What it’s like to drive a Tesla

Review: Driving a Tesla is a once in a lifetime experience for some people

Aeryn Kauffman, Columnist

Think about how it felt the last time you rode a roller coaster: euphoric, surprising and a little dangerous. Now add an element of nonconformity and temporary transcendence to a socioeconomic status you may one day reach. That’s what it’s like to drive a Tesla.

A friend and I drove to the Westlake Tesla Sunday morning for a test drive scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Three different representatives texted me in the days leading up to the test drive to confirm the appointment and answer any lingering questions I had.

 I asked one representative if he would be accompanying us on the test drive and he replied, “I wish!” to which I replied the huffing and puffing emoji. I guess he’s never been in a Tesla before. C’mon Tesla, no complimentary cars to your employees?

Filled with nervous energy, we walked into the Tesla office to a few tattooed, semi-casually dressed employees who made our check-in a breeze. 

I honestly expected everyone to be dressed in full suits, eyeing my ratty jeans and Grizzly Bear hoodie with disdain. I fully expected to pretend I was a software developer but that didn’t have to happen.

Teagan Kimbro

After a few photos in front of the royal blue Model S to seal our status as posers, an employee handed us the key fob in one blasé motion and we were off.

The Model S’s door handles reached out to us as we approached, key fob in my front pocket. 

The royal blue paint mocked us as our respective Saturn Aura and Honda Accord whips burned with jealousy across the street.

With only 25 minutes to try out the features we were interested in, we tapped the 17-inch touchscreen to navigate to Green Lake and back.

I put my foot on the brake to awaken the engine. The gear shift could hardly be called a shift. You push the shift down once to put it into drive and press a button to park it. 

I played with these features for a minute or two then pulled out onto 9th Avenue, the regenerative brakes startling me. 

Regenerative braking (regen) is a mechanism exclusive to some electric vehicles including the Model S. 

According to the Tesla website, regen is “the conversion of the vehicle’s kinetic energy into chemical energy stored in the battery, where it can be used later to drive the vehicle. It is braking because it also serves to slow the vehicle. It is regenerative because the energy is recaptured in the battery where it can be used again.”

This means the vehicle helps you brake even if you simply take your foot off the gas. Jolting my friend in the passenger seat each time I took my foot off the gas, regen was difficult to get used to. 

I imagined if I owned one, I would probably disable the function or at least put it at a lower setting.

I knew before Sunday the Model S could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in two seconds, so that was the next plan of action. 

Merging onto the highway I definitely drove that sucker over the speed limit, weaving through the meager Sunday traffic, scaring my friend with my thirst for speed. Perhaps even a squee or two escaped. Perhaps not.

The thing is, it didn’t feel like we were going 80 mph! It was so quiet and smooth, it felt like we were going 25 mph. 

Suddenly accelerating produced a noticeable roller coaster effect, G-force bottoming out my stomach. It was time to be obnoxious.

Blasting “Money” by Leikeli, we rolled down the windows and pretended we owned the vehicle, parking in a “No Parking at Any Time” space to take more posing photos.

Driving back, we tested out Autopilot, and it was more advanced than expected. Not only did it keep us at the speed limit, but it steered for us around tight corners. This function stood out to me along with the regen braking and smooth acceleration.

It was difficult to take it back to the office, but it sealed the deal for a future purchase, once I can afford 1,000 easy payments of $100.