Exclusive: First Ride In The Tesla Model S

Over the weekend we experienced one whole minute of the future. There weren't hoverboards or McFly Nikes, just two Tesla Model S Betas. The Beta model represents roughly 90% of the production Model S. The first thing you notice upon approaching the Model S are the frameless side windows, just like the Audi A7. Like the A7, the Model S has that 4-door coupe profile often referred to as "athletic." It really is a visually striking vehicle in person.

Upon entering the car, you're greeted with a massive 17-inch touchscreen in the center of the IP stack. It resembles an iPad (we're glad to see emulation here), which is not surprising since Tesla has recruited some of Apple's designers to develop the interface.

With Tom Petty's Runnin' Down a Dream playing in the background, our ride began. Just like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla's own Roadster, the Model S accelerates with the quick, linear pull characteristic of an electric motor. Acceleration is powerful, but nearly silent--another hallmark of electric vehicles.

Even with the Model S sedan's tech-packed dashboard, 4-door coupe good looks, and quickness off the line, we may have left most impressed with the ride quality. We're going to go there and say it: we haven't felt a ride this smooth since driving the Rolls Royce Ghost, a car that starts at nearly $250,000. Of course, we offer the disclaimer that we were driving on Tesla's own perfectly paved course, but the way the chassis moved around the turns was nothing short of extraordinary. A lot of that is due to the optional air suspension, but also benefits from the ground-up design of the car's space frame chassis.

The battery essentially makes up the entire undercarriage. The battery's placement contributes to the vehicle's superb balance and handling, while completing the bottom portion of the vehicle's structure. This is exclusive to the Model S, until BMW's i cars begin to hit the showrooms.

We also got the chance to check out Tesla's new smartphone app, which, like the vehicle it supports, is fast, feature-rich and well designed.

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