Warp speed and technology: Tesla Model S 100 D review
I first drove a Tesla in 2010, in London, and I was absolutely taken aback by immediacy of the acceleration. There was no friction, no hesitation, just instant delivery of torque. The car gave ballistic performance but it was a raw project, the Roadster S, based on the old Lotus Elise but much, much heavier with basic trimmings and interior. When the Model S first became available in 2012 it was a completely different animal. Several things changed since the Roadster, the most important of which, by far, was the interior.
Interior and gizmos
The Model S isn't car, it's a giant iPad on wheels. In the 2020 model year S, you've got a big 17'' touchscreen right in front of you from which you can control literally everything about the car. Let's start with climate control. You can adjust the temperature and ventilation and so and so forth, as you do in most cars, but you can also select something called "Dog Mode". Say you live in Southern France and it's an especially warm day, which it often is in this part of France anyway. You drive to the shops for groceries, set up the car to "Dog Mode" and this will make the inside temperature go down pretty quickly, roughly by two degrees every 30-45 seconds, eventually adjusting between 15-18 degrees celsius, which is ideal for most dogs. A message will also appear on the screen which says "my owner will be back soon". This is so that your dog can spend a few minutes in the car without suffering from the heat, and any passerby can rest safely in the knowledge that the owner is only temporarily away and the dog is safe. However, as this consumes a lot of power, it can only be used when the battery level is at least 20%.
my dog was happy to try this feature out
Even though the car can be charged pretty much anywhere including your home (although I wouldn't recommend that because of the amount of power required), the best way to charge it is by using one of Tesla's superchargers. You can use the sat-nav to look for supercharging points (the red marks on the map) and, once you've selected the one you need, the car will tell you how far it is, how many of the charging points are currently occupied, and it will make calculations about the range and the power required to reach the destination. I've tried five of those, all of them in Italy, and the cost was €0,30 per kW, this car can take 100 kW/h so that's €30 for a full "tank." There are currently 30 supercharger stations, with over 250 stalls, and over 650 destination charging locations in Italy alone.
The Model S, like most Teslas, has internet connectivity, with its own sim card and its own Spotify account (you can use yours if you want), which means you can listen to just about anything you want, including the theme song for Dragon Ball GT, as you can see from the two videos below.
Dragon Ball GT is the third anime of the series after the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, and it premiered in 1996. While many fans of the series believe that Dragon Ball Z was better than Dragon Ball GT, the opening theme of Dragon Ball GT, "Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku" performed by Field of View, became somewhat of a cult.
Of course, the system also has many Easter eggs and features that are every bit as pointless as they are entertaining. For example, there's a sketch pad you can use to write meaningful messages.
Alternatively, if you're ever tired of living on Planet Earth, you can always select "Mars", as you can see here:
And in case you're cold, you can select "fireplace", which automatically turns the heater and heated seats on, and it also sets up some soothing background music (it starts after about 15 seconds) to go with it. Mind you, I wouldn't recommend this in the summer because the temperature goes up pretty quickly.
It has cameras everywhere, including rear view cameras of course, and it tells you how far you are from the car you're trying to park next to, and it tells you that in cm or inches, making it easier for you to understand how close to the other cars you can get without crashing. It has sensors for just about anything and then, of course, there's the autopilot.
By law, you're not actually allowed to let the car drive on its own in most countries, which is why the car will require you to move the steering wheel every 15-25 seconds, so that it knows you're there and not asleep. The autopilot is, in essence, a glorified and slightly more refined version of the adaptive cruise control. You select the speed and then the car will automatically stay within the white lines, read all the signs and keep the distance between the vehicle in front of you, braking when necessary. It is very useful on long journeys on highways.
The Model S is a long-distance cruiser. It covers miles and miles with ease and the interior is clean, light and tidy. It is spacious and comfortable although in fairness it is quite difficult to keep cool with these leather seats. I believe that leather upholstery is largely overrated and I'd actually like an alternative option with cloth or fabric but other than that, this'll get you from A to B, quickly and effortlessly.
