After doing a lot of research, playing around with specs, hemming, hawing, I had finally decided to call Tesla and schedule a test drive. The nearest place I could try out one of these new-fangled all-electric cars is in Costa Mesa, so a week after I called for an appointment, off I went.
On first glance, both Will and I thought it was weird that there would be a car dealership in a mall. Technically, I guess it’s not a dealership, but more of a retail space. Kind of like an Apple store, but for very expensive gadgets. Half an hour before my appointment, I received a call confirming that I was still showing up — yes I was. When I got to the store in Costa Mesa mall, I was surprised to see two cars parked in there and a handful of people looking at it and taking turns sitting in the driver’s seat. I did not expect two full-sized cars in a store the size of a Sharper Image store.
One of the sales reps checked me into the appointment, got my driver’s license number to make sure I was a valid driver, and asked that I wait for another rep to come and take me for the test drive. The wait was longer than expected because another sales rep had mistakenly taken both sets of key fobs for both cars on the test drive they were on, so my sales rep and I had to wait for them. When we finally walked down to the garage, it turned out my rep had picked up the fob for the wrong car (I wanted to test drive a setup closer to what I would purchase) and had to go back up and switch.
When I finally sat behind the steering wheel, I was a little surprised. The car was parked in a tight spot that would have been pretty hard to back up out of had there not been parking sensors and that fish-eye rear camera. I wonder if that was intentional. Backing out of that was easier than I thought, but if I were the sales rep sitting in such an expensive, scratch-free car, I’d be biting my fingernails the whole time.
My first impression of the car was that it was wider than what I was used to and not as quiet as I was expecting. My regular car is a Prius and that’s already plenty quiet, so maybe I was expecting complete silence in a Tesla. Maybe because the roads were still wet with rain, but I could definitely hear driving sounds. The handling was also a bit different because acceleration was so much better and smoother than the acceleration in a Prius. Because of the way the car was weighted, turning was more responsive or twitchy and probably something I’d have to get used to.
When we got to the freeway onramp (after a pretty sharp turn!) the sales rep said I should probably stomp on it to get up to freeway speed and I did and WOW, that sold me the car right then. I was at 75mph before the onramp even ended and it was not a long onramp! What impressed me the most was how smooth acceleration was. Maybe it’s the lack of gears shifting, but I barely felt it. The instantaneous throttle makes it very easy to get to a high speed without even realizing it.
After deciding that I would like to purchase the car, I was dreading sitting for the next few hours getting it finalized. If you’ve been to a traditional car dealer, you know what I’m talking about. I was unprepared for the Tesla soft sell. The sales rep asked if I wanted to go over any of the different configurations or options and I declined, saying I already went over them on the site and I knew what I wanted. We sat down to confirm the specs I wanted, he explained some add-ons that I had questions on but wasn’t pushy about it at all. He even agreed with me about the silliness of some of the options. After what seemed like only half an hour, he put in my information on the Tesla site, confirmed again that it was what I wanted, I gave him my credit card for the deposit amount, and then we were done! He then disappeared to get us some “special gifts” for buying the car and returned with a folder of orientation and confirmation paperwork, two Tesla hats, and we were done!
It was the easiest, best, car buying experience I’d ever had. I’m sure part of it was that I was buying an expensive car, but I was so happy not to have to deal with pushy sales people or hidden fees.