IMAGINE highways without cars in the lane next to you drifting across on you. Imagine further, a world where all the cars around you are aware of your presence, and will adapt their driving accordingly.
Tesla has that vision for our world.
But it’s not just a vision for Tesla. Unlike most automotive brands that build cars and try to cram technology into them, Tesla is a technology company that just happens to build cars.
Tesla is also one of the clear leaders in the race to the autonomous car, and a few days in a Model S 75D fitted with the $3,800 Auto Pilot function is enough to confirm that the world is not far off going driver-less.
First, some myth busting. Auto pilot is not a driver-less car – the same as auto pilot in a plane does not replace the human pilot.
What Auto Pilot is though, is a driver aid. Think cruise control on steroids. And at $3,800 it’s a steal, considering the ‘Tan Next Generation’ seat option is the same price.
A double tap of what would be the cruise control stem in another other car activates the feature. From there, the 75D takes most of the control of the car.
Using a series of cameras and radars, the car regulates its own speed according to the set limit as well as the cars around it. Granted, any car with adaptive cruise control does the same, but where the Tesla is different is it will also read the lines of the road, and make its own steering inputs accordingly.
While the car is capable of steering without any input at all, you do still need to keep your hands on the wheel or auto pilot will deactivate.
Exhaust Notes Australia trialled the [amazing] feature on Sydney’s M2, and we were very impressed. Given the difference cruise control makes to fatigue on long trips, we believe Auto Pilot will make a major improvement on the open road.
Then of course there is the usual amazement of Tesla’s offering. Unbelievable acceleration (and that’s before we get to sample Ludicrious mode!), a stunning interior, beautiful finish etc. We could go on, but our original review covers it.
However, as remarkable and impressive the Tesla Model S 75D is, at $163,000 the proposition falls a bit flat.
With a base price of $116,600 (plus a few options, stamp duty and luxury car tax to add another $50,000), Tesla will tell you that financially it’s not much of a step away from a BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E Class or Audi A6.
The reality is Australia doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the technology. Sadly, this brand is ahead of its time in Australia.
While the on-board computer lists all the charging points around Sydney (or the country for that matter), there simply aren’t enough in suburbia or regional areas to make it a viable option.
In our three-day loan of the Tesla we managed to get by without the need to charge, and given our nearest public charging point was a good 25 minutes away we’re damn thankful the battery life is as good as it is.
While the acceleration can’t be beaten, and you smile every time it pushes you back in the seats, the notion of not having to plan your driving around recharging, but rather being able to fill up at local petrol stations scattered literally everywhere is still a more appealing way of driving.
Granted, Tesla is making significant investment into its charging network (which now numbers more than 200 nationally) to ensure Tesla owners have sufficient charging points from Sydney to Melbourne and soon Sydney to Brisbane, there is a serious shortfall in metropolitan Sydney.
Driving a Tesla is a must do for anyone remotely interested in cars and while it’s definitely on our shortlist for vehicles in that price range, its petrol or diesel powered rivals win out on convenience and flexibility.
It’s also a brand that divides the Exhaust Notes Australia office. We love the technology and our inner nerds drool over what they’ve created. But the idea of having to plan travel around charging kills one of the most amazing factors of driving – getting in, and seeing where you end up. The validity of the process was the topic of much discussion.
In time, Australia will upgrade the infrastructure, as electric vehicles, particularly commercial ones, become more prominent. Europe is moving to electric buses and delivery trucks and it has already started to trickle into the market down under. But until we have a better network of charge points (instead of bulk points at single locations) and improved sustainable energy production, sadly, we’re still not convinced it stacks up for Tesla.
The 2017 Tesla Model S 75D we tested was provided by Tesla Motors Australia. To find out more, contact your nearest Tesla Center.