Driving and performance
This is the 100D version, which is basically the second fastest Model S you can buy after the P 100 D which I've driven a while back and while this is not as fast as that, it is still pretty nippy. The P 100 D has astounding performance, like you wouldn't believe, and it does 0-60 in 2.6 seconds but this is no slouch either. It is powered by an electric unit capable of 539 PS and the power is sent through all four wheels. This is a heavy car, it weighs over 2 tons, but despite this it packs up some impressive performance, it does 0-60 in just under 4 seconds and the top speed is 155 mph (electronically limited) but what really amazes is the way it drives. It feels agile and nimble, it changes direction swiftly and with no hesitation, it even handles well.
The best way to enjoy the Model S is perhaps to ride as a passenger. It has a smooth ride and you can fiddle with the infotainment system and Spotify, changing songs just to annoy the driver. Something that my friends have been doing almost constantly when I gave them a ride in this. Funny people.
Charging and "Summon" mode
Now let's cut to the quick and let's talk about range and charging. The fastest way to do it is via one of Tesla's own supercharging points, it takes about 20 minutes to get to 50-60 % of the charge and 60 minutes, give or take, to get to 100 %. The range quote by Tesla is around 370 miles but the most important thing you need to know is that electric cars are very different from petrol cars on that front because your driving style is going to have a profound effect on the promised range. Thing is, any car that's powered by an internal combustion engine is either thirsty or it isn't, and your driving style won't really make a difference. Let me explain with a random example: you can drive a VW Polo diesel like a maniac but it still won't turn into an expensive car to run while on the contrary, it doesn't matter how careful you are at the wheel of a G-Wagon 63 AMG, it'll still be super thirsty. That's because some cars are inherently parsimonious and some aren't. EVs don't work like that.
Electric cars are different. You can drive like a nun and it'll go 200-250 miles as promised between charges, or you can drive like a rally driver that's bursting for a pee and the range will easily drop down to 150. This is something that owners should know but having said that, the range is good and better than most electric cars out there and it is more or less what you would expect from a petrol-powered car of similar power and performance.
Plugging in the car is very easy, you just park it and connect the thingy and have a coffee while the car is being charged. I've employed a friend to demonstrate it.
Hardly surprising, there's an app you can use to keep track on the car. You download it on your phone and you can do several things remotely, like activating the climate control, starting the car, locking and unlocking it and of course, you can check the progress of the charging process and how long before the charge is complete.
You can also use something called "Summon" mode. This is Tesla's party piece. Summon mode allows you to take control of the car remotely, making it slowly crawl forward or in reverse, without you actually being in the car. This isn't just a cool trick to show your friends, it can be used, for example, to manoeuvre the car in and out of tight spaces.
The great thing about the Summon mode is that it stops when the car detects an obstacle so no need to worry about bumping into objects while reverse-parking the car.
Prices start at €80,200 in Italy and while that's not cheap in absolute terms it is good value for what you get. The Model S has been with us for a while now, it has aged gracefully and because of its electric heart, it is easier to keep it up-to-date because it can be upgraded like a smartphone. It still looks good and slender (496 cm in length) and aggressive, kinda like a 4-door coupe rather than a 4-door saloon. It drives very well and it is one the best electric cars you can buy. It is actually one of the best-selling EVs in the world and, year in year out, the best-selling cars in certain countries and areas. Nederlands and Norway, and California, are packed with these things.
The problem, as ever, lies in the infrastructures and costs. Teslas can be very expensive in certain countries, a Model 3 is much, much cheaper in the US than it is Europe for example, and the infrastructures aren't ready to support the car in certain areas of certain countries. I live in Italy and I had no trouble at all using the car in Tuscany, like I wouldn't have had any issues using it in Northern Italy but things would have been different, for examples, if I'd driven to the south. The good news is there's always room for improvement and EVs charging time has pretty much halved over the last ten years, while the range has fundamentally doubled.
All in all, this is simply a great car to drive and I really, really wish all the "with us or against us" attitude in the EV vs petrol argument would stop. I love petrol cars. I absolutely adore "wasteful" cars with excessive power and massive engine because they're great fun but at the same time, I like Teslas, and I like EVs in general.
It's like the beer vs wine argument. You can like both and enjoy both. It's possible, it's allowed. So I'm going to conclude by saying two things. One, the Model S is a great car and two, there's no need to worry because no matter how many EVs are sold, the petrol car will not, ever, die. EVs and internal combustion engine can and will coexist because they're designed for two different purposes. Alternative fuel options like electric power will provide us with the vehicles we need while petrol will always provide us with the cars we want. It just so happens that sometimes the cars we might like and want, are powered by electricity. Go figure.