Electric newcomer Tesla Model S P85+ a technological masterpiece
American technology powerhouse Tesla is forever improving its current model, the Model S luxury sedan. We tested the rear-wheel drive P85+ version, which is the current flagship in Australia until it is replaced by the faster, more powerful and all-wheel drive P85D.
What we like:
- Silent and rapid performance
- Brilliant technology
- Attention to detail
Not so much:
- Rear visibility
- Fiddly key and cruise control
- A little short on interior storage
- Limited charging locations
- We don’t own one
Price and Equipment
The Model S P85+ is packed full of gadgetry. Some technological highlights include the 17 inch touchscreen, a high definition reversing camera, Google Maps based satellite navigation, a system that helps the car accelerate when one indicates to change lanes, adjustable suspension that “remembers” the car’s location and raises or lowers itself accordingly based on satellite information and that driveline that propels the car from 0-100 in 4.4 seconds, with a battery range of around 500 kilometres.
The car tested was priced from $127,800 plus the plethora of options listed above and on road costs.
Approach the Model S with the car shaped keyfob in one’s pocket and the normally concealed chrome doorhandles silently slide out of their housings. Climb inside and the interior is futuristically luxurious. The 17ich touchscreen dominates and controls virtually all functions the car, minus the hazard lights and opening the glove compartment-these tasks are left to the only two conventional buttons on the dashboard.
Initially, the screen appears a little alien and technologically baffling. But once passengers begin to touch, poke and swipe they will begin to uncover a comforting sense of familiarity: the satellite navigation is based on Google Maps and is much the same as the version as you’d use on your smartphone on table.
Occupants can even switch the maps to satellite mode and stretch the navigation map and instructions so they fills the entire screen. Guidance is also provided in the digital instrument cluster next to the speedometer.
It’s a similar story with the rest of the car’s functions-after some mastery, they all become intuitive. There’s also a great degree of personalisation options: everything from the climate control, suspension settings, steering settings (comfort, sport and normal), interior lighting and charging schedules.
In car entertainment is another core focus of the Model S: along with the usual AM/FM radio, USB input and Bluetooth streaming, the Model S has a built in 3G sim card, allowing access to internet based media. Tesla also says it will pay data charges for owners for the first four years. There is also on board WiFi and an inbuilt organiser and calendar to ensure that one gets to their important business meetings on time.
The optional Ultra High Fidelity Sound System with 12 speakers and 8” subwoofer in our test vehicle was probably the best we’ve sampled in any car-the system was spine tinglingly powerful while blending excellent aural clarity without any distortion.
The Model S P85+ also has dual glass roofs, the front one opens and is controlled by either that large touchscreen, or from a menu that is linked to buttons on the steering wheel.
The seats are fabulously comfortable and there is ample room for five passengers thanks to a flat rear floor and a generally large cabin. One of the drawbacks of the seats and their fixed head rests is that the rear three chairs encroach on visibility. Still, there is always that camera, which can actually be left on at all times.
Oddment storage seemed to be scarce, with no real secure place to store items such as keys, a wallet and mobile phone aside from the glove compartment.
As the electric motor and batteries are mounted beneath the car, there are two boots: one at the front where you’d normally find a conventional engine that can swallow 150 litres of one’s goods and of course one at that back that can carry another 745 litres, this extends to 1645 litres with the seats folded down.
Engine and Transmission
The Model S P85+ is powered by a rear mounted electric motor and an 85kWh lithium-ion battery pack that sends 310kW and 600Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a single reduction gear.
Resulting performance is almost completely silent, effortless and very rapid. 0-100 in a claimed 4.4 seconds.
Tesla claims a full battery charge is good for around 500kms. While we didn’t have the opportunity to completely assess the battery’s range, we do believe a full charge should last the average motorist around one week.
The Model S is charged by 40 Amp wall charger, which is to be installed by a licenced professional. Average charging time is around nine hours and Tesla also intends on introducing a 10 Amp charger that is compatible with any standard power socket.
Tesla is also developing a “Supercharger” network, whereby Tesla owners can charge up their car away from home in as little as 20 minutes. At present, there are two Superchargers in Australia, both located in Sydney.
On The Road
Progress is quiet. Very quiet and very fast. Adjustable and active suspension means that the Model S P85+ is not only very quick, but it has the ride comfort to match that contemporarily luxurious and that powerful electric drivetrain. The P85+ grips confidently. However, mash the throttle too forcefully and the rear end will step out, reminding you to respect the car’s powerful abilities.
At over two tonnes, the Model S can’t be described as a lightweight, but clever placement of the driveline means that there is a near 50:50 weight distribution, contributing to the car’s athletic handling.
The electric steering has three settings: Normal, Comfort and Sport. Comfort is a little numb and uncommunicative whereas Sport is simply too heavy. The default seems to be the best compromise.
Satellite technology allows the car to memorise familiar routes and raises and lowers itself over obstacles accordingly. For instance, if one is encountering a steep drive way in the car for the first time, simply select the correct ride height and the car will retain this information and automatically adjust to the road conditions in future. Very clever.
There’s also adaptive cruise control to make long stretches of highway cruising that little bit easier. The system is operated via a stalk on the steering column and is borrowed directly from Mercedes-Benz, along with indicator, gear selector stalks and electric window switches, reflecting the partnership between the two brands.
The adaptive cruise forms part of the car’s Auto Pilot feature, as does the lane changing system: tap the indicator stalk so that the indicators flash three times and the car will complete the lane change autonomously.
Lift off the throttle and the car will sap energy from the brakes and feed it back into the battery as part of the regenerative system, and the driver can choose between two levels of aggression, depending on how much energy they would like retrieved from the braking system.
When negotiating a parking space, parking sensors scan the surroundings and project measurements in centimetres on the dashboard, to assist with wriggling the car into the most awkward of spots.
Automatic parking will be released at a later date.
The Model S P85+ is fitted with a lane departure warning system that vibrates the steering wheel should the car drift out the lane, blind spot monitoring that flashes within the instrument cluster rather than on the door mirrors, automatic braking, speed limiter, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and traction control and a speed limiter.
Dual front, side and curtain airbags are also included as standard.
Interestingly, the Model S misses out a on a second horn a la Holden Volt that is designed to alert pedestrians should the car saunter up behind them in a car park or pedestrian crossing.
Tesla provides an eight year, infinite kilometre battery and drive warranty.
Make and model: Tesla Model S P85+
Engine type: Rear mounted electric motor and 85kWh lithium-ion battery pack
0-100 Sprint time: 4.4 seconds
Transmission: Single speed automatic
Fuel consumption: 0
Dimensions: 4970mm long, 1964mm wide, 1435mm high and 2960mm wheelbase
Suspension: Front: Tesla “Smart Suspension” Air Suspension
Steering: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
Country of Origin: United States
Price: From $127,800
|Metallic Blue Paint||$900|
|All Glass Panoramic Roof||$3,100|
|21” Grey Turbine Wheels||$5,500|
|Tan Nappa Leather Seats||$1,800|
|Obeche Wood Matte Décor||$800|
|Carbon Fibre Spoiler||$0|
|Ultra High Fidelity Sound System||$3,100|
*Option prices correct at the time of build and may be subject to change.