2015 Tesla Model S P85D
A pleasant shock from this bit of electrocution.
Everyone loves a good take on a David versus Goliath-type story, and Tesla Motors may be one of the more fascinating ones in the modern automotive world. Compared to many of the major manufactures, Tesla isn’t a small fish in a big pond- it’s a piece of plankton, and a small one at that. The Model S, which is the subject of our review has sold just over 75,000 units worldwide since it first dropped in 2012. To put that into perspective, Ford moved just as many Mustangs in 2013 alone. Yet the company continues to grab headlines, whether it’s breaking Consumer Reports rating system, adding locations to its Supercharger network and above all, its game-changing electric drivetrains. All of these are solid talking points, but there’s something else that grabs our attention even more: the scorching real world performance and (if you’re careful) range capability of the Model S P85D.
By now you may have seen many YouTube videos of unsuspecting passengers who go along for a ride expecting the sedate pace of a glorified golf cart, followed by their faces instantly contorting into a mixture of horror and delight when the driver pins the accelerator. When I tried this for the first time, I felt the kind of acceleration serious drag racers are used to- it’s so fast that it’s almost faster than falling, serving up near as makes no difference one full G of accelerative forces.
PROS: Face distorting speed, loads of technology that isn’t half baked, will spoil you with how serene the driving experience is.
CONS: Can evoke feelings of range anxiety on long trips, not exactly at the same price point as a Nissan LEAF.
THE VERDICT: It’s not just hyperbole; the Tesla Model S really is a game changer.
This, folks, is what Tesla refers to as Insane Mode, a setting in which all 691 electrified ponies are deployed to the pavement via all four wheels. This isn’t like a conventional Sport Mode that makes the car feel frenetic and jumpy all the time; it simply tells the Tesla’s brains to let fully loose when the driver demands. There is a less crazy mode available, but we didn’t bother sampling it.
Launching the Model S is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in the motoring, uh, automotive sphere. There are no silly Launch Control procedures to adhere to, no dialing back of stability control or fiddling with various drive modes. You simply point the nose in a direction free of any obstacles and stomp on the accelerator. What happens next is almost otherworldly. One minute, you’re stationary, and the next, you are wayyyyyy father down the road, riding a tsunami of power in complete stillness. There’s no noise, no wheelspin and no drama- you simply just go. Remember the introduction sequence of Star Trek: The Next Generation when the Enterprise seems to stretch before disappearing at warp speed? Picture that, and you’ve got the right idea.
Any luxury car that weights over 2,000 kg yet is able to zap itself forcefully to the 100km/h mark in an astonishing 3.2 seconds would be enough to satiate most, but the Model S’s dynamic delights don’t end there. Because all the batteries are mounted low in the floor thus lowering the car’s centre of gravity, the by-product is resolute stability and almost no body roll when you show it some corners. It’s quite unlike what you will experience in a “normal” car- throw it into a bend and you can literally feel the inside wheels counteracting the steering input, forcing the car into a clean, steady arc all while imparting the feeling it’s glued to the asphalt. This prowess doesn’t mean you have to put up with filling-loosening ride quality either- the low concentration of mass coupled with the air suspension give the car such a creamy ride yet it never feels lazy or floaty. If it weren’t for the price, the Tesla Model S would be the darling of livery services across the world (it also has two trunks- er, make that one trunk and one ‘frunk’.)
Braking is similarly impressive, not only because the binders slow the car down with authority but how fast the car slows without the brakes. Set the regeneration to full strength and you’ll find yourself driving around using only one pedal- the only time you’ll call on the brakes is to keep the car stationary at traffic lights and stop signs. The pedal has great feel too, and this is because the brakes aren’t burdened by regeneration and are simply tasked with stopping the car.
At some point in the near future, you won’t have to do much of anything to get to your destination in a Model S, or any Tesla product for that matter. Dubbed Autopilot, it’s a full suite of technology that promises to be the first real taste of fully autonomous driving for the real world. Once the over-the-air updates are fully rolled out, it’s feasible that you could pilot a Model S to the cottage and back without actually driving the car at all. I’m still trying to decide if I find this incredibly cool or just plain creepy.
At least Autopilot will allow you to enjoy your surroundings, which happen to be pretty darn nice. Some will find the interior too spartan, and it does feel that way compared to the button-and-display heavy cockpits of today’s luxury cars. Be that as it may, I find it pleasingly clean, and am especially smitten by the enormous 17”sized display that controls every function of the car. Other infotainment systems should be envious of its slick interface, speedy responses to commands and how incredibly intuitive it is to use.
After spending some time in the Model S P85D, we now have a better grasp of the compelling nature of these cars. Driving a Tesla is somehow familiar and yet new at the same time- it simply isn’t like other cars on the road. We became spoiled by the instant power and library-like quiet you enjoy on your way to every destination. Perhaps most telling on how profoundly conditioned we became to the Model S experience was that after we dropped it off, we immediately got into a Lexus GS350, a car that many would agree is at the top of its class for refinement. Yet after coming from the Model S, it felt anything but- even the Lexus trademark quiet didn’t feel so much and the usually punchy-feeling V6 felt lazy.
The Model S isn’t alone as the only offering from the company any longer. In late September, the Model X SUV was officially unveiled and should build on the considerable success of the sedan. It’s just as blisteringly fast and has these incredibly cool “Falcon” gullwing doors for passengers. We look forward to bringing you a Road Test of that one as soon as we can.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D– Specifications
Price as tested: $148,600
Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
Powertrain Layout: All-Wheel Drive (Front Motor: AC Induction, 221hp/243lbs/ft and Rear Motor: AC Induction, 470hp/443lbs/ft)
Total System Horsepower: 691 @ 0 rpm
Total System Torque (lb-ft.): 686 @ 0 rpm
Transmission: 1-speed Direct Drive
Curb weight: 2,245kg (4,950 lbs)
Observed economy: 3.2 Le/100km ($0 dollars- Tesla Model S was charged at a free Supercharging station.)