So you’ve decided that you’re ready to look into what all the fuss is about. You’ve seen them driving around town. You’ve read the reviews in countless magazines. You’re sick of putting gas in your car. And it is difficult to separate the excitement around Tesla from real, actual facts. After all, Tesla is the Apple product of the automotive world: gorgeous and sleek, but hyper-hyped.
Because of that, you owe it to yourself to visit the new Tesla showroom located in Waterside Shops and get behind the wheel of one to form your own opinion. The beauty of Tesla’s sales approach is that it allows customers to purchase directly from the company as opposed to going through third-party franchise dealerships. And that makes the experience unlike any other car-buying adventure you’ve ever had.
First off, you won’t have 1,500 Kia Souls to choose from. In fact, you’ll likely have only one Model S and one Model X sitting in the showroom (the Model 3, the company’s upcoming entry level offering, is expected to arrive later this year). But don’t worry, outside there are five cars available for test drives. You can stop in or schedule a visit online. They’ll even bring a car to you if you live within 30 miles of the showroom.
The showroom itself is designed to be a learning center. With the two models gleaming and inviting, as well as numerous large screens beckoning for interaction, it feels like a fairly antiseptic—and modern—way to spend up to $157,000.
But if you’re into a low-pressure buying experience, you probably can’t do much better.
If you’ve arrived with an appointment, plan to spend approximately 90 minutes: 20 minutes learning about the vehicle and its features; 20 minutes behind the wheel testing all those features (we recommend the Ludicrous mode where appropriate); 20 minutes configuring a model based on your needs and interests (options such as battery size, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability, etc.); and approximately 20 minutes discussing financing, leasing and trade-in information.
If the latter feels like pressure, rest assured that they’re just educating you on the process so that you are fully capable of understanding what goes into buying the vehicle whenever you’re ready. They’ll even email you the configuration, so you can make up your mind later. (Or you could skip all of that and just configure and order it online from the comfort of your couch.) What you won’t get is a chance to experience the dreaded haggling. The price is the price. Take it or leave it. (You’ll also miss out on a cruise or a chance to win a house.)
But know that if you think a Model S or Model X is something you can just hop in and go, you’re sadly mistaken. As a self-professed “car guy,” I was stumped more often than not when it came to functions. Adaptive LED head-lamps? Sure. Bio-weapon Defense Mode? Why not? Enhanced Autopilot? Well … That little gem gives the car four cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a computer that is 40 times more powerful than the previous generation, allowing the vehicle to match traffic conditions, keep within its lane, automatically change lanes without driver input, exit the highway, self-park and be summoned to and from your garage. (Let’s see a Kia Soul do that.)
To adjust most of the features (such as the fast-accelerating Ludicrous Mode or navigation) you need to go through the 17-inch touchscreen in the center of the car—and that’s tough to learn while underway. (If that’s your plan of action, you’d better figure out the autopilot right quick or you might end up on the evening news.) That’s why it’s best to have an Owner Advisor (Tesla doesn’t call them sales people) walk you through the features during a test drive (as opposed to ordering blindly online and hoping for the best).
But the best part about the car (aside from its good looks, blistering speed and tech-laden features) is that gas is no longer part of the equation. You just plug it in when you get home (either into a regular outlet or the quicker upgraded wall connector) or at a Supercharger (our region ha s eight, all located at Gulf Coast Town Center) or at a Destination Charger (the car knows where they all are). The sense of smugness that comes over you every time you drive by a gas station is totally worth the $68,000 to $157,000 price of admission.