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The Evolution of Model S: From VIN1653 to VIN55228

Discussion in 'Model S' started by Todd Burch, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Voltage makes me tingle.

    Nov 3, 2009
    Smithfield, VA
    I received my first Model S (an S85) on December 31, 2012 and put 33,000 miles on it. I now have 4,000 miles on my second Model S (a 2014 P85) and thought I'd share how I see the car having evolved in almost 2 years and almost 54,000 VINs.

    VIN 1653
    My first car, being fairly fresh in the world of Model S (and Tesla for that matter), experienced many of the "very early adopter" issues that we've heard about.

    My drivetrain the first 1000 miles (some kind of resistor issue, I think). One of my door handles failed, and another worked intermittently. My brake rotors squeaked. My steering clicked.

    Fit and finish wasn't great. The bezel along the top of the touchscreen showed an uneven margin as you looked across it. My front quarter panel never properly snapped into place. The chrome trim around the doors was uneven. Significant gap and flush issues. The interior lights buzzed softly. The pads that meet when you close the hatch needed to be adjusted to prevent a very low frequency sound when driving due to the hatch acting like a big bass drum. My turn signal was malfunctioning and needed to be replaced. Butyl smeared across the roof when I opened/closed the pano roof. My seat belt made a soft rubbing noise when I moved. My defroster was ineffective. The car squealed when under full power. My windshield spontaneously cracked due to a manufacturing defect or assembly stress fracture.

    And probably some other stuff I'm not remembering.

    Tesla fixed almost all of these issues over time (the only gripe I had is that they said the quarter panel could not be I ended up with a panel that wouldn't seat properly on a $90k car). Despite these problems, I expected there to be hiccups on a new car using new technology from a new car company, and Tesla did a great job taking care of the issues. Despite these things, the S was such an engineering marvel and a joy to drive that after an accident "totaled" my car there was no other choice than to get another S. This time, I upgraded to a P85.

    (The D was announced about a week or two before my P85 my Model S was discontinued and obsolete before I even received it...oh well, that's the price of innovation, and am glad for it!)

    My P85 arrived in Oct 2014. I now have enough time with it to share what's changed, what hasn't, what's improved, and what hasn't. (And in one case what's gotten worse!)

    First, build quality. While Tesla's not yet near the build quality of something like a Lexus with really tight gaps and really flush panels, it has improved dramatically...both interior and exterior. Although my first car had about 5-10 significant and noticeable gap and flush issues (if you were looking), there's only one issue with my current one. The chrome trim on the front passenger door is slightly misaligned with the chrome trim on the rear passenger door. I think that's something the service center can adjust. The touchscreen bezel is now straight and true.

    My first car had a few slight rattles when going over rough surfaces--one example being a grooved metallic drawbridge surface. (Don't get me wrong, it was still better than any other car I'd ever driven). My current car is very solid--no rattles, no squeaks. It literally feels more solid.

    My first car had some looseness in the driver's interior door handle. Gone in my new car.

    My new car never gives off the balloon squeal--even under full power in various weather conditions.

    My new car has coil suspension and 20" wheels, vs. air suspension and 19" wheels on my first car. The air/19s are definitely a smoother ride...I somewhat regret having gone with coils, but it's OK if it means less maintenance cost in the future. (I actually like not having to worry about suspension height). If I had to do it a third time, I'd have gone with air and 20" my opinion of the perfect practical combo on this car. My first car had significant camber issues, and I needed new tires every 10-15k miles. Even though I now have a P, I can already tell the tire wear is less. This is partly due to getting the coils and likely much better alignment.

    Interior sound is now a little louder, but this is primarily due to the coil suspension and the loud tires I currently have--something I can't blame on the car itself. The drivetrain noise itself is a little quieter. I'm sure that if I had a similar setup (air and OEM 19s) the new car would be quieter.

    The electromechanical braking system is tighter...the brake mapping is not as soft. I see this more as a change as opposed to a clear improvement. Some people like it, some don't. In one sense it requires a little more concentration to get smooth braking, but in a panic situation it probably stops a little faster. It's nice not hearing the vacuum pump/master cylinder sounds when I brake.

    The automatic hatch opening/closing is dramatically quieter on the newer cars. The auto-presenting handles come out a little sooner on the newer car--it could even come out sooner, if you ask me. The handles are far, far, far more reliable.

    The pano roof is much quieter, too. The loud whistle when closing the pano roof at speed is now gone. Normal opening/closing operation is much quieter. (I often can't hear it at all when driving!)

    Again, my car has the low frequency noise caused by the hatch vibrating and acting like a big bass drum. This is a bit irritating for me at speeds. I went to adjust this myself (it's easy to remedy), but found that the adjustable pads I had on my old car are no longer adjustable! Maybe the service center can fix it...either way the landing pads just need to be tightened so the hatch closes more tightly and doesn't vibrate while driving.

