Before driving the Tesla Model S P100D I was filled with both anticipation and trepidation. This is the future of motoring; would it live up to the hype? Or would it be like driving a smart phone?
I spent about an hour my Tesla representative going through the ins and outs of operating the P100D. We started by naming the car I’d be driving for the next 36 hours. I called her ‘Rocket’ because she’s red and it links well with Elon’s other business, SpaceX.
My first question, how do I start and stop it? Answer; simply approach the car with the key fob and the door handles extend. Put your foot on the brake, engage drive on the steering column mounted ‘gear’ selector, press the accelerator and quietly glide away.
There are no gears, there is no engine noise. Road noise steps in for engine noise, so you don’t really notice the lack of engine, except for when press on the accelerator and propel yourself into the next suburb!
If you lift off the accelerator when approaching a stop sign or going downhill the car undertakes regenerative braking. The regenerative braking is harsher than engine braking in a normal car and can take some getting used to. You can dial back the aggressiveness of the regenerative braking, but I’d be happy to live with it as the process is helping to charge your batteries.
Once you’ve reached your destination, you simply put the car into Park, the park brake automatically engages and you get out of the car and walk away. The Tesla turns itself off and locks itself, which takes a bit of getting used to. But the car is never really ‘off’; it’s always connected to the internet and can be summoned at anytime by its owner.
Another cool feature, literally, is when the car reaches over 40°C in the cabin, the air conditioner turns on to cool your car. In Australia though this could be problematic, our high temperatures would mean the car would be running most of the time. This feature turns off when the car battery reaches 20%, but if you are a long way from home, you may not make it back in time for dinner.
Battery charge and estimated range become all encompassing when you drive a Tesla. Because when you run out of juice it’s not simply a matter of pulling into a fuel station to top up. ‘Refuelling’ requires planning and time.
The theoretical range of the P100D on 21 inch tyres is 547km. For highway driving I used an average of 182Wh/km, which was comparable to this. However, spirited driving bumped this up to 259Wh/km and a potential range of just 386km.
Here lies the problem; the Tesla is quick, hypercar quick! Official 0-100km/hr time is just 2.7 seconds, but the car has been recorded at completing the dash in just 2.28 seconds. What’s it like to feel that acceleration? Well it’s ludicrous!
But speed equals energy use and it’s like you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder. The devil says go for it! The angel says you won’t make it home!
The electronic all wheel drive system on the P100D is phenomenal. I have driven mechanical all wheel drive cars for a long time, but the system Tesla have developed for the P100D is better. In damp conditions there was only negligible loss of traction even when I was aggressive on the throttle from a standing start.
The suspension is soft and rides over bumps nicely. The downside being the Tesla doesn’t handle like a sports car. It may be super quick in a straight line, but when pushed hard through corners the car does wallow.
I wanted to know if a Tesla could be used as a daily commuter from the outer suburbs of an ever sprawling city like Sydney. With the P100D the answer is easily yes, but even the lower models could cope with the distance as long as a full charge could be achieved each night.
The full charge takes up to 10 hours using the single phase wall mounted home charging unit, which is included in the purchase price of Teslas in Australia. There is also a three phase wall charger available, which reduces a full charge time down to 8 hours.
The mobile charger that plugs into a standard electrical socket is meant to charge between 10-15km/hr. However on the 13 hour charge at my house overnight it only added around 60km.
In order to test the range ability of the Tesla I drove to the Supercharging station in Goulburn on the highway between Sydney and Melbourne. When you program your destination into the sat nav the computer not only estimates your travel time, but the expected battery charge remaining once you arrive there.
The Superchargers really are super! The car was fully charged in less than an hour, enough time for a bite of lunch and play for the children in the lovely park that is located opposite the charging station. You receive 400kWh of Supercharger access per annum with the purchase of your P100D.
I met another Tesla owner who was on the return trip to Melbourne after being in Sydney. He said the trip was very easy to do thanks to the charging stations located along the Hume Highway. If you live between Melbourne and Brisbane, you would not be concerned about road trips between these cities.
However any deviations away from the main highway would require planning and identifying if a destination charger was available. Destination chargers are located in many restaurants and hotels and can be located via your sat nav system or the Tesla website.
The sat nav is one of the features accessible via the 17 inch touch screen info-tainment system. Tesla uses Google Maps and streams traffic information from Live Traffic allowing real time adjustments to your planned route.
Music can be streamed via digital radio, Spotify, Tune-In, Bluetooth devices and USB. In the Tesla I drove, the optional Ultra High Fidelity 11 speaker sound system was fitted (a $AUD3,800 option). It was awesome, can be turned up to 11, and easily passed my ‘can’t hear myself singing’ loudness test.
