Our executive editor drove the electric Tesla Model S last week. He walked away slightly in awe, arguing it’s a game changer. Read on to find out why Tim Pollard thinks the Model S sports limo could change everything.
1) The Tesla Model S is Car By Tech Company
Elon Musk’s Silicon Valley motoring start-up has leapfrogged current tech. Most start-ups would learn with internal combustion engines first, before having a stab at an EV. Not Tesla. They’ve come in with a game-changing view. This confidence, the think-different mentality, permeates the Model S. There’s no automotive legacy effect here. Just fresh thinking, wherever you look. The hyper-slippery 0.24 drag factor with classical, attractive design and twin boots front and rear. The fact that you don’t do anything to start up and drive off - no key turn, button press or similar. The total absence of buttons on the dashboard. Things can be done differently, says the Model S. But not just for different’s sake.
2) I’ve never liked touchscreens that much - but the Model S’s is breathtaking
Further evidence of the fresh thinking espoused by the Tesla saloon. There is no switchgear, bar Mercedes-sourced window switches and a few buttons on the steering wheel. Everything - and I mean practically everything - is controlled by the gargantuan, 43cm tall centrally mounted touchscreen. And contrary to expectations, it just works. The clear graphics and what a web engineer would call taxonomy - the logic of where menus sit and how the info is structured - is brilliantly simple. I’d hesitate to say it’s simply brilliant, because sometimes there’s no substitute for a button and it annoyed me that in the sticks I lost signal for the pin-sharp, flexible Google mapping. But one thing’s for sure: Tesla’s come in to shake up interior design. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a car fascia in the same way ever again.
3) They’ve made it blooming good to drive
Ah yes, the drive. The Tesla Model S is undeniably one of the high points of the motoring year for me. It’s not all clever-clogs touchscreens and magpie obsession with shiny newness. The Tesla is a seriously good drive. I’m told steel-sprung models don’t ride so well, but this air-suspended version we drove was a marvel, smothering away road acne with aplomb. Handles, too, for a large, two-tonne saloon, abetted by a strangely Range Rover-influenced command seating position. All the while in lovely, luxuriant silence that’s completely at odds with the thrust on offer. The 85kWh version we had in is seriously fast, and the regenerative braking is well judged. You rarely have to prod the left pedal in most day-to-day driving.
4) The Model S is the first electric car I’ve driven with a realistic range
Ah yes, range. Range anxiety. The whole will-I-get-home-or-do-I-have-to-stop-twice-to-recharge bit where so many EVs fall over. Well, the Tesla seemingly rips up the rulebook here too. The P85 we drove has a claimed 275-mile range and it’s the first EV we’ve sampled with a viable long-distance capability. Editor Phil McNamara drove 65 miles from the outskirts of London to Peterborough and there was still 150 miles range left. Even better, the needle (digital, natch) doesn’t plunge even when you press on. Impressive. Especially considering the sub 5.0sec 0-60mph performance on offer.
5) It’s not gimmicky. This car is a game changer
Is this all sounding a little breathlessly excited? It feels that way to me. And I know this a 2013 car for Europeans; it’s just one that had passed me by until now. Few cars have made such an impression on me, in 18 years of road testing. What’s most impressive is that /this is only Tesla’s second model/. Ever. Imagine that. From the Lotus lash-up that was the Tesla Roadster to this. It’s extraordinary. If the next Tesla maintains that speed of evolution…. well, maybe Elon Musk isn’t a madman after all and really will conquer the world, and maybe the moon as well. They’ll surely fix our model’s squeaky wipers, perhaps choose less overtly Daimler steering wheel stalks and electric window switches. Maybe he can even magic up a viable network of Superchargers at every street corner, with their 20-minute, half-charge top-ups. The Model S isn’t perfect, you see. But it’s one helluva achievement. Contender for my car of the year.