Editor's welcome: Tesla moves the electric goalposts, CAR+ November 2015

Published: 14 October 2015

► November 2015 letter from the editor
► A new contender for your bucket list
► Tesla looks to expand sales, 20k a year target 

Here’s a new contender for your bucket list of cars to drive before you die – the Tesla Model S. An electric limousine, hampered by a 2200kg mass, shorn of a sports car’s thunderous combustion and crackling tailpipes: how can it be so? Strap yourself into the flagship Model S P90D, complete with ‘ludicrous’ mode that warps from 0-60mph in 2.8sec, and you’ll soon find out.

The P90D ticks the performance box in a rather demented way. There you are, sitting at a dual carriageway’s red light, foot on the brake, no engine noise or vibration, the only sound coming from the stereo. It’s so undramatic – until the lights change. 

Grip the thick-rimmed wheel firmly, mash the ‘gas’ pedal and, with a clonk, the best part of 713lb ft of torque instantly engulfs the rear axle. The Tesla surges forward, speed building in an incredible rush, the speedo’s digits spinning like a Vegas slot machine. All the while you sit in a bubble of civility, with a whine of electric propulsion gently audible above the impressively smothered tyre and wind noise. 

For me, silence is golden. We laud it in Rolls-Royces, A-listers seek it on private beaches, it’s a coveted sensation. And that’s the case in a Tesla – which also has the handy attribute of besting a 911 Turbo in the traffic lights grand prix. Of course, making an exceptional car involves so much more than speed. The steering is nicely weighted and responsive, and while you notice the P90D’s weight transfer and roll as you turn into corners, the nose obediently holds its line and the chassis relays that you can lay on the power. The ride is appropriately plush.

Driving a single-geared electric car does remove one of the key techniques of driving: swapping cogs accurately and smoothly. But with dual-clutch gearboxes reducing the level of effort and skill to the flip of a paddleshift, the transition from self-shifting to no-shifting is very much underway. 

Yes, an electric car comes with compromises. But the Model S seeks to overcome range anxiety with around 250 miles from its 700kg battery pack, a fast charging network to facilitate
‘grander’ tours, and intelligent, connected navigation to monitor your position and advise the most efficient route, with charging stop-offs. It’s a driving experience that will
fascinate, and delight, every car enthusiast.

The point is that Tesla has proven the concept of an enthusiast’s electric car – and
Porsche is picking up the baton. Its beautiful Mission E concept, which we feature on p110, is three years away from delivering the first all-electric Porsche. It’ll happen: executives are explicitly predicting 20,000 sales a year, and performance figures to match the P90D’s. We photographed the Mission E alongside Audi’s E-tron Quattro electric concept. The production version, along with Tesla’s Model X crossover, will give electric drive the opportunity to take a foothold in the booming SUV segment.

Can anything stop the rise electromobility? If anything, the sorry tale of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal should only hasten the flight to hybrid and pure electric cars. Because there’s another overwhelmingly positive sensation when driving cars like the Model S: the knowledge that, at that moment of use, your ‘ludicrous’ 2.8sec 0-60mph sprint expels no
emissions whatsoever.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine