Had a test drive in Munich

I had a test drive on Jan. 26th. 2013 in Munich Germany. It was a Performace model. The result was mixed. I own a Mercedes CLS 350 CGI (300hp no Diesel). Please refer to this model when you judge my ratings.

Absolute Premium Performance!
Really fast reaction on the accelerator pedal.
Up to date air suspension.
Precise power steering (tight option).
Best computer screen I ever saw: My Mercedes has the 'big' (and expensive) navigation screen which looks like a tenth of the size of the Tesla.

Seats with no adjustable head rests. In the front just acceptable - in the back less than mediocre.
Too few storage places in the front for glasses, papers, tissues, cups, iPad, etc.
Far too few choices in wood colors. No warm, brown colors.
Side mirrors show a too small angle of the traffic behind.
Interior Feeling/Finish on an upper middle class level.
The offered all year tires are not acceptable for the given torque.
The back cover of the trunk looks like a lid for the iPad. As thin but as expensive. 300 EUR for a three fold plastic? You're kidding ...

The machinery and technique behind the car is absolute 1st class and superior to every car I drove in the past (BMW750i, Lexus GS 430). Accelerating, handling, braking - just perfect.

The outside of the car is also wonderful. Good gap tolerances between body parts. Perfect lacquer. And the design resembles the great grand tourisme like Maserati. I like this form (see the Mercedes from above)

Driving and seeing the car from the outside are the big pros of this car.

But as soon, as you open the door, you feel the missing - well - massiveness. I can not really find the words. The door is light. The door handle is light as well. The opening and closing sound is thin. The seat feels tiny and light as well. Head rests are tiny - there is a feeling of an unsafe car.

Sitting behind the wheel lets you forget all this lightness. The Wheel is thick and handy. The contact to the street very good. But as soon as you switch into the 'drive' gear (position), there is again this light-joystick feeling. The passengers in the back neither have the distraction by the big screen nor the steering wheel. They start touching the surrounding and there is quite nothing. No upper class feeling, no comfort transportation, far too small head rests, too few storage places.

Ok - energy is a problem in this car. And if you are speeding this vehicle (as we always do in Germany), you will end up with 250km/150mls range for the 85kWh model. Therefore the interior has to be light. But have to and getting used to are two sides of a medal.

Then you begin to compare the asked price with the 'value' you get in return. My Mercedes costs 90kEUR including a top premium inside. The Tesla 85kWh (no Premium) will cost 95kEUR (128k$). Germany is a high price country - especially if you look at cars. But you receive not only good motors and drive trains - but also a luxury interior. I am not quite sure, if the high price calculation of Tesla will succeed. Asking for this price will be one thing - getting it a second - but the real question is: Will people buy a second one, if you are not able to resell the old one for a good price, if the first competitors ask for less.

It's not for everyone.

by the way: it's electric

It is interesting how the original poster compares Tesla to ICE cars - it's great, because that's what Tesla is looking for, as opposed to a "it's great for being electric". Most consumers will go for the best car, not the best electric car. On the other hand, it's tough being compared in what is probably the world's most competitive premium ICE market.

As more and more countries are opened up, it will be interesting to get the reports. But European countries vary a lot - for example, in Germany you have the "Autobahn" challenge, where people drive very, very fast which consumes a lot of energy (and the fact that there are BMW, Audi and Mercedes cars everywhere. That's not really the case in most other European markets, with less luxe car fleets and speed limits on the freeway comparable to the US. In Scandinavia, you have the cold. In Southern Europe, the car size. But I'm sure Tesla will eventually adapt and overcome these challenges, as long as they listen to their customers' feedback and don't think Europe and the US are one and the same.

Horst, I totally agree, very well spoken. The good news is that it would take relatively little for Tesla to solve most of these interior problems. It shouldn't be hard to give us parking and blind spot sensors (for such a big car with not the greatest site lines), grab handles, coat hooks and interior storage. The adjustable headrests and bolsters would be nice, and might come in a sport seat configuration. Also, the stereo needs improvement.

As David_Se says, if the car is to be really successful, it can't be the best electric car, but the best car. That is within reach, if Tesla adapts and concedes on some philosophical points.

I totally agree with your opinion about the interior. Car of this price should be on the same level as Lexus 460, Mercedes S-class, BMW 750 comfort wise. And unfortunately it's far from them. It feels like plastic toy inside. There is no comfortable feeling like in luxury cars. I am not even touching big shots like RR or Bentley.

Sorry you don't like the interior, I love it. All of today's cars are about excess - interior, exterior, under the hood. Tesla is about what's necessary, and beautiful because of it. THAT'S my definition of performance.

We've had our car for almost a month, coming from a BMW and Lexus, owned a Mercedes in the past. I don't feel myself missing the urge to rub the leather or hear soda cans rolling around on the floor for lack of cupholders.

