Impressions From the Los Angeles Test Drive Event

The test drive event is being held at Tesla's Design Studio at the Hawthorne, CA Municipal airport. The test drive is a rectangular route that takes you east on Jack Northrup Ave along a specially coned off lane where you "punch it", then north on Crenshaw Blvd. to the I-105 west on ramp, I-105 west to the Prairie Ave. exit, and south on Prairie to Jack Northrup Ave. The only spots you can hard corner the car is the on and off ramps.

Nothing to add about the performance of the car that hasn't already been said from the factory drives last weekend. They gave us a choice of driving a Performance or non-Performance Model S. I chose a non-Performance with 19" wheels. Smooth ride and plenty enough acceleration to convince me I really don't need the Performance model. They told me all the test drive vehicles are production models. There are several Beta's on static display.

Some specific questions I was asked to by other forum participants:

For Volker.Berlin: Driver's seat headrest. I took a tape. The measured distance between the seat cushion and top of the headrest was 34 inches. I am 6'0" with an average length torso. The center of the back of my head was well within the headrest cushion. Hope that helps answer your question.

For mvbf: 1) Audio system. Was able to listen to the standard audio system. Have to say the tonal quality was pretty darned good. Was going to get the upgrade but I'm leaning toward not. The car is so quiet, the extra power in the upgraded system isn't necessary to drown out the ICE and road noise. Don't want to get into a big discussion with the audiophiles out there, but suffice it to say, if you can't afford the upgrade, I don't think you will be disappointed with the standard audio.
2) Air Suspension. Very Smooth. They would not let me measure the height when raised. Too many people to push through in too little time. Interesting that the co-pilot had me take the return driveway entrance at an angle. It didn't seem that steep, but maybe he was just being cautious.
3) Pano roof open and close while driving. My test vehicle didn't have one so no help there.
4) Jump seats. No children under 8 were allowed to ride. All children were seated in the back seats so no opportunity to get anyone's impression of a jump seat ride.

Some other impressions:
1) No side-to-side pitching in the hard acceleration. I drove the green non-performance with the 19" wheels.
2) Rear seat headroom. It is definitely a problem in the non-pano hardtops. As mentioned above, I am 6'0" with an average length torso and I could not sit up straight without crunching my head on the headliner. If you are going to routinely carry back seat passengers 6' or taller, you need to get the pano roof for the extra headroom. Additionally, the non-adjustable back seat headrest did not extend beyond the middle of my neck. No head support at all. Seems like that would be a safety issue but I don't know what the regs are on that.
3) Rear view mirror. Properly adjusted, I had no problem seeing out the back, but your field of view is definitely diminished due to the slope of the hatchback.
4) Obeche Wood. They had a sample with the matte finish. Very dull and unappealing. I commented to one of the associates and she asked if I had seen the gloss finish. Duh, no. She brought up the matte and gloss finish side by side on her laptop and all I can say is WOW! The difference was night and day. Very bright and somewhat similar to the banana leaf in appearance. I'm definitely getting the Obeche Wood gloss and would recommend anyone considering it, make the comparison. Hope they post the two side by side on the TM Website if they haven't already done it.
5) Tinted Windows. All the test drive vehicles had factory tinted windows which I'm was told was standard.

thanks. This is great!

"No children under 8 were allowed to ride"

Did they mentionned it when you take the appointment?
Will it be for all states, or only California?

I was planning to go with my kids (the youger is 7)that's a bad news

toto_48313 - This weeks blog post from GeorgeB ( has a couple of lessons learned from the factory test drives last weekend and advises of the 8 year old ride restriction and the cars being limited to 75MPH. The area where you enter and exit the car reminded me of the Autopia Ride at Disneyland. Very busy. They were showing the Cars movie in the lounge for the kids too young to ride. As for the top end speed restriction, I can say from personal experience today, it in no way affected the acceleration.

The sign up page for Seattle under passengers says, "Please, no children under 8 years old."

How did they validate the age of children? Or was it honor system?

Judging from the initial reports about the (non-adjustable) rear headrests it might be safer not to allow anyone OVER the age of eight to ride in the back.

But seriously, is this becoming a real safety concern now? The driver whose model S was hit from behind said his wife's head was severely bounced back and forth.

I can imagine that the headrests are blocking the already very limited rear view and TM decided to limit the height. That would not be acceptable if it poses a safety risk. I am going to inquire about that.

Steven, great report. Thanks for trying to answer all my questions. Were you able to actually able to drive the car in the raised state at low speeds?

@Chris DC, I've never owned a car where people in the back seat didn't obscure the view. There are cars that don't even have a rear view window (some vans for instance). To call someone in the back seat obscuring the view a "safety issue" is hyperbolic fear mongering.

I'm pretty sure that the distance from the top of the rear headrest to the roof line is small enough that a head could not fit between the two. Any rear end accident may not be pleasant, but at least your head won't be able to snap backward.

I posted a long comment on rear seat headroom with and without pano roof under the "Rear seat headroom" thread. Bottom line: Hugely more rear headroom with pano roof. Night and day difference. I took a tape measure. Almost 2" more with the pano. I'm not planning on many options but for almost 2" more rear headroom I'm springing for $1,500.

