It's Tesla Time - An Electrifying Week With The Model S P90D
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
Much has been written about Tesla, the brainchild of American Elon Musk. His intentions have been clear, namely to produce electric cars without compromise and overcome the usual hurdles to owning a car that needs to be plugged in to refuel.
Realising that the existing charging networks were inadequate, the company developed its own range of Superchargers and these are strategically located for maximum convenience.
Sales are growing rapidly for the infant brand, with global sales of 150,000 cars in just over three years.
Only the Nissan Leaf has sold more, but at around a third of the price and with a far more limited range, Tesla is clearly targeting a different market.
Up until fairly recently, I had only managed the briefest of drives in a Model S.
After much organising I was at last able to become temporary custodian of what was then the range-topping P90D.
The Model S is a big car, but sleek design means that it hides its bulk well. Behind the wheel, care needs to be taken threading the car through city streets and along narrow country lanes.
The interior is beautifully crafted, with high quality materials throughout. Four adults will travel in the lap of luxury, five at a push and the capacious boots front and rear will carry plenty of luggage for long trips away.
Dominating the dashboard is the huge central touchscreen which controls most of the cars functions. It is relatively intuitive to use, but does require time spent to acclimatise and as is the modern way, you find yourself looking at the screen rather than the road ahead all too frequently.
Walking up to the Model S with key in pocket, the recessed door handles automatically present themselves to you. Once ensconced in the driver's seat, sensors detect your presence and the car switches itself on.
Select drive on the steering column gear lever and gently press the accelerator. I advise caution as the P90D is supercar quick. Not only does it accelerate to 60mph in just over four seconds, it is the manner of the acceleration that is so startling.
All-wheel drive traction ensures a clean getaway and the silence is deafening. You soon get used to the lack of noise however, which makes returning to a fossil fuelled car seem so last century.
The P90D also has a 'Ludicrous' mode. In the interests of presenting a rounded review, I spent much of my time behind the wheel with the button pressed. Fast becomes frantic, but what fun!
Overtaking manoeuvres can be conducted in the blink of an eye, but it is all too easy to find you are travelling way beyond the UK speed limit.
The handling is always safe and secure, though other large saloons do perhaps offer a sportier drive. The ride is generally comfortable, though the worst pock-marked urban roads will intrude.
Tesla quotes a range of up to 346 miles for the P90D in ideal conditions. Use the car's performance to the full and the range will drop dramatically. Driven sensibly and making use of the regenerative braking and long journeys will hold no fear.
A quick trip to Northumberland allowed me to try out one of the Superchargers, sited close to the A1 south of Newcastle. Plugging in was straightforward and around 20 minutes on charge gave me an extra 100 mile range.
Existing Tesla owners can use the Superchargers for free, but in a surprise move it has been announced that this will no longer be the case, which is a shame.
At home, Tesla will install a charging station for you where you plug in at night and wake up to a full charge in the morning. Without it you can use a regular 13-amp socket, but don't expect to be going anywhere in a hurry. I tried it...
A brief technical glitch had me calling Tesla's 24 hour helpline in America. The instrument binnacle in front of the driver had failed to light up, so no gauges no go. A quick system reboot was required and all was well.
When the car was handed over to me, I was given a demonstration of the controversial 'Autopilot'. A fifty mile stretch of the A1 gave me the chance to try it out in earnest.
Autopilot will steer within a lane, change lanes with a simple tap of the indicator and manage speed using the traffic-aware cruise control. It works well in practice, though does take some getting used to. Take your hands off the steering wheel, a huge temptation, and the Tesla will get grumpy and warn you of the error of your ways.
It does take the stress out of driving on a congested motorway once you learn to trust it, but clearly Autopilot is no substitute for driver awareness.
Tesla is constantly updating the system and it is capable of doing much more. The day of the autonomous car is here, with the technology to take over far more of the A to B driving. Exciting and slightly scary times ahead.
In case the P90D is not quite fast enough, you can now buy a P100D. This ludicrous car can accelerate to 62mph in a barely credible 2.7 seconds. If you must, you'll need to find the best part of £124,000.
The P90D also does not come cheap at £82,435 before options. Thankfully you can buy into Model S ownership for a little over £60,000. For that you get a reduced 248-mile range and a little less performance from the rear-wheel drive 60 package.
It is hard not to be wowed by the Tesla Model S. Stylish looks and a luxurious and spacious interior are readily apparent. The startling performance comes as a surprise and with easy recharging, the barrier to using an electric car for all journeys is removed.
Only the high pricing stands in the way, but with a raft of more affordable models on the pipeline, expect to see many more contented Tesla owners on your travels.
Tesla Model S P90D
Range up to 346 miles
Access to Tesla's expanding Supercharger network
0-60mph in 4.2 seconds
Insurance Group 50
17" capacitive touchscreen
WiFi and internet connectivity
Up to 63.3 cubic feet of storage
It's Tesla Time - An Electrifying Week With The Model S P90D, 25th January 2017, 8:28 AM