This car is for you if you are willing to meet it where it is, which is in a different space than every other car you've owned. A better space. I think you'll like it if you'll accept its invitation...

Remind me of the cost of gas in Germany vs cost of electric.

@horst - I agree. I looked long and hard at those things when I bought my Model S. The feature list is very short compared to an equivalent price BMW, Mercedes, etc. Likewise some of the interior trim is not up to Porsche, etc. standard.

But - I still think for me the car is great value for money. This is the best performing, most spacious, most economic, safest sedan on the market. And it has better driving dynamics than any car I've ever driven except my Lotus Elise.

With the current state of battery capability and charging infrastructure it is not as convenient as gas cars, but having a "full" car every morning when I wake up makes up for a lot of that.

There are definitely pros and cons to the Model S, and it isn't for everyone. For me it made sense, for you, maybe not.

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

I think the thing that is confusing matters it the Standard Model S vs. the performance. The performance with all the options pushes the sticker well over $100k and into the rarefied territory of Panameras, M5s, and some nice Mercedes.

I bought the standard 85kwh model with a sticker of 86k and after rebates about 76k. That's in the Audi A6/A7 price range. Having driven both, I'll keep my Model S interior thanks. Understated and minimalist does not necessarily mean cheap to me.

But I can see your point when you start comparing to ultra-luxury cars.

Best interior of any car belongs to not forget this is not a minivan. Tesla S is a drivers car, and is absolutely beautiful inside and out.

Thank you very much for all the input. I am well aware, that we have to pay a premium for the new electric drive.

This car is a driver centric car. You have the best powertrain available in the world and I am sure, that the Tesla S can win the quarter mile on our German autobahns against 99.99% of all present cars. Sitting behind the steering wheel is fantastic. The car is also very representive. You are able to show it around.

The basics are well done.

The only missing thing is some work on the interior and the manual feeling. That should not be a too big effort. The car has definitely the potential for the best car in the world. I do not talk about adding dynamic, air powered seats like in my Mercedes, but more valuable wood decor, some cushion and additional storage for small belongings wood do it.

@horst As a daily Mercedes Driver (weekend and pleasure driving is for the Delorean, Mera and Firebird) I can understand your review. I consider how 'rich' the interior is and yes it is very durable and well designed car (except for the lack of bloody cupholders!). But honestly I do not miss the well appointed interior feel when I sit in the Model S - I do hope that durablity will not be a problem though (that is an very important aspect for me, but only time will tell for that)... I put over 100k miles on my Mercedes in all kinds of climates and road conditions and it has has performed superbly, the best non-sports car I have ever owned...

I do hope that Tesla will come up with high trim interior options to suit the tastes of customers such as yourself though. I guess I do not appreciate certain aspects of my current car but duplicating the interior trim level is not a option I would pay extra for - 60khw, SC, and pano roof is worth it for me though...

I think people putting cars into a given category based on price is a mistake. While particular Lambos and a Rolls Royce may cost about the same, you can't really say the cars are in the same category. Likewise, just because the top-end Model S costs the same as super-luxury sedans, you shouldn't assume they are in the same category any more than a GT-R should be.

After all, you get essentially the same car for $50k, and you are just paying extra for range and performance upgrades.

So, if you are looking for luxury items and don't particularly care about the performance, extra storage, or the fact that it is electric, then maybe it isn't the right car for you now.

If you buy a Tesla, you are paying for the privilege of being on the bleeding edge of battery powered cars. Today, in the world of EV's, no one comes close to Tesla.

On the other hand, if you want spend the same amount of money on a ICE care, you are spending it on all the luxury extras and still getting the century old internal combustion engine to move you along.

It depends on what is important to you.

I love the interior. I find by friends M5s and Panameras feel very cramped in comparison.


Great to read your review.

Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words and videos even worth more. Check out this link here about the Mercedes-Benz AMG.

I'll just keep my iPad in my briefcase in the front trunk and it doesn't look like my coffee would spill at this point!


@Horst - very complete and thoughtful review. Here's the cars I've owned:

BMW 318i
BMW 328i
Mercedes Benz CLK 320 (overrated)
BMW 528i
Lexus GS 300 (I lost my head that year)
BMW 530i
BMW 535i
Tesla Model S in 3-4 weeks

All bought brand new. What fantastic automobiles they were! I've never bought an American brand, and I've never participated in any online forum of any kind.

Now drink this Kool-Aid, and you'll be like the rest of us......

Reputedly, a Caddy only costs about 20% more to make than a Chevy, but sells for 100% more. Buying a "luxury car" is not getting much structural value for money, it's getting status, exclusivity (price barriers to ownership), and superficial plush. TM supplies little or none of that. Your money goes towards actual tech and structural superiority. As time goes on, this will lengthen its lead in value-per-dollar.

