You may or may not be aware that Tesla Motors visited the Isle of Man recently to meet potential customers and offer test drives in a Model S P90D they brought with them. EVIOM managed to wangle a go.
Lets get the numbers out of the way first. Or rather the numbers and letters. The model we tested was the P90D, that's 'P' for Performance as this model has the more powerful motor in the rear. '90' denotes a battery capacity of 90KWh, it's the 85KWh model with an optional upgrade giving the car an increase in range of 6%. The 'D" means all-wheel drive, one motor in the front and one in the rear with no heavy drive-shaft between the two axles, this means the floor of the cabin is flat and there are no restriction of leg room.
The Model S comes in a range of versions from the rear-wheel drive 70 starting at £51,900 all the way to the P90D at £84,500. Both prices are before incentives such at the UK plug-in car grant if you are able to register the car in the UK rather than the Isle of Man. There are a range of additional options available such as Smart Air Suspension which automatically adjusts itself to the road surface and is location aware so can learn where your steep driveway is and raise the suspension for you. There is also the famous Autopilot feature which allows the Model S to automatically steer within its own lane, it has traffic-aware cruise control and will park for you as well. Our Model S had the acceleration choices of Sport and Insane mode allowing the car to accelerate from 0-60MPH in in just 3.1 seconds, the optional Ludicrous mode decreases this to 2.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 10.9 seconds. Not bad for a 7 seater luxury car. Range is the Tesla's other impressive number with NEDC claimed figures between 275 and 320 depending on the battery chosen. Take a look at the Tesla Motors website and build your own model S to the spec you want.
The numbers are all very impressive, whether they be prefixed with pound signs or suffixed with the letters M, P and H. But what Tesla Motors have built here is a high quality luxury car with superb ride quality, more technology that the space shuttle (maybe not a SpaceX rocket) and negligible running costs. One potential owner said he wouldn't be buying a Model S after all because of the price of electricity on the Isle of Man. This seems to be the most misinformed reason for not buying a Tesla, assuming you could afford the asking price, so I got out my calculator. If you charged the P90D at the peak rate electricity price of 16.25p per unit it would cost you £14.62 (plus VAT at 5%) to charge from totally flat to full and on that you could reasonably drive around 300 miles. If you can't afford that then you can't afford any car let alone a Tesla!
The car drives so smoothly whether you're in traffic, pootling around country lanes or exploring all that Insane mode has to offer. No matter how you are driving it there are no extra vibrations or noise, something that EV drivers are already accustomed to. The Tesla just turns this up to 11, or down from 11, erm... Throttle response is instant as there's no waiting for revs to build or for an automatic gearbox to decide what gear you should be in. I recently drove a Mercedes C class (hybrid) and was so annoyed by the throttle lag and noise from the engine when it finally decided to do what I told it to do. EVs have spoiled me on this front but this is the 21st century after all. Although all modern EVs have this instant torque and response you can use the Model S as you like without worrying about range due to the size of the battery.
The battery itself is an impressive piece of technology. You can charge the car from a domestic 10 amp 3-pin socket, giving you a measly 7 miles per hour on charge, right up to the Tesla Supercharger which has a whacking great 120KW DC kick and will give you 170 miles range per half hour charge. The Tesla isn't picky when it comes to charging, the car has a type-2 7-pin socket with a range of standard and optional adaptors allowing you to take advantage of almost any kind of power socket such as an industrial 3-phase supply or a CHAdeMO DC rapid charger such as those found at UK motorway service stations and supplied by Ecotricity. Both the Tesla Superchargers and Ecotricty rapid chargers are free to use.
The interior of the car has everything you'd expect on a high-end luxury car, there's too much for me to list here. The most striking feature of the interior is the 17" touch screen which makes up the centre console.
From here you control most of the car's functions from media, navigation, phone, lights, ride height, regenerative braking and even check you calendar. It's quite an imposing console and I must admit that at first sight it gave the impression of a 60 inch TV in a bed sit. Once you realise that there are no other buttons or controls on the centre console it starts to look OK, much like that 60 inch TV over time. For the iPad generation its intuitive and responsive to use.
The Model S is far from being an everyman car, but this is precisely what it isn't trying to be. Tesla took a top down approach when building cars for the first time with the Roadster then the Model S and soon the Model X. If you were in the market for a high performance yet practical luxury car it would be ludicrous (no pun intended) not to go for the Model S. Just because you have the finances for a car like this doesn't mean you want to throw money away on services and fuel costs. Plus there's the superior feel and response of the electric drive train, once you've driven electric you won't want to go back to 19th century technology. I don't want to get into the debate on whether EVs are "green" but they are responsible for fewer harmful emissions in our towns and cities so that has to be a consideration too and that also means that the Model S is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
I like what Tesla and their CEO Elon Musk have tried to do. They've aspired to create a new car company that doesn't follow the same tired road that the rest do and have forced the established car manufacturers into a position where they are playing catchup. Tesla have made their patents freely available to anyone to try to encourage others to start building credible EVs, it's amazing more haven't as yet. The Tesla model S isn't a car I can't afford to own myself but it's certainly one I aspire to own, that's got to be the mark of a great piece of design, engineering and not to mention marketing.
EVIOM would like to thank Tesla Motors for allowing us the test drive. Especially Jean-Luc and Wendy from Tesla Motors, Manchester South.