It's possible the Tesla Model S is a great car that lives up to all of its promises. You won't find that out by reading reviews from the early drives of the car, which we've learned — and the company has basically confirmed — Tesla has limited to 10 minutes per outlet.
This means none of these outlets will be able to test the most important aspect of an electric car: its battery performance. What kind of outlet would agree to such ridiculous terms? A ton of them, of course.
We heard from a source familiar with the drives that Tesla was scheduling press events for later this month with certain publications. These drives would be no longer than ten minutes a piece. This, following Tesla drives where select outlets were only allowed to ride in the car.
When we asked Tesla about this, they didn't deny it. Here's what spokesperson Christina Ra said:
There is a handful of media that we've invited for a preview drive of Model S later this month. The timing and constraints are driven by multiple factors, including when these vehicles will be produced, and other activities that we have slated for them. In typical Tesla fashion, we're doing a lot with very little.
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In typical Tesla fashion, they will be exploiting the weak-willed and unquestioning gadget media — the same ones happy to pass on misleading information about the company's bricking issue — and earn a lot of uncritical copy about a car that no one who knows anything about cars has driven.
It's not new for automakers to give people first rides of cars and have outlets jump at the opportunity. It's not even unusual to have limited drives of certain vehicles, but those are usually concept cars.
This is a production car that's already in the hands of at least one customer. Not letting the media fully test the car is sketchy.
Not like we blame Tesla. If you can get away with it there's no reason why you shouldn't. They just shouldn't be able to get away with it because some outlets are so desperate to be able to be the first ones to herald their review as a "first."
It's also possible that they gave a small handful of people a real early shot at driving the car in full, but we'd trust these reviews even less as they'd have to be someone the extremely paranoid Tesla media operation has faith will enjoy the car.
An exception to this might be the Wall Street Journal's Dan Neil. Yes, his relationship with Musk is of the smilingly adversarial kind that makes us think they secretly meet in roadside motels to mount one another (not in a homoerotic way, just like two dudes who share a lot of mutual respect). If it was a bad car we think Neil would tell us.
And I don't think it's a bad car. Musk is a smart guy. It looks great. They've probably learned a lot from the Roadster. It's likely a good car. Maybe even a great car. Tesla shouldn't keep the car's performance a secret and flimsy milksops who pass themselves off as reporters shouldn't help them keep it.