Tesla Model S Malaysia-1

An update on the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia) Tesla vehicle programme, which was first announced in May. In early October, it was reported that the organisation had taken delivery of its first two vehicles from Tesla Hong Kong, and that the cars were inbound.

They’ve since arrived, and should be road-going ready very soon – the cars are currently in GreenTech Malaysia’s office in Bangi, awaiting registration. Earlier today, we were given an exclusive preview of the vehicles, both rear-wheel drive Model S 85 versions – aside from the gallery you see here, there was also a chance to get an initial feel of the S 85.

There’s really not much to report on that front, given that it was all done in limited speed and fashion around the confines of the GreenTech Malaysia carpark, but some observations, nonetheless. Performance-wise, there’s plenty of promise – the steering feels responsive and communicative, and low-end acceleration is adequately peppy, despite 60 km/h being the fastest the car could get to before tarmac ran out.

In-cabin functionality – from the driver’s seat perspective – is very decent, though the familiar Mercedes-Benz switchgear (the entire stalk set on the steering column, gearshift included, and window control panel on the door card) comes across as a visually strange affair given they’re not on a Merc. The unmissable 17-inch central touchscreen offers plenty of acreage and is the visual standout in that cockpit; operation is easy and intuitive, though fonts for the adjustment parameters could arguably be a tad larger for better legibility.

Some observations about the optional executive seats, which revises the rear bench to a twin-occupant-only row, on the two cars. GreenTech says that these cars will be the only Malaysian-spec Teslas to feature them, as the automaker doesn’t provide the option for the model any more.

The seating offers good support, but headroom is a pinch if you sit upright as intended; my head was just about touching the roof lining, with barely enough space to fit a finger – if you’re above 1.8 metres tall, things may not sound like fun over a long haul.

Some notes about the material and trim – both Midnight Silver and Red multi-coat examples feature black leather seats and Piano Black decor accents, but the Alcantara headliner differs. On the Red car, it’s black, while that on the Midnight Silver unit is white. The latter offers a better spatial perception of the cabin, especially from the rear seat perspective.

The level of plastics quality and trim finishing is a bit of a mix – fit is generally good, and tactility at contact points is neat to the touch (and sight), but in less key areas the presentation can look less refined. A good example is the panel housing the front 12V socket and twin USB ports; it feels rather bare and diddly-looking.

Aside from the doors, the car-shaped remote allows access to boot and front bonnet operation – press the rear ‘boot’ area on the remote twice and the car’s powered boot lid opens, to close, press it twice again. The bonnet isn’t powered, but the remote can unlatch it. It’s also able to pop open the charging port panel, but I never quite managed to find that access button on the remote despite my best efforts.

More on the car’s performance when a comprehensive on-road test is possible, but a quick recap on the S 85’s specs, which were reported in our earlier post. The base 362 hp variant is equipped with an 85 kWh battery, which offers up to 426 km of travel on a single charge. As standard, it comes with a single 10 kW charger, a mobile connector with a 240 volt outlet as well as a SAE J1772 public charging adaptor.

The two cars are specified with Smart Air Suspension, Premium Interior and Lighting, Autopilot Convenience features and even a SubZero Weather Package – the latter may sound rather nonsensical given the tropical conditions here, but the inclusion of the exec seats means it’s on, for the two items can’t be separated.

Elsewhere, Autopilot Convenience brings along with it traffic-aware cruise control, lane keeping with automatic steering, self-parking and automatic high/low beam headlights. Safety kit, meanwhile, includes eight airbags (head, knee and pelvis airbags in the front, plus two side curtain airbags), parking sensors, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking.

As for the programme, the vehicles can only be obtained via the organisation – which operates under the ambit of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) – through a leasing scheme. The Teslas will be offered on a two-year leasing period to government-linked companies (GLC); as mentioned before, the general public won’t be able to get their hands on one.

The thought behind the initiative is to allow influential parties the means to better understand the merits of electric vehicles (EVs) by sampling the technology for themselves. The programme also falls in line with GreenTech Malaysia’s push to expand the EV scope in the country through its Electric Mobility Blueprint.

The leasing programme is sanctioned by Tesla Motors, which is not keen to have its cars sold in direct fashion in Malaysia – the automaker is agreeable to the running of the initiative on the understanding that the cars are to be used for increasing awareness of EVs and their tech amongst policy makers.

GreenTech Malaysia is set to eventually bring in 110 cars for the leasing programme, and these will be a mix of the 329 hp Model 70D all-wheel drive variant, which has an operating range of 386 km, and the Model S 85. The larger proportion of cars will be made up of the 70D.