Cost as Tested: $259,999 (on-road costs extra depending on state)
A special thanks to Tom Cross for his help in photographing the car. Feel free to check out his instagram as well.
Mainstream electric cars have been around for years, and first became popular with the Nissan Leaf - though it lacked any sort of style or substance. That added to the high cost put many people off electric cars - that is until Tesla came to the party first with their Roadster, and followed by their first proper production car - the Model S in 2012. Since then, they've come leaps and bounds to the point where I really had to reconsider my love of petrol cars - and see whether the Tesla was just another fad, or the real deal. I got in touch with Tesla about giving the Model S a try, and Tesla were kind enough to give me their top of the range P100D model with the following specs:
- Battery: 100 kWh battery with
- Max Power: 259 hp @ 6,100 rpm (193 kW)
- Max Speed: 250kph
- 0-100 KPH Secs: 2.7
- Max Range on single charge: 613km
- Weight: 2,241 kg
If you're interested in the full cost breakdown, then take a peek here.
It's worth nothing that the Tesla team gave me an incredible run down of the features of the car and how best to operate it (which I realised was much needed since the entire car was controlled through the singular giant touchscreen on the console) which was much required since I didn't have an idea of certain features prior to the tour. The model Telsa gave me was the P100D - which means their super fast, super long range, and super pricey top of the tier car - and for $260,000, I really had to see just how much it justified the cost. It's worth noting that Auto-pilot was included in this model, but not configured thus I had no way to try it out - I will leave that for the Model X.
Aesthetics & Styling
On the outside - the Tesla is an absolutely gorgeous car, with curves in the right places and edges where you'd want them. The front is particularly striking with sport car borrowed looks and eyes which as my friend described as 'sultry' - all in all a very pretty package. I could tell this was the case when I saw people turning their heads to notice the car as I drove around the streets of Melbourne (including a 10 year old kid who pointed at the car and said 'Tesla!' which was both cute and surprising). From behind, not quite as striking, but the carbon fibre spoiler helps it set a tone. These were complemented by the large 21" rims with red brakes - I knew I was in for a good time when I picked up the car. My only complaint is that they need to perhaps just tune the back a little as it doesn't appeal as much as the front section of the car (this was mentioned multiple times by people I knew).
While most car manufactures try to put all the works into the inside of the car - Tesla has opted to go quite the opposite: Smart but centralised, Classy but minimalistic. While this may appeal to some, I thought the interiors of the car didn't quite reflect the $260k price tag in that it felt almost too minimalistic. I'm obviously not talking about the central touch screen which was not only visually stunning - but incredibly responsive and easy to use (an extra large ipad if you will) - but once the initial joy of the car wears off and you start to look around the 'cabin' if you will, it dawned on me that the Tesla was kind of missing the modern touches of luxury you've come to expect from a quarter of a million dollar car.
Tesla can be commended to switching over to all vegan leather - which will appeal to many people out there, and the styling is quite nice - leather infused with carbon fibre with metal - but take one look around and you find yourself asking - is this it? Don't get me wrong - I liked the interiors, I just had to question if Mercedes or Audi would have left it this minimalistic for a car this costly. Tesla have relied on the two screens in the car to be the focus, and it works for the most part, but I was left yearning for a little more. Having said that - the two screens were incredible and looked great in the car.
Tesla warned me that the car was a lot wider than people expected it to be and were used to - and so it was, but it never hampered my driving abilities nor turning abilities. In essence, the car was a dream to drive. The first thing I had to get used to was the regenerative breaking which is the car turning kinetic energy back into battery power - which is awesome. What this does it the accelerator becomes both the break (or slow down part) and the accelerator leaving you the need for only 1 pedal unless you need to come to a complete stop - where you would use the break. If I push the accelerator, the car accelerates - if I start lifting my foot off the accelerator, the car automatically starts slowing down and that is when kinetic energy is is turned back into the battery - really cool stuff. It does however take about a few days of driving to really master it - but once I went back to my normal car, I was missing it already.
Furthermore - this car comes with something Tesla call 'Ludicrous Mode' - which was easily my favourite feature of the entire car. Ludicrious mode is Tesla's extremely quick acceleration program, and due to the car being evenly distributed and AWD (All Wheel Drive), it allowed you to take off from 0-100kph in 2.7 seconds - making it one of the fastest acceleration cars in the world, and an incredible joy to experience - I've never felt anything like this unless I was on a Roller Coaster - and even then, just wow. Just how incredible? Well I mean I could go on and on about how fun it is, but instead take a look at the two videos below at just how fun people found it:
Driving around town was also quite easy - the car was almost creepily silent when the radio was off, but you almost get used to it and enjoy it after a while. There's no engine, so you knew that the car was working perfectly with no random noises with the car. Despite the low levels of the car - you never felt worries about going over bumps because you could set the height of the car over a certain area and it would revert back to normal once it was away from that area - the real kicker is that the car will always remember the setting you used so if you ever go through the same roads the height will automatically adjust.
