by Noah Kravitz

I left the opening day CES keynote on a mission. Out the doors of the Hilton Place ballroom, across a back alley between buildings, through a side door of the Las Vegas Convention Center, past a slew of consumer electronics displays and booths that I’d normally take my time perusing, into the lobby of the LVCC, outside again into the cold, clear Las Vegas day, across the traffic of taxis and limos dropping people off at the show, and into the Central Pavilion outdoor area to the NVIDIA tent …

And there she stood, shining in the sun all clad in burgundy with cream colored trim. Set off behind chains to keep the rabble rousers away. I’d only ever seen her in photos and video until now. And suddenly the wear and tear of two nonstop days – and nights – at CES seemed to drop from my body, replaced by the excitement of adrenaline and goose bumps as I approached her:

The Tesla Model S.

Tesla Model S 3
I’m an avowed geek – and a tech journalist by trade – but I’ve never been much of a car guy. Or, I should say, I love reading about exotic cars but haven’t sold myself deep into debt to own one (yet). So it’s not like I’m a true “car guy,” anyway. But the S? She does it for me. Kinda like a Maserati Quattroporte bred in Silicon Valley instead of Italy and fed electricity instead of petrol.

The 2012 Tesla Model S is a four-door fastback electric car built to run entirely on electricity with a range of up to 300 miles. Like the Roadster – Tesla’s first model – the S is bleeding-edge green car technology built for consumers from a startup tech company’s point of view. Unlike the Roadster, the S is meant to be a refined sports sedan worthy of executives and families of up to seven, with a ton of storage space thanks to that rear liftback, a front trunk, and some clever placement of the batteries that make the thing go. The S is also slated to sell for roughly half the cost of the Roadster; $57,000 base price doesn’t make for a cheap car, but it certainly puts the S in line with the luxury sedans it’ll compete against when it hits the market next year.

Except that those sedans don’t run entirely on electricity, and those sedans won’t have a massive 17″ touchscreen and virtual instrument cluster to make fanboys like me drool. You can thank the alternative power geniuses at Tesla for the electric drivetrain stuff. And you can thank the folks at NVIDIA for the infotainment, navigation and virtual instrument stuff – it’s all powered by NVIDIA’s high performance, energy efficient technology.

I wasn’t allowed to open the doors to the car (nobody at the show is – Tesla’s rules), and my attempts to take video and photos of the high-res main display were somewhat thwarted by the reflective windows (and my weaksauce photographic skills), but even from the outside looking in the screen looked very high-res, very sharp, and very sweet. I’m going to head back to the tent tomorrow in search of some better shots of the electronics. And, y’know, to ogle the car some more.

The Tesla rep onsite, a software engineer, said he’s driven both this particular show car and an engineering prototype of the Model S. He used words like “instant torque,” “incredibly quiet,” and “really refined as compared to the Roadster,” when describing the experience. 2012 is still a year away … I wonder if I can save up 57 grand over the next 12 months before the S goes on sale?