This is not entirely a true story.
Greentech Media was invited by Tesla Motors to pilot a test drive in the new Model S beta at their Palo Alto, California facility.
The beta is the phase of vehicle development before it reaches full production.
I arrived, sporting my flame-retardant one-piece test suit and helmet, only to be informed by the Tesla public relations person that I was not going to actually drive the vehicle. Instead, a Tesla driver was going to chauffeur me around Palo Alto for a few minutes. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, and a number of executives and board members were in attendance at the morning's event.
This was unacceptable. I don't get up this early, wear pants, and miss my anger-management class to be ferried around Palo Alto by public relations people.
So while Musk was pointing out the roominess of the front cargo area, I caught him off-guard and coaxed his surprisingly large and wiry frame into the "frunk." It closed cleanly and the seal felt airtight. Fit and finish, even on the beta, seemed top-shelf.
The test drive was on.
The car is plush, elegant, and starts with a push-button. Seats were vegetable-tanned leather. Acceleration out of the parking lot was motorcycle-fast once I brushed past a small crowd of terrified onlookers.
There are wood accents on the dash and an expansive panoramic moon-roof.
Rather than brave the police presence on Highway 280 while performing top-speed tests, I pointed the car up Page Mill Road to gauge the handling. The car is surprisingly roomy inside and beautifully appointed with an in-dashboard, 17-inch touch screen for navigation and controls. Upon entering the cabin, the car had paired with my mobile phone and displayed my settings on the screen.
As befits an electric vehicle, the car was amazingly quiet, except for the muted screams and banging emanating from the front storage area. Tesla has worked hard to minimize NVH (that's noise, vibration and harshness).
I tested the brakes. Hard. The car just scrubbed off the speed smoothly and evenly.
The brake-test also seemed to quiet the noise, except for the occasional moan from Musk in the frunk.
Page Mill Road up toward Skyline Boulevard is a series of s-curves and tight compound turns on a poorly maintained macadam. Those used to the weight imbalance of a front- or rear-mounted internal combustion engine will be unaccustomed to the sheer kinetic symmetry of the car-length battery pack, its distributed feel and low center of gravity. It feels considerably lighter than its 4200-pound curb weight. There were one or two instances where, at 90 mph, the car lost its grip on gravel-covered back roads, but a different set of tires, more attuned to my driving style, would change that.
The glorious Ninth by Ludwig van was blasting on the sound system when the music went silent as the phone rang.
It was Elon. Calling from the frunk.
Musk used some truly foul language that I will not print here. I ended the call. The music resumed.
The CEO then texted me, with the text appearing on the beautiful in-dash screen.
He demanded that I release him. He said I could keep the car.
As he was in no position to negotiate, I suggested that the next time he designs a car, he should include an inside-the-frunk release mechanism.
At this point, police sirens were approaching from the east and west as well as from the chopper above. In one last test, I took the car off-road into the wilds of the Montebello Open Space Preserve. The car performed poorly off-road.
With good behavior, in three to five years I will report on the high-speed performance of Tesla's Model X.
A photo of my Roadster test drive from last year is shown below:
Tesla has received more than 6,000 reservations for the Model S, a four-door, sportback sedan with room for five adults. The car does 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds and can charge from any conventional 120-volt or 240-volt outlet. The vehicle comes with three range options: 160 miles, 230 miles and 300 miles.
According to the firm, in the U.S., the Model S starts at $57,400, or $49,900 after the U.S. federal tax credit. The 230-mile Model S starts at about $10,000 more and the 300-mile Model S starts at about $20,000 more than the base price.
Model S sedans will start being delivered to customers in mid-2012 with a target production of 5,000 units in 2012 and 20,000 vehicles per year after that.
Tags: electric batteries, electric car charging, electric car company, electric cars, electric sports cars, electric vehicle, electric vehicle charging, electric vehicles, elon musk, tesla, tesla automotive, tesla model s, tesla motors, tesla motors - ev pioneer, tesla review