All the car controls can be accessed via the touch screen in an intuitive manner, with touch or sliding movements. You can also link your calendar via a Bluetooth connection to your phone to the car so it can plan your route for the day based on your appointments.
The fuel gauge is replaced by a real time energy consumption graph that also shows your long term average energy use. The car learns from your driving style and so can better estimate your battery life as you get to know each other over time.
There is a reversing camera that can be viewed even while driving and considering the poor visibility out of the rear windscreen, this can be useful. The touch screen can also split so that you can view any two of these features at the same time.
The dash is digital and fully configurable. The centre has your speed and a diagram of your Tesla driving between the lines and highlights when a car is in front or beside you. I chose to have my energy consumption info on the right side and trip information on the left side. When the sat nav is in use the map replaces the graphic on the right side.
My red ‘Rocket’ Tesla Model S P100D cost $AUD305,643 on the road. Herein lies a major problem for P100D in my opinion. At this price point the competition in the Australian market includes the BMW M5 and the all new Mercedes-AMG E63 S, both of which offer more creature comforts and better finish quality.
I liked the external styling of the P100D; it’s aggressive and smooth at the same time. But the lack of attention to detail was evident with window trims not lining up between doors and the gaps differing between door panels.
The interior finish and quality of materials is high, but just not quite to BMW/Mercedes standards. I liked the adjustable cup holders in the centre consol. Rear passengers get cup holders and two USB outlets. I do wonder what impact running multiple electronic devices would have on battery use in the car.
The back seats would comfortably fit three adults and the person in the centre seat would not need to straddle the transmission tunnel, because the rear floor is completely flat. There is dual zone air conditioning, but no control in the back for temperature or fan speed.
From a family car perspective the Model S offers three ISOFIX points in the back and a very large rear boot and a smaller ‘frunk’ for extra luggage space. I did have a little difficulty finding the rear tether points, which are located in slits behind the seats. The optional third row fold up seat for two children is not available in Australia.
‘Rocket’ was fitted with the Premium Upgrades Package (a $AUD5,300 option) that includes a HEPA air filtration system, lashings of leather and carbon fibre highlights. I really liked the design of the front leather seats and how they reflected the shape of the Tesla logo. They did not hug me tight, but the leather was soft and felt high quality. There is also a Vegan friendly internal trim option available.
‘Rocket’ also had the Subzero Weather Package (a $AUD1,500 option) that includes heated seats throughout, heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters and washer nozzle heaters, all of which are not really required in Australia. The front seats are also cooled though and would be appreciated on a hot summer’s day.
The major advantage the Tesla offers is a car that is capable of autonomous driving and is only awaiting legislative approval in order to activate it. Already available though is Enhanced Autopilot, but this was not fully operational on the car I drove.
Autopilot was only available for me at speeds of 80km/hr or less. You engage it by pulling the cruise control lever twice towards you. A blue steering wheel illuminates on the dash and as long as the car can feel your hands are still on the wheel it will drive itself.
This was a strange sensation because if I wanted to take back control of the car, I almost had to wrestle it away from the computer. I used Autopilot in traffic and it both impressed and scared me.
The Tesla impressed me when it automatically veered away from a car that tried to merge into the passenger side of my car. My husband saw the car, I didn’t, but the computer did and no collision occurred. It then proceeded to scare me by wanting to travel too close to the side of a bridge; at that point I wrestled back control again.
The beauty of Tesla pricing is the car costs the same throughout the world and is simply converted from American Dollars to your local currency plus local taxes. Head to the Tesla website, configure your car and the drive away price is provided. This level of transparency is a breath of fresh air in the motoring sector.
Teslas come with a 4 year 80,000km limited warranty on the car and an 8 year unlimited kilometre warranty on the battery and drive unit.
A recent article by Ollie Marriage in Top Gear magazine questioned why Tesla cars were such a popular electric vehicle (EV) choice. For me, I would not buy an EV from a traditional vehicle manufacturer. Why you ask?
Well rightly or wrongly, I would be concerned that they are coming to the design of an EV from a ‘traditional’ car mindset, rather than designing an all new car from the ground up like Tesla have done.
The Tesla is essentially a smart phone with wheels and a cabin to keep you dry. It even looks like a smart phone when you strip away the shell. Battery technology is key and this is where Tesla and its partnership with Panasonic are having huge wins.
Tesla is the car for early adopters of EV technology. Purchasers and potential purchasers are passionate about this brand and what Elon Musk, its CEO stands for.
Me, well I’m a laggard which is why it has taken me this long to have my first drive of an EV. But now that I’ve driven the future I can report the future is smart and quick! But when combustion engines are only found in museums, the one thing I will miss above all else will be the visceral noise of the engine on acceleration.
For more information about the Tesla Model S, visit your local Tesla Dealer.
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.