I live in Tesla Town where the Fremont factory serves as a natural landmark. The number of Teslas roaming around steadily increases each passing year and although Model X is relatively sparse overall, Model S is still a common sight.
And everytime I see a Model S there's a tinge of envy, so a week ago I signed up for a test drive. Sometimes you have to scratch that itch. The old days of walking into a dealership, carefully perusing around and mentally preparing for the inevitable chat with some sly salesperson doesn't exist at a Tesla store (at least in my experience). I registered for a test drive online, uploaded photos of my driver's license, read/accepted the legalese, and then a week later I showed up at the Tesla store at the Fremont factory.
Although my appointment was at 1:00pm I had mistakenly bookmarked my calendar for 1:30pm. The Fremont store was quite busy but they accommodated me. The last time I did a test drive here was for a Model 3 Performance, but nowadays there's no Tesla employee riding along with you. Instead once you check in they text you the PIN to your designated demo car which allows you to shift into gear. I was assigned a Midnight Silver non-performance Model S (the only Model S in their demo inventory at the time). All I had to do was walk to the car, open the door, adjust the seats, mirrors, and steering wheel/yoke, and it was off to the races (figuratively, of course). This car had only 500 miles on it.
It was my first time in a modern Model S and seeing the yoke is certainly ... impressive. It's as if you're not preparing to drive ... no, you're preparing for flight. It took me a few minutes to go through the screen settings to make sure I understood how the car would respond (well, yes, of course I enabled Insane Mode) and then carefully went into gear. The car needed to be returned in half an hour, but unlike my previous test drives I was free to drive anywhere and not along a predesignated path along Kato Road and then back up the 880 freeway. But I took that path anyway.
I've never experienced Insane or Ludicrous modes in Model S before, so of course that's the first thing on my list to try. Right in front of the Thermo Fisher Scientific building is the final stop sign before the bend along the large lot where all newly-assembled cars are loaded onto trailers. I floored the pedal ... and within a second or two I began feeling light-headed with a diminishing sensation of my head and torso. By the time I hit the main curve I had already released the pedal and began decelerating back to a reasonable (test drive) speed.
Those YouTube videos were not exaggerating. And this isn't even a Plaid. It's obvious why people get obsessed over this sort of stuff, but unless you want to live like you're constantly on a roller coaster it probably isn't conducive to good health.
The yoke steering didn't feel all that unnatural and adjusting to it wasn't as difficult as I'd thought it'd be. My grip on it came more naturally than I had imagined, although navigating a parking lot and performing 3-point turns require more practice. The turn signal buttons with the haptic feedback weren't all that unintuitive either and I think I'd get used to not having traditional stalks.
Ride bumps were relatively muted considering the 21" Arachnid wheels. That upgraded suspension makes a big difference and certainly feels nicer than my old coil setup and 19" wheels with more sidewall buffer.
30 minutes for a test drive wasn't all that long so I focused mostly on driving experience. Compared to my car, the things I noticed most were the side cameras and the views they provided during lane changes, the immediacy at which lane changes were performed by Autopilot (mine usually takes its sweet time just to be extra, extra, extra safe), the ability to tilt the center screen sideways (although having it pointed towards me felt somewhat awkward), Autosteer's ability to maintain lane-centering is more consistent than APv1.0, and the newer car definitely feels more planted to the asphalt.
A much superior vehicle, especially compared to this crap:
The only con in comparison to what I drive is the fact that my frunk space is much more generous. Alas, this is only a reminder that I still rely on a single motor to get me by. First world problems. Oh yeah, and mine has a sunroof. But I almost never open it. Meh. That nose cone design is almost a badge of shame.
And the cherry on top - as of this writing a "base" Model S costs $94,990. I paid almost this much for Big Blue over 8 years ago!
Off-topic update: Tesla in Bangkok, Thailand.
I spent a warm winter in the bustling capital city and although I'm not all that fond of hanging around overly-touristy areas, I found myself in the Siam Paragon mall and on the first floor (technically the second from an American's perspective since in Thailand the main walk-in floor is what they call "ground floor") was space set aside for Tesla's formal introduction to the country. My understanding is that the first Tesla store will be in the EmSphere mall (still under construction) in the Phrom Phong area but considering how fast construction projects complete in that country I suspect it won't be too long until the official store opens.
I don't read Thai so I didn't bother mentally reverse-engineering what the English equivalent was so I could work the menu. Nor was I in the mood to Google up images of the English version. I apparently also couldn't be bothered to use Google Translate. Another lazy American on vacation with his brain turned off. I like how there's no translation for "Autopilot" though.
Another reminder that I'm not in Kansas anymore.
It is, once again, notable to point out that all of the Teslas selling in Thailand are technically superior to Big Blue in just about every single measurable metric. Perhaps I'm just building up excuses to buy a new car at this point.