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AMPED UP.
Rich Loney, Pilot Editor

Have you seen one yet? Spotting a Tesla Model S in northeast Ohio is a rare occurrence. Yet there one was, a stunning black over black Tesla Model S, sitting in the parking lot at my studio. The Franz von Holzhausen design (who's portfolio includes the Mazda Kabura concept car, the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevy SS, and the "Concept One" New Beetle) has true presence. I was immediately struck by its physically large mass, something unexpected in an all-electric vehicle. This particular Tesla is owned by Tom Meadows, an entrepreneur friend of mine, who ordered the car four years ago and finally took delivery in December 2012. The one thing which Tom, a former 911 twin-turbo owner, appreciates more then a fine car is high technology. This being the case, he definitely found the perfect car. Tom invited me into the fully-appointed, hand-stitched leather cabin for an in-depth operations tutorial.

There are only two buttons on the entire dashboard; one operates the hazards, and the other pops open the glove box. All other functions are manipulated through a large touch screen interface (about the size of two stacked iPads) in the center of the dash. Everything from three adjustable ride heights to power performance levels can be manually set. There's even a "creep" function, which was a new addition in a recent software update. Tom explained that a Tesla, by its nature, does not accelerate until the activation (gas) pedal is pressed. When stopped at a red light the car simply sits silent and motionless even when lifting your foot off the brake. Owners felt that the driving experience would be improved if, when lifting your foot off the brake, the car would "creep" slowly forward like an internal combustion engine does at idle. The technology in this car is space-shuttle amazing!

After my orientation, Tom asked, "Ready to take it for a drive?" Hell yes! I strapped into the driver's seat and the full-color digital display in front of the steering wheel transitioned into a speedometer (cool). I placed my foot on the brake and looked and began looking for the start button. I looked at Tom who informed me that although the car was completely silent we were "on" and ready to roll. I have to admit, it's a bit unnerving not hearing the rumble and blurb of an engine that cues you into the fact the car is running.

The on ramp to Route 8 North is 50 feet from my parking lot. It has a long ramp that sweeps gently to the left as you merge onto the freeway. The perfect opportunity to punch the accelerator to see what this thing's got. Wow! What the 85-kWh "Performance" optioned Model S has is 416 horsepower and 443 foot pounds of IMMEDIATE torque. And, I mean—immediate! There's no transmission like in a conventional car, so all the power this e-machine has to offer is ready to do your bidding at a moment's notice. It actually doesn't accelerate as much as it thrusts you forward, NASA rocket-launch style. How fast is it? Search YouTube for "Tesla Model V vs BMW M5 drag race". Ezra Dyer of Automobile Magazine pits their "2013 Automobile of the Year" against one of the finest from the Bimmer fleet. The results are surprising.

So, what's my impression of the Tesla Model S? It's truly fascinating! I'm astounded that a vehicle with 75% fewer moving parts then an internal combustion engine can toss out supercar acceleration so effortlessly. Would I trade my BMW 135i for an all-electric vehicle? No. The world may be headed in the direction of the Tesla Lithium-ion highway but I'm not ready to jump aboard just yet. Each morning, before I wrap my hand around the manual shift lever in my 1-er, I roll the driver's window all the way down. I press the start button and hear the sweet, addictive blurb and rumble from the exhaust as the car comes to life and know I'm embarking on yet another ultimate driving experience.

tesla-caption1

 

TeslaModelS

Center mounted control pod. There's only two physical
"buttons" on the dashboard located to the left and right of touchscreen.
 

Tom Meadows and his Tesla Model S