What a stupendous car. A Wheel Thing could almost leave the review at that, except there are a couple of things…
Earlier in 2015, A Wheel Thing had the opportunity to spend a few hours in the Model S Tesla. Late November, an email from Heath Walker initially offered a two night stay, which became a weekend.Friday morning, a brief with Will at Tesla’s St Leonard’s, Sydney, HQ, before being set free with the dual motored P90D, complete with V7 software, which included Tesla’s much touted “Ludicrous” mode.
Suffice to say that the claimed zero to one hundred kmh time of three seconds is truly achievable, as are speeds that will leave many, many, many cars in its wake.But, in order to drive such a car, you need those batteries charged. Tesla supply buyers of their vehicles with a home supercharger unit, or there’s a charger that is household ten amp compatible.
A sidenote: driving a Tesla of this capacity (no pun intended), is akin to driving a V8 engined car. The harder it’s driven, the quicker the “tank” will empty. Tesla say their Model S cars can achieve something like 500 klicks from full charge. A Wheel Thing saw nothing that would raise any doubts about that figure, under normal driving circumstances. Punted enthusiastically, expect that range to drop quickly.The car itself is quite secure: the driver needs the keyfob in order to access the P90D, as a presence sensor reads the fun and slides out four door handles, which are buried into the doors. Walk away from the car and they will slide back in shortly after.On one occasion, the key was left inside the car and the doors had locked. This is where, for A Wheel Thing, that this became a security issue; one, for the fact the car locked up and, two, for the fact the car read my presence upon approach and unlocked. Sure, the car couldn’t tell who it was that had approached, however it left the car open to anybody approaching it and gaining access. Thankfully this was at home and in the driveway.As you’d expect, the Tesla is packed full of technology, operated via a seventeen inch touchscreen, located centrally in the dash console. There’s an AM/FM/app audio system (no digital tuner in Aussie spec cars, oddly), access to web based applications via the built in 3G mobile sum, which begs the question of why not the latest 4G spec? The driver is greeted by a LCD screen, with push and hold buttons on the steering wheel spokes to customise the look they can see.
Navigation is via Google Maps, there’s suspension adjustment, a built in update information manual, describing the V7 update, charging and drive options including the aforementioned “Ludicrous” mode (which also flashes a warp starfield on the screen). This is a tongue in cheek nod, apparently, to the cult classic Mel Brooks film, Spaceballs.V7 also brings parking assistance and, crucially, autonomous driving. Cameras and radar combine with the cruise control to track the car’s progress on the road, reading both the traffic ahead and roadside line markings. There’s also a form of AI on board, helping the car learn a route and lessening the time required for the car to drive itself. A grey steering wheel icon appears on the dash display and turns blue when the onboard system feels all is OK to go autonomous.There’s no Start/Stop button; once you’ve entered the car, it’s on. There’s a lever on the right hand side of the steering column which is moved to access Reverse and Drive, with Park a button on the end.
Once Drive is selected, it’s simple, press the go pedal and enjoy the serenity.
There’s a hint of whine from the twin powerplants, wind noise at speed…otherwise, nothing.It’s a truly unique experience, being able to harness the full might of the 90 kilowatt-hour engines, with that robotic whine and that never ending wave of acceleration, coupled with the surefooted handling and three mode steering. Massive 21 inch diameter wheels and licorice thin rubber grip and grip hard but don’t detract from the ride quality. The brakes are superb and add to the range with adjustable regeneration of kinetic energy back into the system.
The touchscreen also provides access to the charge port, sunroof (steplessly adjustable) and the front trunk or “frunk” as it’s called stateside. Integration is one thing but sometimes a simple button, such as that provided for the glove box, would be easier.Although the Model S body is big, at five metres in length, a full two metres in width and providing enough room for a full five seated configuration, plus a huge boot thanks to the battery pack being the floor, it never feels heavy, unwieldy. Rather, it’s nimble, responsive, belying the two tonnes plus weight.The Wrap
Although the purchase price might seem excessive to some, a buyer gets a large, roomy, car, with eye watering performance. It’s not perfect, perhaps being over technologied for some simple things, but what it promises and embodies is one of two potential options for the automotive industry, the other being fuel cell powered cars.
It’s also quick; insanely, devastatingly, pants wettingly quick. Overtaking is a blink, acceleration a thought, and hauling in the mass a sneeze. But, is there really a need for everything to be buried in sub menus? Is there something wrong with the plain and simple, the humble button?
Is it worth the money, for Australia? A Wheel Thing says yes. For info on this truly astonishing vehicle, click here: Tesla Cars Australia