

  6. Just heard today, thank you Clark Howard, the car dealers in the state of North Carolina have unsuccessfully attempted to prohibit the sale of the Tesla in their state. However the state of Texas has actually passed a law prohibiting a potential buyer from taking a test ride in a Tesla. This is truly the car of the future with the marketing that should accompany it. It is the car of the future, it encourages truly free enterprise and is anti-big business.

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