Model3 Dashboard

The Guide to Properly Test Driving a Tesla

How does one get the most out of this super-unique, yet fleeting driving experience?


Reposted with permission from TOCNYS Tesla Owners Club New York State

What to expect

It's not uncommon for the typical test drive to last about 15 minutes and most find that to be an adequate amount of time to grasp the nuances of the particular vehicle that's being driven. However, that's much more the case for "normal" ICE (gas-powered Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles that we've grown up riding in and driving. For all the variations between brands and models, the experience is far more similar than it is different. And then there are EVs (Electric Vehicles) and Teslas in particular...

The following suggestions will help you to get the most out of your time spent in the cockpit of this revolution on wheels:

1. Prepare your heart

Weird thing to hear about "simply" a test drive perhaps, but it's not without its peers:

Tech Crunch concludes "The Tesla Model 3 is a love letter to the road"

Fortune says "Driving a Tesla was the best and worst thing I've ever done".

Bottom line is that it will be a permanent, perspective-changing experience and it will ruin you for traditional ICE vehicles thereafter - basically it's taking the red pill for driving. Some have gone so far as to discourage those who can't afford a Tesla from taking a test drive as it very well might lead to certain unwise, emotional financial decisions!

2. Do your homework

Having a basic knowledge of the key distinguishing features of EVs and Teslas will mean the difference between becoming more knowledgeable, connecting experience/feeling with facts and simply being sensorily overwhelmed with no mental reference-box in which to put things.From the silent ignition-less start (akin to waking your computer), the instant torque of the electric motor(s), to the uber-minimalist dashboard with only steering wheel and touchscreen, there are definitely key paradigm-shifts needed to help one make sense of it all.

I highly suggest reading this post at Wait But Why , which dives head first and keeps swimming deeper into all things EV and Tesla.

3. Show up early

It's recommended to show up at least 10 minutes early for your test drive. This suggestion is part courtesy and part just giving yourself the opportunity to get in the zone before your big drive 🙂

4. Drive like yourself and not Mario Andrietti  

Perhaps I'm dating myself (sorry, Mario!), but it's important to understand that the purpose of a test drive isn't for testing the physical limits of the car (ahem... "0-100mph in how many seconds?") , but rather to see if it fits you and your family, as you would drive it everyday.

Acceleration does have its place in everyday life of course, but chances are how many inches of headroom might just have a bigger impact overall on your experience than how many seconds from zero to whatever (just ask this guy).

This all goes back to step #2. Everyone's needs are different and it would be super helpful to have already prepared by making a list of just what are the essentials that you're looking for in a vehicle. That way, you can have a rough outline of what to mentally take note of during your time behind the wheel.

5. Ask questions 

Don't be shy and don't hold back. If you've done your homework from step #2, you should have a bunch of (reasonably) intelligent, relevant questions for your Tesla agent. You are hanging out a Tesla expert whose job it is to make you a junior Tesla expert - make them earn their pay!

6. Reflect on your drive

Since writing down notes is not among the list of recommended things to do while you're driving (even with Autopilot engaged), the second best way to capture your key takeaways from your driving experience is to review and record your thoughts as soon after your test drive as possible. Writing a response to each previously noted make-or-breaker list would be golden here. If you have a co-operative passenger willing to video the entire experience, you are ahead of the game.

7. Choose wisely (and don't forget your budget)

Finally, you inevitably come to the point where you feel the need to make a choice: either pursue a purchase of your own Tesla or officially put it off for now (or ever).

This is where step #1 is especially important. You knew in advance that there was a high probability that your emotions would be kindled, so remind yourself of that fact as you stoically only go forward if the numbers add up for your situation.

If they do, then congratulations and welcome to the club! If not, then it's true you'll probably never really be able to enjoy your traditional ICE car again. Hopefully though, you'll have new-found motivation for working/earning/saving hard until you're behind the wheel of a Tesla again - and this time, it won't be just for a test drive!