Westar Energy exec test drives Tesla Motors Model S

Westar Energy Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Sterbenz and engineering intern Robert Forkner recently test drove the Tesla Model S in Denver and wrote a review for Electric Light & Power.

The duo had so much fun that they missed their flight back to Kansas. Their response? “Worth it.” This is how it went down.

There is nothing like stepping on a gas pedal and hearing an engine roar to life. That’s what I thought, as a car enthusiast, until I drove the Tesla Model S, a fully electric luxury sports sedan.

I’ve changed my thinking, and now I say, “There is nothing like stepping on the accelerator pedal and hearing nothing while being catapulted forward into future world.”


Above: Westar Energy engineering intern Robert Forkner stands by his sweet ride — at least for a few hours during a test drive. Despite weighing 4,650 pounds, the all-electric Tesla Model S zips silently from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds.

We recently had the fortune to test drive the performance version of a Tesla Model S in Denver, Colo. The car was an absolute thrill to drive. Having all of the Tesla’s considerable torque immediately available made the car feel quicker and more responsive than anything I’ve driven. A slight press of the pedal gets you a controlled acceleration, and really pushing the pedal rockets you from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, rivaling the ultimate driving machines with as much luxury.

After a few rounds of the start and stop cycle of city driving to really appreciate the raw acceleration of the car, I turned my focus to the 17-inch screen that fills the console between the driver and passenger. The huge screen functions as the command center for the car, doing everything from controlling the environment to adjusting the air-cushioned shocks and fine-tuning nearly every feature in between.

Google Maps navigation, Internet connectivity and a detailed power usage graph are also present, which give enough content that could entertain any engineer for days — with easy access from the passenger seat for safety, of course. 

The exterior is sleek and sports carbon fiber trim, which adds to the futuristic feel and look of the car. The very low coefficient of drag made us slippery and silent against the wind at full highway speeds. Tesla also got all of the little things right.

The front windshield is made of UV-resistant glass, and there is a beautiful glass ceiling option that allowed us an excellent view of the Colorado sky. Only a small center console and a lack of cup holders for the back seat keep me from saying the inside is perfect. The back seat is comfortable; at 6 feet tall, I had ample legroom.

The placement of the batteries low on the car gave us a low center of gravity and a stable feel while driving. This is a big luxury car, yet when changing lanes quickly or braking hard, we could barely feel the car roll. The Tesla feels incredibly nimble for its 4,650-pound curb weight. The whole driving experience was smooth. 

I am amazed that a motor, inverter and a ton of batteries could be something I would rely on for most if not all of my trips. The luxury interior and 300-mile range make this a viable choice for anyone who can afford the sticker price. One thing is certain: This car will turn heads — if anyone hears it coming.  

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