@ckessel, I was not referring to passengers blocking the view but merely wondering if TM opted to have very low headrests in the rear to not further limit visibility (from the headrest itself). There are multiple reports that the headrests stop at your neck and would not support your head in case of an accident (as had already happened).

Can anyone who rode in the rear shed further light on the headrest issue?

@ddruz: because of your posting, I took a road trip to two Tesla stores (yes, there are two within driving distance in NY). One had a pano roof and one a hard top. I'm 5'10" on a good day (177 cm), and my head touched the fabric under the insulation under the hard top, but didn't touch the pano roof. (My head barely touches the cushion behind the roof on both cars, but that didn't bother me much. And there's no choice on that.)

So I changed my order to include the pano roof. When I have passengers as tall as myself in my expensive new car, I don't want any significant negative distractions. Worth the money to me for the time I expect to have the car.


I hear you on the not wanting any negative distractions. But I also really don't want to spend the money on a maintenance prone, leak prone, and heat prone item. Allowing 20% of the heat to pass through the roof is just not a viable option here in Texas.

Better check the specs with someone who really knows. I've heard 80%, 98% 96%, 92% blockage. I don't know the real number. But the look of a very bright indoor lamp through the pano roof reminds me of a spacecraft looking back at the sun from the orbit of Jupiter.

Tesla says "blocks 81% of the heat"

I rounded it to 20%.

If I get to test drive I hope it's on a 106 degree day like today. That's one good way to test the Pano roof and A/C. The temps in LA will not touch the 100 degree summer highs of St. Louis which are becoming the norm. I imagine Texas is like a convection oven.

In regards to the jump seats, they're not finalized yet anyway so they go!

There you go*

mvbf - "Were you able to actually drive the car in the raised state at low speeds?" The short answer is no. The co-pilot was not willing to tinker with any of the adjustable settings on the car except the regen, which he did to demonstrate the difference for me. If the air suspension was raising and lowering at the various speeds, it was imperceptible, which I think is a good thing.

The only time I've ever been able to feel the height change in a car that has adjustable suspension was on start up when the suspension would pressurize and you'd get that cool hovercraft sensation. This wouldn't be noticeable during the GetAmped drives because it only happens on the first drive of the day (at least that's how the adjustable suspension car that I had worked).

I'd be really surprised if you could feel the changes while driving.

You are supposed to be able to use the air suspension to raise to two different levels manually. Each has a different slow speed limit before I guess it would automatically lower. Because I live in an area with snow and frozen mud ruts at times, the drivability even at low speeds of this feature is important to me. If possible I would appreciate it if someone could test this feature at low speeds. Thanks.

I've got side by side pictures of the obeche wood. I'm happy to post but don't know how. I have been back and forth on this finally decided with the matte finish as I was able to see a live sample.

There is a picture of the setting screen here:

It appears there are four driving settings plus the jack settings. I'd guess that "very high" will not lower on speed.

Thanks for the photo. Only one way we will know for sure ...

Just got back from my LA test Drive.

Once again, my compliments to the Tesla Event staff. It's such a pleasure to experience a well planned and executed event. Now to the car.

I intentionally chose to test the performance version since I'm on the fence about it. I had to let several "standard version" drivers go ahead, but eventually I got the performance car (Black). My conclusion, after this drive... I don't need that much performance! Holy CR@P! that's a fast car!!! My decision was reinforced by my ride home on the 405North.... at 6 MPH!

Just to be clear, the performance version was outstanding, but I just don't see me going 135MPH anytime during my daily commute. I also don't want the temptation to go 135MPH... and hence the tickets. I'm in on the performance wheels, the 80KWH battery, and maybe even the dual charger, but
that much torque is not needed for me.

A nice touch at today's test ride were the cops. They had a street closed off just for "speeding". It was quite unusual to have a cop count you down, "Three, two , one... hit it!".

I also decided on a color today (Silver). All in all, a great day. Thanks, Tesla!

I'm driving in LA tomorrow at 11:00. It seems like most, if not all, questions have been answered. Anybody with anything else that I can reasonably address while I'm there?
I'm going to ask about the valet setting, insurance recommendations (understanding that they may not be allowed to offer an "official" statement), manual utilization of the air suspension since on occasion I enter a steep driveway which causes my current car to softly bottom out, and why the rear seat head rests are no longer adjustable.
Really liking the glossy obeche wood, but the practical side of me is wondering about fingerprints.

Great cmlaff. Would you (if they allow you) actually drive the car in the different height settings to test handling and see what happens when you go over the theoretical speed limit of the height setting selected?

I think folks are misunderstanding the point of the "Test Drive". It is to see how the car performs and weather you feel comfortable in, and with the car itself. The verdict is already in from the professional reviews - The car is spectacular. I have test drove many cars and never went there with tape measures, hammers, screwdrivers, and the likes...

Just drive the car and enjoy the remarkable experience. All the stats and measurements can be gotten from TMC website or other avenues. If you go for the drive, enjoy the ride. You have an obligation to yourself and your wallet to determine if the ride suits you and yours.

I agree, enjoy the ride like I did and then bombard them with questions after your test drive! :D

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