The Model S has “Ludicrous” Mode. It gets you to 100kph in around 2.7 seconds.
While you let that sink in, it will come as no surprise that power and torque figures are also hard to believe. Up to 581kW, and 1,250Nm makes a mockery of the posh Euro-Barges.
Suffice to say you’re going to need many more shekels to go any faster without leaving the ground. Only hyper-cars are faster, just, but none are anywhere near as comfortable.
Meanwhile, this unassuming Execu-hatch follows in the great traditions of my favourite 1970s masterpiece, the Rover SD1.
Our Model S came with a fistful of tasteful, but pricey, upgrades.
The 21” grey Turbine wheels have mere schmears of rubber between them and the road. You might think it would make the ride a turbulent affair, but the air suspension sorts all that out.
The rear end has a touch of classic Jaguar about it. And If you look really hard, and squint a bit, you might also see a smidge of Aston Martin Rapide. It is understated, yet beautiful.
The adaptive LED headlights come on as needed, yet they’ll never blind on-comers, while making sure the way ahead remains brightly lit.
The “key” is a fob shaped like a car wrapped in rubber. The front and rear boots, and the doors, can be unlocked by pressing the corresponding part of the rubber. No buttons are marked so you need to know where they are.
It has walk-away locking, so I trouble myself not with anything as time consuming as a button. Walking towards the car will prompt it to wake up and extend the highly polished, flush-mounted door handles.
Stepping inside the cabin is an event.
The car is deceptively big. The closer you get, the bigger and more impressive it is.
For a car festooned with every conceivable piece of cutting edge tech, the luxury is subdued. Everything happens behind the scenes leaving the occupants get on and enjoy the atmosphere.
The first thing you notice is the complete absence of clutter. The butter-soft white leather covers almost every surface. The only buttons on the dash are for hazard flashers, and the glove box lock. The steering wheel has just a couple of buttons, and the doors have conventional window switches. That’s it though, everything else is in the menu system.
The front seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive.
There is plenty of space, with every design touch following the “it must be beautiful, or useful” adage.
The car will remember your profile. You can save all your settings. Media, temperature, seats and lighting are all set just so, and stays that way.
The driver’s binnacle is a single LCD screen divided into 3 sections. The middle has travel info and speed, and the left and right sides are controlled by the left and right steering wheel buttons.
Many of the functions can also be done via the 17” portrait-style central touch screen. This is, by far, the best menu layout of any brand in my experience. The huge screen allows each of the apps to have large virtual buttons linking to every conceivable function, including the fore-mentioned Ludicrous Mode.
You can swipe side to side using the tablet just as you would an iPad. You can’t break anything so feel free to explore. If you do manage to cock something up, Tesla will sort it out for you by remote. It is one of the most reassuring things I’ve ever heard.
There is a permanent 3G Telstra connection over which Tesla updates your car, seamlessly.
The data plan is uncapped, and like the charging (at superchargers) comes included in the price of the car. The version 8.1 brought with it such marvels as enhanced Auto-Pilot, and fully automated parking. There is a beta version of fully autonomous parking too.
The car will go off all by itself to find a spot, and come back to you when you summon it. We were unable to test any of the above, as Tesla (understandably) blocks the fancy stuff on press cars. Can you imagine the shenanigans otherwise?
There is no Apple CarPlay. Tesla says you don’t need it, but I say, you do.
Charging had 3 types: home charging at 20km per hour of charge, destination charging at 81km /hr, and the Tesla Super Chargers at 550km p/hr. the 240amp Super Chargers are free to Model S owners for the life of the car.
I spoke to several owners who gave glowing reports of their cars.
They live in apartments without access to charging, so come to Tesla once a week to top up, free of charge. Although the chargers are available 24 hours, they prefer to drop in during business hours to use the lounge.
They can sip coffee and read a book while they wait. I suspect there is a lot of story swapping too. Owners waiting in the lounge are all equally keen to gush. It’s reminiscent of being in an Apple shopfront. Everything is spotless, and the staff’s average age is 25.
It is so refreshing.
The drive is nothing short of spectacular. They’ve only gone and built a hyper-car inside an execu-hatch.
You’d expect the ride to be abominable because of the massive wheels, but not a bit of it. The cabin is serene from start to end, regardless of speed. And, oh what speed!
