Tesla Model S

The one on the right is the Tesla I drove.
The one on the right is the Tesla I drove.

Hello everyone! This week, it’s the Tesla Model S.

In early 2016, I had the chance to test drive a Tesla Model S. Specifically, the 90D. Tesla model names are pretty straightforward: ‘P’ before the number indicates a performance model, the number is the size of the battery in kWh, and ‘D’ after the number indicates AWD, provided through dual electric motors, one at the rear, one at the front. I had, as can be surmised, the 90kWh car with AWD. This car makes 518bhp (386 kW) and 485 lb-ft (658 N·m) of torque, making it by a large margin the most powerful car I’ve ever driven. Because the car is electric, it can out-accelerate almost anything except supercars, and has a 0-60mph time of 4.2s, with a top speed of 155mph (250km/h). And this isn’t even the performance model!

So, let’s talk bad parts. The car is expensive. There’s no getting around it – the Model S is a BMW 5-series competitor, and therefore sits at a comparable price point.

It’s also electric, which means no quick stop at a petrol pump to fill up and you’re on your way. Even at a Supercharger, you’ll have to wait a while to charge enough juice to continue your journey, and if you’re not using a supercharger, that wait time gets exponentially longer.

Range isn’t great compared to a modern turbocharged petrol, and especially not compared to a diesel. A Model S will get 200 miles from a charge on the highway, but a new turbocharged petrol will comfortably go 400+ miles and a diesel even further. Range anxiety is a thing of the past, mostly, but that doesn’t mean the range is all that great in comparison, especially coupled with the fact you must plot stops at Superchargers or overnight stays to charge up on long journeys.

However, that about covers is for the bad parts, so, the good?

It’s electric. This has to be the headliner, because the fact that car is electric changes so much about the driving experience. The car is insanely fast at accelerating. But not only is it fast, it’s also completely silent. It is an incredibly eerie experience to put your foot down and accelerate to 70mph without really hearing any noise. Additionally, because of that electric motor, there is no such thing as a torque curve – it’s a straight line, from 0rpm. The second you press the accelerator, you’re already at peak torque, and remain there forever. This means that, no matter what speed you’re doing, you can always accelerate at an absurd pace because there is always so much torque available. Driving the Tesla Model S has been rightly described as like driving a spaceship – it’s silent, absurdly fast, and it seems impossible that 4-door sedan of that size could ever accelerate that fast. Getting your head around that is unexpectedly hard.

Aside from the driving experience, being electric does afford the car one additional giant benefit over traditional cars – cheap driving. No more fuel costs. The car can be charged at electric charging stations all over the place, often for free. Charging it in your own home adds to your electricity bill, but is still cheaper than buying petrol. Additionally, with no emissions at all, the car is exempt from emissions based charges in places like San Francisco and London.

So, the driving experience is like nothing else on the road, what about the interior? Thanks to the fact the Tesla Model S has a giant touch screen instead of a centre console, this just adds to the spaceship feeling. There is a huge portrait touchscreen where the radio, climate control, navigation, and car settings are accessed. The screen is responsive and quick, and features intuitive menus as well as Google Maps for navigation. The car also features radar cruise control, whereby the cruise control can set a maximum speed, but will slow the car down if the car in front does so. There is a myriad of technical wizardry here, all within the touch screen’s giant glow.

There is one feature that deserves a section all to itself. Autopilot. Autopilot is Tesla’s autonomous driving mode, which enables the driver, on highways, to almost remove themselves from the driving experience. It’s essentially a super-advanced version of cruise control, where you set your speed and following distance, then enable Autopilot and the car will stay in the current lane, at the appropriate follow distance or the speed you defined, until you turn it off. It will steer the car around bends and slow down/speed up as the situation requires. It is an unbelievably surreal experience to remove your hand from the steering wheel and pedals and watch the car continue on, entirely automated. If you indicate, the car will even change lanes for you automatically, without disabling Autopilot. This is an incredible feature, and it’s starting to be seen in other high-end luxury cars across the market now, but Autopilot got there first.

Finally, in brief, automatic updates. Like your computer, the Tesla will automatically update itself with the latest from HQ. This is how autopilot was added to the car, as well as Ludicrous Mode in the Performance models. The cars continuously improve themselves.

+ It’s electric. It’s like driving a spaceship.

+ The interior is incredible

+ Autopilot

+ Cheap fuel costs

– It’s electric. Charging takes time and requires special equipment, and range anxiety is not 100% resolved.

– It’s expensive.

In summary, if you live in a place where you can charge one for everything you need, and you have the money to buy one… The Tesla Model S is a phenomenal vehicle. I cannot emphasise enough how different the driving experience is compared to traditional vehicles.

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