LUXURIOUS AND VERY POWERFUL: TESLA MODEL S P100D.
The Tesla S is for a start quite luxurious, which you would expect with the price of the top of the line model tested, which with all the options being an eye-watering $273,132 ($236,100 without options) while the "base" model S starts at $117,000.
The P100D has the highest capacity battery (100kwh) and the twin motors with rear performance motor (providing AWD). It also gets the famed Ludicrous and Ludicrous Plus modes for warp speed acceleration and a claimed range of 612km between charging. Lesser models get variations of 75 kwh batteries, a single motor and no Ludicrous modes.
Walk up to the S and the flush door handles pop out to greet you (assuming you have the Tesla-shaped remote on you). Get in and you are cosseted by ultra-comfortable leather seats, suede and carbon fibre trimmings and the biggest touch screen you are likely to see in a car (17-inch), which puts your iPad to shame.
The screen pretty much controls all the car's functions and is very intuitive to use. Climate, audio, navigation and phone are all there and can be displayed full screen or as two half screens if you want access to two features. The screen also lets you open the boot(s)--front and rear--lock doors, turn on interior lights, turn on heated seats and much more. More importantly it has all the driving settings including the sport and Ludicrous modes, adjustable height suspension, steering settings and more.
Once seated you don't have a lot of the fuss of a petrol car--simply move the stalk on the column to either D or R and press the accelerator and you move off--in total silence. No start/stop, no key to insert--just go. Stopping and exiting takes more getting used to--press the park button on the end of the stalk and walk away--no handbrake, the door locks as you walk away and everything will turn off--too easy.
Apart from that the S is pretty much like any other car to drive. There are no gears and even in sport mode acceleration it would embarrass the bulk of cars on the road. Ludicrous mode can be selected on the go and at that stage acceleration becomes-well ludicrous--to the extent that I found full throttle borderline disorientating as the car just surges forward with turbine like smoothness.
It doesn't take time for the power to build as it does in a conventional car--it is just there instantly. Ludicrous plus is selected by holding the Ludicrous button down for five seconds or so--you are then treated to a warp display on the screen with a warning of extra battery drain and wear and tear and options to "Yes, bring it on" or "No, I want my mommy!" That is even more insane and really it is hard to test properly in a road situation with a supercar beating 0-100km/h time of 2.7 seconds.
Apart from the performance the S has beautifully weighted and responsive steering, great handling and a comfortable ride, making the driver feel very comfortable and at one with the car.
The long range tends to diminish range anxiety. We did a couple of days where we had quite a bit of running around town and still had 70 percent plus battery levels. Overnight home charging got this to the 90 percent recommended level comfortably.
We did a trip to Cambridge so we could test the Supercharger station in Hamilton (owners get 400kwh free allocation of charging each year at the Superchargers). We still had 48 percent and could have easily done the return trip without charging, showing the impressive range (the 362km round trip used around 72 kwh) with Ludicrous mode being tried regularly. After 28 minutes we were back to 86 percent charge.
Prior to driving the S we thought there was quite a bit of hype. Afterwards? Well, if we had the money we would probably be lining up for one.
SPECIFICATIONS BODY TYPE 5 door Hatch DRIVE AWD ENGINE TYPE Electric x 2 BATTERY CAPACITY 100 kwh BOOT CAPACITY 894 I ANCAP RATING Not tested PRICE $273,132 as tested