Once the car senses the key secreted about the driver’s person, it awakens. It is then ready to go, and all the driver has to do is select the direction. With the foot on the brake, the column-mounted gear selector can be pulled down in to Drive. The only sound is the movement of the air through the vents.
There is no handbrake handle. There isn’t even a handbrake button. Putting the Tesla in Park by pressing the button on the end of the gear stalk, will activate the parking system.
Once in “D”, you press the accelerator very, very, gently, and off you go. Do not, under any circumstances, mash the peddle to the floor unless you’re ready for all hell to break loose.
Like all electric cars, the neck-snapping torque is always available.
There is no gearbox as such, and the motor only has one moving part. The air suspension doesn’t have shock absorbers so unless something breaks, there is no need to service your car. Tesla charges around $600 for an inspection if needed.
You quickly notice the steering has very little road feel. It doesn’t take long to become accustomed to it, but it is never an issue, and I grew to love it.
The cloud-like ride has several levels, and is height adjustable. It doesn’t make a huge to the handling, which is sensational regardless of setting.
The system will monitor the road around it whether or not Auto-Pilot is activated.
Because our car did not have auto-pilot, smart cruise control was also absent. Owners would have both of these cool gadgets. A graphic on the console shows lanes, and objects, and the sensor areas highlight obstructions.
Lane departure is passive and only shakes the steering wheel. When auto-pilot is present, lane departure is active.
Road noise is minimal, as is the noise most other sources, except for the killer audio system.
Acceleration in Sports mode will rip half your face off, and Ludicrous mode will take care of the other half.
Spirited driving will drain the battery, make no bones about it. So will using the climate control, which by the way will filter out 99.97% of particulate matter, including biological attacks. In bio-defence mode, the system creates positive pressure in the cabin to keep the 0.03% of harmful matter outside where it belongs.
I suffer badly from range anxiety.
Range anxiety is the panic a driver feels when he thinks the battery charge will not get him home. The Tesla chowed through 200km worth of charge on a 100km drive. To extend the range, keep the air off, and use sports mode. You can further increase your chances of getting to a charger by selecting the special eco mode.
The car knows when it needs charging and will prompt you accordingly. It will bring up a list of places to go, and will guide you to the nearest point.
My anxiety was almost completely assuaged, no mean feat to be sure.
Very rarely have I seen a car trying so intently to actively care for its occupants.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the thing was alive. It seemed to be anticipating my needs. I could see how the owners spoke of their Teslas as part of the family. They were way beyond being just a way to get around.
I was a doubter, but now I totally get it.
Many car makers dream of selling their customers a lifestyle, but I am yet to meet one that has actually succeeded, until now.
Our AWD Model S P100D was stunning in a very real sense. But, it was not all champers and caviar, there were a few niggles.
The rear seat lacked support, and space back there was limited, especially for taller drivers. A 6’3” passenger will have his knees against the front seat, and his head on the hood lining. This will be somewhat alleviated by all future Model S Teslas coming standard with a glass roof.
It allows an extra few centimetres of space where it is needed the most.
The Tesla Model S is the definition of cutting edge.
It will define the future driving, and has surely signaled the death of any other form of propulsion. It is virtually future proof, and can be updated as long as it has cell signal. Features can be added without you even knowing about it.
The easy-to-use manual is accessible via the centre tablet. They’ve thought of everything.
With extras, our car was $305,643 on the road. The price matches the performance, and you get what you pay for. The cheaper Model 3 will be along soon, but I suspect the same maniacal attention to detail will not leave it wanting.
The S P100D is the top of the Tesla tree, but if you need a little more space, you could have the similarly priced Model X with its falcon-doors making an exhibition of themselves.
The company is extremely precious about its image which is normally a bad thing. In this case they have something to be precious about.
The model S exceeded even the wildest of expectations.
The 100kWh battery model is the way to go. It costs extra but it worth it.
“D” indicates dual motor AWD models.
Would I buy one? Yes, I’d sell my mother for one.
Price: $305,643 as tested (drive away)
Engine: 3-phase induction motors
Power/torque: Front + rear motor comb output up to 581kW, 1,250Nm
Transission: 1speed fixed gear
Charging times: 550km p/h Tesla Super Charger
81km p/h Destination charger (shopping centres etc, 3 phase power req)
20km p/h from a home power socket.