    The only step backward that this car has taken in 54,000 VINs is related to the electromechanical braking system. The car now makes a clicking noise every 4 seconds above 25 mph. It's not audible when music is playing, but if you're in a soft part of the music or the radio is off, it can be super annoying. Hopefully this will be fixed in a software update (I think it can be).

    I have had zero reliability issues. The car has functioned perfectly from a mechanical standpoint.

    Elon said a while ago that the Model S will be the worst car they ever make. (I believe he was speaking in terms of build quality/reliability). Indeed, I think their "worst" cars are behind them. And if cars as awesome as the first Model S's rolling off the line are their worst, the future of Tesla is very bright.

    GLDYLX Member

    Dec 22, 2012
    As a TSLA owner and future Tesla owner, this is an excellent post to read. I have faith, but it's great to read about actual experience. Thank you!

    Happy Saturday!
  3. Yuri_G

    Yuri_G Member

    Nov 8, 2012
    Raleigh, NC
    Todd, I think I hear the vibration in the video in this post.

    P85D sighting / test drives - Page 40

    Seems like an easy fix that Tesla shouldn't be overlooking. Thanks for the rundown, sounds like rapid improvements are being made!
  4. Pate

    Pate Member

    Jan 19, 2014
    I had the same problem in my 36646 VIN. I also fixed this myself, luckily the pads were easily adjustable in my car.

    Very strange if they have switched to non-adjustable pads in later VIN cars! Hope you get that sorted out, it really is a very annoying sound.

    Thanks for the difference report!
  5. ArtInCT

    ArtInCT Always Learning

    Sep 2, 2014
    Southern Connecticut
    Nice job Todd...
  6. gmontem

    gmontem Model S P01707

    Mar 24, 2011
    Castro Valley, CA
    You forgot to mention the cup holders. Didn't Tesla Motors at one point remove the springs in the cup holders that keep the cup from bouncing around? My P01707 has them and I think the loaner cars I drove did not have them.
  7. eye.surgeon

    eye.surgeon Active Member

    Nov 18, 2014
    very interesting perspective. Thanks.
  8. rlawson4

    rlawson4 Member

    Nov 24, 2011
    Atlanta Georgia
    I have Vin 1034. I have also noticed much better fit and finish in the loaner cars I have received. One glaring area is the fit of my front hood versus loaner cars. As for mechanical issues, I have not had very much. What I perceive has happened is the service center has done a good job of pre-repairing stuff along the way. Overall, I could not be happier.

    I have 52000 miles for reference.
  9. Zextraterrestrial

    Mar 11, 2010
    Humboldt/Los Altos
    So I should ask ..what do you think of the P over you last car? I have only driven a 'regular' S once...made me miss the P
    Imagine when the P85D people get a plain loaner

    I had all of your issues (besides panel alignment which is really good) on my Dec 1st car
    Tesla has fixed everything completely. all new handles & drive unit. Front brakes + interior lights and visors and at 31k mi my car is better than any late loaner I have driven. and I have the original cup holders, chrome trim pieces and smooth defrost grill too :smile:
    only issue is dash panel rattles on rough roads but that is an easy fix that hasn't been attempted ever

    pretty sure the trunk is relatively easy to fix yourself
  10. ckessel

    ckessel Active Member

    Jan 15, 2011
    I've got 2310 and I'm pretty happy, but newer cars are lighter, better finish, and such. I've always had dash rattles. They keep fixing what they can find and more keep showing up. I bought some 19" tires for winter and that helps, but with the 21s on there's always something squeaking and/or rattling on the older roads that have a certain resonance.

    What I'm curious about now is what happens with future Tesla cars, particularly the model 3. If I had it to do again, I would have waited a couple years for the S to improve. With the X or the 3, I'm wondering how long I'd want to wait for those to shake out the bugs. I'd think it wouldn't be as long since some lessons with the S will carry over, but there are bugs in any new product and production line. Maybe wait a year on the Model 3?
  11. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Voltage makes me tingle.

    Nov 3, 2009
    Smithfield, VA
    Good point. I agree the cupholders are a little worse now than they were before due to removal of the springs. However, this doesn't affect my life in any way and the cupholder position is already poor. Slightly poorer than poor wasn't noticable :).

    - - - Updated - - -

    I think the biggest of issues are behind them, and that even newer models (such as the X) won't experience growing pains quite as severe as the S. We had to deal with early drivetrain/12V issues, etc--all of which ought to be worked out with the X since it shares the drivetrain. My general feeling on drivetrain reliability is that it has dramatically improved over the last two years. That's why I hope Consumer Reports gets a newer car to update their reliability ratings--a lot has changed in two years.

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