Love my Model S and will never look back in regret to my Mercedes E320 which was a wonderful car! But no comparison to the Model S.


+ 1 !! You hit the nail squarely on the head!! and I echo your sentiment. Just because Model S costs the same does not mean it is the same animal.

@ Brian H

I could not have said it better. BRAVO!!

I have owned a few cars in my time as a young driver (I'm 24 years old) and I have put down a reservation for a RHD Signature.

The previous cars I've had (in this order)

2001 Mazda Tribute (first car)
2006 Chrysler 300C V8
2004 BMW 745i (E65)
2008 HSV Grange (Aussie performance)
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
2012 Chrysler 300C Luxury

It will be interesting to see how the Model S Perf compares to these cars,

Being a bit of a computer geek, the firmware upgradability and the 17in touchscreen has me very optimistic :)

And us Aussies have to wait til early 2014 for our cars, so hopefully all the firmware bugs will have been ironed out by then.

It's funny, but the interior of the Model S was an issue for me. I really didn't like the picture I saw. However, I have my car for a month and I'm really liking the interior and the minimalist theme. Actually, I find my other cars (BMW, Audi) interior too old (all the buttons, to much visual noise).

The Model S is simply fun to drive. Puts a smile on my face each and every time. That part is priceless.

The problem with the interior, I think, is that a car like a stock standard Camry has more storage and grab handles, and parking sensors are an easy add on. Yes many people like the minimal interior, but gee, give people an option. Even things like seats could be minimally modified Recaro or similar as an option. None of these things need to be engineered by Tesla, since many OEM suppliers will do the hard yards of integration for them. Whatever seat sensors are installed in the seats can, I am sure, be easily added by third party manufacturers.
We have been promised center console options from Tesla, also a rear console. Where are they? Many months since TESLA mentioned them, but absolutely nothing from them. 20000 enthusiasts, then what? Horst is quite right in this regard.

Dborn: I fear you are right. Like I have said before, after the early adopters, what next? This is a luxury car, and will be cross shopped with other luxury cars.

To keep the price and weight manageable, Tesla is doing what it can. Soo, though they will need to rethink this strategy for Model S 2.0.

Meant to say 'soon' not soo

This might not be the right thread for this (Volker?) but having driven VIN 852 for over 5,000 miles now, the superiority of the Nav/display on the Model S is striking. The systems on other luxury vehicles are completely primitive by comparison (where is the traffic? why can't I pinch and drag? What does that silly wheel on the dash do?). Riding in a friend's LR4, the clunky interface and tiny screen just seemed like a joke from the last decade.

My wife an I are also in the market for a tow vehicle, so I was actually at a Mercedes dealer today to look at a diesel ML350. After mentioning to the dealer that I was disappointed with most display systems, I showed him my Model S. He just started taking pictures...

@Vic M - right on. We have two late 90s German cars and we love them, but last year we went to look at replacing them. We went through all brands, sizes and models... very frustrating. 50% more price, cheaply build ( across the brands ), not really better mpg, cramped interior and full of useless clutter ( knobs all over the place and as intuitive as an old VCR ). Stumbled over Model S ( saw one in the wild in Los Gatos)... In the beginning I was concerned about the 17in screen being distracting, but during the test drive I learned you don't need the big screen, it is all there on the instrument panel and after 2 mins of instructions I felt in complete control of all functions of the car. What people do not yet realize that Tesla is not only about the drive train, but also how to interact with the car.

note: the clean, minimalistic interior is a big plus for me.

horst: "...papers, tissues, cups, iPad..."

Are you a girl?

Adam Carolla was right: in 50 years, we'll all be chicks.

It took years for Toyota and Volkswagen to match BMW and Mercedes with theirs Lexus and Audi brands. So if Tesla survives I guess that the comparability between Tesla and the four will disappear within about 5-10 years. Unfortunately for us being first-movers some concessions are necessary.

I understand that most car-buyers internationally have troubles with their arguments whether you should go for a new brand, a new concept and an alternative energy platform and in addition, paying the same price as a top-notch BMW, Lexus, Audi or Mercedes. But, Tesla offers something quite unique in a very interesting packet.

As I read in the different Tesla forums, Tesla owners truly love their car. Even though they know there are limitations on several issues. However, being forced by the global car-industry and unmotivated governments to buy diesel and gasoline cars has had a very bitter taste. Yes, a very bitter taste for the local environment. Maybe you few that read these “enthusiast” pages, and still is skeptical about the Tesla. Think twice, and buy the car! We are about to revolutionize the car industry, nothing similar has been seen since Rockefeller, Ford and the rest of the zombies killed the electric car industry. Since then the electric car has been dead, and buried dead since there has been so many incentives to keep the fossil-fuel system intact.

The only bad thing with Tesla, is the long waiting list.