When you drive, everything you see and do is on the screen in front of you - and it's actually very easy to flick through or see if you need to. I did over 550km in just 3 days in the Tesla - and it actually was very comfortable to drive. I didn't have any back pain issues or comfort issues (as well I shouldn't for the amount it costs). Turning was very smooth as well - almost too smooth like a computer was working overtime to make sure you didn't sweat when you did anything, but that's more a positive than a positive. The only negative is some people may absolutely hate regen breaking - but luckily, you can reach into the center screen and turn it off.
It wasn't that I expected the Tesla to give me any issues with practicality, but being as it was pre-warned about it being wide - I was worried it may have trouble parking or getting into tight spots - but nope! The smart sensors on the Tesla are so advanced, they actually give you an indication up to the centimetre as to how far away from an object you are - this helps you avoid any issues down the line. Then there's the reverse camera which is so good, clear & wide angled - it made seeing behind me a breeze and I almost never had to turn my head when reversing. This together with the parking sensors made it incredibly easy to park, even in slightly tighter CBD parking lots like the image above. The onscreen console which controlled everything (as seen on the image above) was incredibly snappy and easy to use like I said - but do you really want to be fiddling with a screen, no matter how big while driving? Probably not - it's not as easy to use as hard buttons, but you do get used to it if you need to change between the GPS and Radio or bluetooth or settings. What I did like is the ability to split screen the apps, so you could have the GPS at the top (which also reflected on your front speed dashboard) - or you could swap the two around if you preferred the GPS on the bottom. The GPS was very good and accurate - the voice controls were not, and I pretty much gave up trying to give it instructions after some time.
What is annoying however is that everything is controlled by the center screen - everything. A friend and I were driving around town when we saw some other friends in the city and asked them to join us in the car. Of course, I forgot this was a Tesla and the handles recessed into the door when it locked (it was on autolock) - which made it awkward when I went to reach for the buttons on the door to unlock the car. But alas - they weren't there - they were on the screen and under a pressure situation of a green light and people trying to get into the car - I almost couldn't find it. But no, it's there in a tiny corner - and a simple tap unlocks the door - but super practical for new users. The other annoying thing is how there's only an iPhone charger, when many people also use an Android phone. If Tesla gave either an adapter or an option to just have an android charger inbuilt (probably USB Type C) - that would be swell, but for those using Google software - feel free to keep bringing your cable for now.
As for those that need lot's of storage - the good news is the Tesla offers ample storage both and the back, and some at the front (though limited due to the battery). The boot itself is quite large and should be able to handle 2 large suitcases, but if you do need to transport more or larger items, you can fold down the back seats which is quite nice.
Then let's talk about charging. Electric charging is the future - but the future is not now. There's only one super charger in Melbourne, and that's in Richmond at the Tesla showroom. If you're near it great. If not, tough. The Super charger allows you to charge the car up in an hour from nearly zero. There are other destination chargers around the city (like Chadstone) - but they're slightly slower. And of course, you can set it up to charge at home, but it's really something you need to do overnight if low - as it's not going to be quick. Having said that - in 550km of driving, I needed to charge it once, though it was critical at the end of the second drive. But still, that's actually really great value in terms of distance - I just wish there were more super chargers (You can however find superchargers all the way from Adelaide to Melbourne the Sydney to Brisbane if you wanted to do that).
Here's the thing - the base Model S (brand new) starts at $130,000. It doesn't include auto-pilot, it doesn't include the premium upgrade package (better audio, HEPA air filtration, heated seats etc) and it doesn't include full self driving capabilities. If if you didn't care about those, $130,000 is a lot of money. Oh - and $130,000 won't get you the P100D, it get's you the 75D, which is 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds, not the 2.7 seconds the P100D offers. It also only get's you a max range of 490km. 2 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it's definitely a lot of cash upfront to start with. You could potentially get a BMW M3 or a Mercedes E350 - both really good cars in their own right.
If however you want the full scpheel, the whole works, the creme de la creme - then you've obviously go for the P100D, which of course as mentioned already comes in at a cool $260,000 give or take. Now THAT is a lot of money, almost too much some might say. Spend a little more and you're in for an Audi RS7, a Mercedes E63 AMG, or even a Porsche. Known brands for petrol heads, with engines that purr or roar when you want them to. And yet.. there's something about the P100D.. a feeling of regret when I handed back the car. Something which made me want to keep going back to the Tesla brand again and again. It's strange - it's not a perfect package, but it's a fantastic package nevertheless. Despite the price, a price which should turn me away, it hasn't - and that itself says something. Of course, it's a moot point as the car's seriously out of my personal budget, but if it wasn't - I honestly think I would still consider it, and no, not just for the ludicrous mode which is awesome, and in a crazy way, that almost makes up the value.
However, at this point - I still think it's priced to compete against sports cars and super cars - but it's not really a sports car - not in it's own right at least. However, if a clean environment and speed are your two favourite things in this world - then maybe, just maybe, the Tesla Model S is your dream car.