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New Model S Buyer, 2-Week Experience Review

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These are my experiences and review of a Model S. I hope they will help other potential Tesla buyers.

Background: My previous regular car was a hi-end Volvo S60 with the tech package. I have also driven a new Audi A6 regularly (with its braindamaged user interfaces). On occasion, I have driven various $100,000 cars. I know what an auto-pilot is---I hold a private-pilot license. My daily commute is on a curvy large city street (Sunset Blvd), which more often than not is stop-and-go traffic between 0 mph and 40 mph. My next most common route contains the I-405 and 101 freeways, which are often also stop-and-go. If I understand it correctly, Elon Mustk takes the same daily commuting roads as I do, too. Elon---you are one incredible entrepereneur in a league of itself. There is no one IMHO even close.

My Model S car was delivered towards the end of January 2017 with new hardware.

As a car, the Tesla S is without a doubt the nicest experience I have ever driven. The silent and perfectly smooth acceleration is breathtaking. No more tuck-tuck-tuck. When the car starts, I still sometimes find myself waiting for the car to tuck-tuck to life. The driving experience is almost etherial. The car handling is superb, too.

As for creature comforts, the model S has mostly pluses but a few minor minuses. There are no rear seat pockets or nets to store odds and ends. I don't think I have had a car for 20 years that lacked this kind of storage space. There are (expensive) third-party addons, but they also need installation. There should be real sidepockets in the doors, too. (and where should the tissue box go??) Other than that, the creature comforts are close to perfect for me. Good storage space in the center console now. Good glove compartment. Great display. Great entertainment system. Excellent ergonomics. I know some people complain that the interior is sparser than that of other cars in the same price class, but it does not bother me a bit. The car has a clean look, and frankly, I don't care if there is mahogany or metal.

The standard A/V/control system is excellent. After a day of getting used to them, the touch controls are now far more intuitive than anything else I have used. They are well integrated with the dashboard display, too. Sometimes, the map could be smarter in following my car when it drives beyond the map area, but this is trivial and minor. The non-upgraded audio system is just fine. The voice control is better than others I have used. HOWEVER, there are two unnnecessary shortcomings:

  • [1 = minor] The software could link into my google-play music account. Everything else is already integrated. Why not add this one as an additional app (just like the map)?
  • [2 = major] It is 2017 now. I can talk into my google voice box on my android phone and say "please pick up my kids" and it is transcribed by google with 99% accuracy. Why can't I say "SMS to Brunhilde colon please pick up the kids" ? It could optionally read back the SMS message.

Now the aspects that were a little more disappointing.

First, the brand-new car shipped with outdated software (v8.0, 2.50.180). This should not be happening. I find it ok that software takes a while to roll out (though I do not understand why updates cannot be pushed out to many or most owners at the same time---perhaps ask the drivers how aggressively or conservatively they want to be updated). I don't find it ok that I have no idea whether my already-released software update will come in 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months or 3 years. I should know when to expect it. There should be a Tesla website that explains the current state of the software versions, features, and rollout, and not just Musk tweets.

After about one week, the car finally updated its software to v8.0 17.5.28. This version enables basic autopilot features on the new hardware.

It took a few days for the car after the update to finish its camera calibration. Not a problem---though it would have been nice to display a progress report. I have no idea whether the sensors are now all calibrated, or whether the car is still self-improving.

The automated features on the new hardware are somewhat disappointing.

- Good: The adaptive cruise-control works as expected. It works better and smoother than the one on the Volvo S60.

- Medium: A car of Tesla's caliber should not allow me to crash deliberately into an obstacle. But I have not tried the auto-brake on obstacle feature---I need a plastic obstacle that will not ruin my car if I run into it. Does anyone know how well this works? (Also, lane changing does not work, either, but this is minor. Also I also don't know how to have the car parallel self-park.)

- Bad: The autosteer feature is promising, but it is surprisingly unhelpful as-of-yet.

First, I cannot enable autosteer on Sunset Blvd, which is my stop-and-go 0-35mph traffic. (More info, please. It says it is disabled on this road. Is this permanent or temporary? Why?) It should not be hard to get this working. I am usually surrounded by cars on all sides. Many cars should have sent back telemetry and/or video info on this road to Tesla, as my Sunset Blvd segment seems overflowing with Tesla cars. (There is very little pedestrian and bicycle traffic, although it does appear on rare occasion.) Especially when the traffic goes from 0 to 20mph, I think the car should be able to just flow in traffic by itself, and even without a hand on the steering wheel. Second, on the freeway, the autosteer is not that useful, either, because it seems limited to 50mph. The stop-and-go I am experiencing on the 405/101 ranges from 0 to 65mph.

The "hand on the steering wheel" detection is also badly executed. I have a soft hand (finger, actually) at the bottom of the steering wheel. Alas, the car often seems to think that I do not have my hand on the steering wheel, when I in fact do. My idea is that when the car autosteers successfully, I should not push against it. Or should I?? This is just weird.

In sum, autosteer would be useful if my commute was over a freeway segment with a speed limit of 45mph.

(Incidentally, I wonder if the autopilot is linked to the destination setting on the navigation setting. This should help it determine whether I want to stay on the main road or exit, for example.)

It would help a little to have a document detailing the exact limits of the autopilot, but I understand that documentation is a tough and not-fun job for software engineers. It would help even more to have some idea of a planned timetable, and after a new software release, an idea of when it should appear in my car.
Don't try the automatic emergency braking. It's not present in your car. You will just crash. Please read the release notes carefully and the owner's manual. Owners manual is outdated but still illustrative. It doesn't apply to hw2 cars. Read all the threads on this site about hw2. Pay particular attention to the lack of features present in hw2 as compared to hw1. Autosteer us currently limited to interstates and "freeways." It only works up to 50mph. TACC is 80mph.

Good luck and enjoy.
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Reactions: JClu
Welcome, I was in the same boat a week back, I was so lost and clueless until I found this forum.

Tesla HAS to have a better blog page that is periodically updated with whats included in each software revision and what features are available, not-available and partially available including status. Its ridiculous what they are putting their new customers through. Best part was how no one was able to tell me exactly what is and what is not yet available on AP2. Be it the sales team, the delivery team , multiple folks, all made stuff up and just confused the heck out of me. I have to thank this forum and its members for really helping out in that end.

I agree with a lot of your thoughts on the car. Car is superb to drive, and the software features are nice. You are right in that the voice recog seems to work well, it works quite nicely for me as well and I'm surprised it picks up some tough names without difficulty.

But no text messaging support is a HUGE fail, but I fully expect them to fix that soon. My other gripes are quite similar. No storage pockets on the doors is a miss, could have had atleast something, rear having NO storage at all is a big miss, especially when you have kids. Also no lights under the visors? Literally every car I've owned has had one. How about the really sad lighting in the trunk and none in the frunk. Hooks in the trunk wouldve been nice as well. How about an analog speedometer on the display? These are such minor things they can easily fix, but after these many years I'm surprised they haven't and we are still finding third party solutions for.

Auto-steer has only been enabled on select roads (divided highways) upto 50mph speeds. At this point it does not work on MOST roads and that is temporary until the final roll-out of EAP which will cover all roads and scenarios. TACC works well to an extent, I like using it, but use it with caution as many folks are seeing erratic behaviour on 17.5.28, so don't take your feet off the pedals just yet, keep em ready just in case.