Last week, a Tesla investor posted on Reddit that he had spotted Tesla’s latest car — the dual-motor Model S — in a parking lot in Woodland Hills, Calif. It was the first time one of these new high-tech cars had been spotted in the wild.
Kevin Babineau, a contractor in Southern California, is the owner of that new Tesla. Once we verified he was indeed the owner of that car, Babineau agreed to an interview. He tells us he is absolutely blown away by Tesla’s latest model.
Mind you, this man owns lots of cars, including models from Ferrari, Mercedes, Ford, and Chevy. He has Humvees and Hummers, an electric car, and a ’69 Chevrolet Impala, among others. He calls himself a hobbyist.
Babineau says he waited after Tesla unveiled the first Model S — he already owned the Roadster, which is the sportscar Tesla made before the Model S. But once the dual-motor Model S surfaced in October, Babineau says he felt “it was time.”
“I’d been waiting for the year and a half or two years [after the first Model S came out], watching them go by. It was something I wanted to do in the beginning, but when I heard about the all-wheel drive and the new stuff they were doing, that made the difference for me,” Babineau says.
One of Babineau’s friends runs Tesla’s Topanga store in Woodland Hills, so he visited the dealership and ordered the car he’d been building on Tesla’s website weeks prior.
Babineau ordered all the car’s special features, including the tech package, the smart air suspension feature, the new premium seats, and more. Based on the features he ordered, that car costs about $US130,000. He ordered it in “white pearl.”
Just weeks later, on Dec. 5, Babineau received a call from Tesla: his car happened to be landing in San Jose and they wanted to know if Babineau wanted to pick it up if he was close by. He was able to get to the factory in 30 minutes.
Babineau can’t explain how he was able to get his dual-motor Model S before anyone else, but he insists his friend who owns the Tesla store didn’t give him special treatment. “I think it was just great timing, to be honest,” he says. “I got lucky. I got in early.”
This was the first time he’d driven the dual-motor version. Babinaue had driven the regular Model S, but he was quick to say the experience in the new car was “ridiculously different” and “night and day.”
The acceleration, 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds, according to Tesla, blew him away — and keep in mind that he’s owned a Ferrari and a Roadster, Tesla’s first sports car:
The speed, first of all, it’s so fast — you’re not used to experiencing that kind of speed. The first thing you do is smile and start laughing. The gentleman that was with me that came to pick it up with me, we were just laughing! The emotions that come out of that kind of speed, in that short a distance, your body’s not used to it. And it’s pulling so many G’s, it’s exciting — it’s roller coaster stuff. It’s fascinating, absolutely fascinating. And it does this to everyone I’ve had in the car, everyone just starts smiling or laughing. It’s pretty cool.
He also said it was quieter thanks to some sound improvements, and there was “zero rattling” while driving.
Babineau has been doing plenty of driving in the short time he’s owned the new car. He drove it from San Francisco to Simi Valley, in southern California, and he’s driven it through Malibu and Topanga Canyon.
“It’s like a slot car, it’s scary how quick and how it sticks going around corners — you’re almost afraid to push it any more because you don’t know what the limit is anymore. It really is amazing for a four-door sedan, the way it slots around corners, and brakes, and takes off, it’s racecar stuff.”
He’s also been using Tesla’s Supercharger stations, which he calls “a whole unique experience by itself,” since you can pull in, leave your car for a half hour while you go get a drink, “and then you’re good for another 250 miles.”
I asked Babineau about the Autopilot feature, which is the most talked-about aspect of the dual-motor Model S. Autopilot uses 12 forward-looking long-range ultrasonic sensors to offer a “protective cocoon” around the car that can “see anything,” from traffic signs to small moving objects like children and dogs. It can even park itself while you’re out of the car, and summon the car to arrive at your location with your favourite music playing, or the A/C running.
Unfortunately, Babineau says the Autopilot feature was not yet activated in his car, but he expected that.
Still, he says some of the features central to the Autopilot experience are running already: “It reads the signs as you’re going down the highway, as far as speed, and flashes that — if you’re in a 55mph zone and you’re doing 75mph — and it has the lane assist thing that I think most cars have, but the Autopilot thing hasn’t been activated yet. I think it’s coming out shortly.”
To learn more about Tesla’s futuristic sedan, check out our breakdown of the car’s features.
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