Humans are creatures of habit, we do everything in our power to ensure normalcy in our daily lives. We monitor our phones weather apps closely and look for irregular forecasts. Same goes for food, if you find a restaurant you prefer more than the rest, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll return there time and time again. Living in your little bubble is easy, it’s less stressful, and you know most of the time exactly what’s to come. However, as one Greek philosopher put it a long time ago, the only constant is change. That type of revolutionary thinking is what helped developed the car that we will talk about today.
The road to make this vehicle into what it is today was far from stress-free, and it looks like the fight isn’t over yet. The Northern Virginia dealer that briefly lent us one of their cars today had their grand opening three days prior, and that’s after a prolonged legal battle with the state government, who reluctantly agreed to allow this single location to be erected in the entire state. Why the discrepancy? In short, change is scary, but the real reason is a bit more ridiculous. Virginia along with most other states have laws prohibiting sales of vehicles from manufacturer directly to the consumer. The middlemen who make their money from selling paint protector and lifetime tire rotations have been left out in the cold on this one, and they aren’t happy. But enough of the politics for now, let’s get to the real point here.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D.
I have to admit that “green” cars are not my cup of tea. In fact my old car had a “Prius repellent” sticker above the tailpipe with down facing arrow. Now, I wasn’t out at night tipping hybrids over or egging Leafs, to me there was always a better alternative ie. Jetta TDI. When Tesla came out with the roadster, the scrutiny that car faced from Jeremy Clarkson and many others only confirmed my doubts. However, a few years ago the Model S was launched, with it creating a lot of hype, Motor Trend even named it Car of The Year. My interest began to grow, and after a brief period and a bit of Googling, I began to see that this car was a bit special. So, when I got the opportunity to finally drive one, I was excited to say the least. As we pulled up to the dealership nestled between a McLaren and Audi dealer, it was clear how different it is than a regular set up. There was only two Model S’s parked out front, the lot was spacious and the building looked more like an architect’s office, than a conventional showroom. Marco, who is passionately knowledgeable about Tesla, greeted us and gave the wonderful news that a P85D was available to take out, after a brief walk round we took off.
I was riding shot-gun for the first drive, which I didn’t mind at all, since I had the massive 17 inch screen to mess with. It looks a bit absurd in pictures but fits really well into the dash layout in person. There are an unlimited number of things you can do with this giant tablet, everything from opening the massive glass roof (biggest of any sedan), to browsing the web, to adjusting the height of the shocks, which as Marco pointed out is stored in your GPS location, so next time you come to that steep driveway it’ll adjust its self. Attention to small, but crucial details like that is evident throughout the cabin, like how the whole second row is heated so the kid in middle can be happily toasty as well. My favorite adjustment within the screen was “Insane Mode” this allows you to let the car know you want all it’s got, it lives up to its name fully. The most important part of the technology, is that your Model S will update automatically just like your phone, automatically and remotely, while you shop or sleep. Once Tesla gurus conjure up a better way for your car to work they send it directly to your car and next time you get into your Tesla it’s an improved car. Brought to our attention was an efficiency sub menu that was added in the past week and is now a permanent fixture in the car.
Driving this thing is an occasion. The P85D is the top of the line version of the Model S, it generates 691hp, which a modest figure. Independent owners reported dyno results of close to 900 hp. Nonetheless, back to the drive, there is no ignition, to start the car all you do is put your foot on the brake pedal. The skinny turn signal like selector, to the right of the steering wheel allows you to select R, N and D like in an older 7 series, and then you’re off. The initial lack of engine noise is but unusual, but quickly forgotten. What helps forget is the immediate response from the throttle. The instantaneous acceleration is incomparable; the closest thing I could relate it to is a sports bike 1000cc one at that. I’ve experienced acceleration of a boosted Cobra, a Srt10 Viper, and such, but this thing was on a completely other level. That’s because there is no lag of any kind that. For instance when you floor a regular gas-powered car there is series of things that need to happen before you set off, the computer has to tell the transmission and the engine to work out a plan who’s doing what, then the fuel has to be mixed with air and then supplied to the injectors, which will send fuel to the cylinders, the cylinders will ignite the mixture etc… In the Model S the only lag is between your brain on your foot, because the 687lb of torque is available from the instant you touch the accelerator, and the results are incredible. How incredible? The Ferrari Enzo, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Lamborghini Murciélago LP640, even the Pagani Zonda F are all slower to 60 from a stand still. Better yet, the Model S has the option of rear facing child seats behind the second row, so your kids can wave good- bye to Mr. Ferrari on the way to soccer practice. I’ll be first to admit that type of power is addicting, every stop I came to I accelerated from at is though we were being chased. During the power surge I often times noticed the digital speedometer having trouble keeping up, it went something like this, 5-27-4567123-75, sort of felt bad for it. Almost as bad for the poor salesmen who was demonstrating a new E Class to a couple in the same empty parking lot we were doing out launches in, all their attention was diverted to the Tesla. On the road the main difference between this and a regular car, is the regenerative breaking, think of it as engine braking with a manual gearbox, or a bumper car, as soon as you remove your foot off the skinny pedal the car begins to slow, it might seem like an annoyance, but it’s a huge help when slowing, and it helps recharge the batteries. The adaptive cruise control also helps with this, the setting allows the driver to select the following distance in car lengths in the center screen prior to setting of and the car will do all the breaking and accelerating on its own. The sensation is a bit frightening at first but it’s a feature that anyone who’s ever driven in traffic jam would quickly learn to love.
Back to the batteries, all 7,104 of them in 16 separate modules reside between the actual chassis; this helps the center of gravity remain low, thus aiding handling, and especially safety. The P85D comes with two electric motors each one providing power to the front and rear axle, making it an all-weather type of vehicle, and giving it a driving range of 253 miles, with the equivalent of about 98MPGe and a savings of about $700 annually in fuel costs. During the drive we were informed that Elon Tusk, the CEO tweeted that later on this week there will be an update to “end range anxiety” so those number might be even higher. With those types of savings, and a vast and intricate web of charging stations across the Nation that’s expanding by the minute, the Model S is the ideal road trip vehicle. Thirty minutes on the charger gives you 200 miles of driving, and that time is expected to decrease dramatically in the future.
The Tesla Model S won me over copiously. The notion that a car that isn’t powered by a massive gas engine is slow and lifeless is completely debunked. This new way of thought is scary for an auto enthusiast. However, I’m here to proclaim that there is nothing to fear. The Model S ensures that handling, acceleration, and efficiency can coexist in one attractive comfortable package. A package that shatters all preconceived notions of what an electric car is and should be. It is with honor that I make this Model S my dream car of the day.
* Big thanks to Mr. Allen for the hat tip, and Marco from Tesla for providing the car. Also, I know today is Monday but I wanted to share my experience in this special machine regardless of order.