WHEN I was a kid (which is a while ago), my dad used to call the F1-11 fighter bomber piloted by the RAAF ‘whispering death’ because it was past you before you heard it coming. Today the F1-11 sits in museums but the concept of a car that’s so quick its brutal acceleration could be compared to a bullet train, and so quiet it will have blown its rivals into the dirt before they knew what hit them, is very real.
You put your foot down, all the way to the floor and you hear nothing – but you find yourself pinned to the seat pulling G forces you would expect from a high powered race car – that’s the experience of driving the 2015 Tesla Model S.
This car is insanely quick, handles like it’s on rails, and is as comfortable and classy as an AMG E63 or an Aston Martin, yet it runs on batteries.
Think of it like this – there are no emissions from the Tesla Model S, no sound either, just the noise of the road. There’s no exhaust pipe, no gearbox, and wait for it – no engine. It’s electric. Literally. It pumps 315kW straight to the rear wheels.
It’s powered by an 85kWh battery, has a range of 502km and can plug into a power point at home to recharge (a 6% increase on that range is available as an optional extra with the 90kWh battery upgrade). Let’s not forget the speedo that goes to 250km/h if you want it to, and the sub 5 second 0-100 statistics either (the additional of Ludicrous mode – announced mid July 2015 – makes the top of the line P85D capable of 0-100 in a sweet 2.8 seconds, with a quarter mile in 10.9 seconds).
While that 502km range is based on standard ‘speed limit’ type driving, put your foot to the floor like we did, and you can expect the range to plummet, as it’s using all of those batteries and its electric motor to give its all to propel it’s more than 2 tonne weight down the highway at high speed.
It’s definitely one of the most amazing cars on the road today (so good it is the first car we’ve ever awarded a perfect 5.0 for driving experience), with a touch panel that looks more like a vertical 17 inch computer monitor than your average 7 inch in-car display. It’s that touch panel that is the key to integration within the Model S 85 – allowing you to control everything from ride height, to the position of the panoramic sun roof.
It’s also the navigation system, the radio (including internet radio), the charge meter, literally every function this high end luxury electric car and its incredibly comfortable leather interior are capable of, can be controlled at the touch of a screen.
It’s list of standard features includes free charging on a growing network of super chargers that can see you in and out of a charging station from almost flat to fully charged in less than 75 minutes, a rapid charging system for your home, and 24 hour road side assistance (even if it’s just to change a tyre – there’s no spare). It’s also fitted with KERS technology that feeds charge back into the batteries when you brake or lift off the accelerator.
Add in free navigation maps for seven years, WiFi, a HD reversing camera, heaters in all five seats, lumbar support front and rear, a 12 speaker stereo system that includes a sub woofer, two boots (remember no engine) giving you more load space than you could ever possibly need, and every other conceivable luxury you would expect from a high end car of this caliber. The car is even capable of auto updating its operating system and remember GPS locations where you had to raise the ride height (and will do it automatically for you next time round).
It’s got a five star ANCAP safety rating as well as being hugely safety conscious and loaded with driver warning systems for everything from lane drifting to impact possibilities, as well as having active cruise control. It’s built in the USA and fully imported into Australia, runs Mercedes Benz components (Daimler is a part owner in Tesla), and is hard to fault in almost all of our test areas.
Are there drawbacks, sure, of course there are. Start with the lack of locations to charge it rapidly at the moment, which restricts where you can drive it (a Super Charger station is being built at Goulburn at the moment), and the slowness of home charging if you don’t have the proper home charger installed and are just plugging into a standard power point (think mobile phone charger slow or worse).
The add-ons are expensive too, really expensive. Our wheels for example (see below) are worth more than $6,000 and things like the upgraded sound system, executive rear seats, and automatic ride adjusting air suspension carry $3,000 plus costs – that’s each, not for the whole lot.
In the specification we drove the Tesla Model S, our test vehicle included a range of features including the all glass panoramic roof and 21″ grey turbine wheels (to go with the Titanium Metallic paint work), as well as ultra hi-fidelity sound, and would set you back a cool $145,000 (made up of a base price of $123,000 – and the massive luxury car tax slug of $15,000 plus a few other on-road costs).
There are of course areas for improvement in the Tesla Model S 85, but if this is where the bar is set for the future of electric cars, then motorists, particularly those with a bit of cash in their pocket, have a lot to look forward to. This car is a game changer. If I was an oil company, I’d be buying shares in battery manufacturing companies.
Our test vehicle was provided by Tesla Motors Australia. To find out more about the 2015 Tesla Model S, contact your nearest Tesla Center.