According to one of its reviewers, driving the Tesla Model S “. . . feels like your car can finally keep up with your iPhone.” In some very significant ways, this all-electric automobile not only keeps up, it leaves all of its predecessors in the dust. In fact the Model S may just be “the best car in the world”, which is what Elon Musk said he intended to build.
Within the giant factory complex in California’s Silicon Valley, Tesla’s new baby is purpose-built from the ground up and the inside out to be an electric vehicle that changes the way a lot of people think about electric vehicles. There are so many impressive features that they won’t be listed in any specific order, since they involve different aspects of performance.
First of all, the Model S is a very good-looking car, especially when you consider that it’s a five-passenger, four-door ‘family’ sedan. The aluminum sport back body is available in four different levels of trim and the batteries are housed in a four-inch ‘slab’ that’s distributed in the whole floor pan rather than a central ridge and provides a low centre of gravity that means the car holds the road admirably on curves and deceleration.
Of course the majority of customers want to know about stuff like how long does it go on a charge and how fast. The Model S comes in three power options: 40, 60 and 85kWh with driving ranges of 160, 230 and 320 miles, respectively, and it accelerates from zero to 60mph in 4.4 seconds, with all the g-force but none of the noise associated with petrol engines. It can keep on accelerating in virtual silence right up to 110 mph and beyond, with very responsive steering and an impressively smooth ride.
The interior provides a high level of comfort for driver and passengers, but the main attraction is the 17-inch ‘infotainment’ touchscreen display in the console. It looks similar to an iPad and controls just about everything, from the inside air temperature to the level of air suspension, plus it’s easy to read even in direct sunlight.
Another feature is an intuitive braking system that kicks in when you take your foot off the accelerator and acts a lot like shifting down with a manual transmission, using engine power to decelerate. Reviews from different test drivers pretty much agree that overall the Model S handles very well and provides an exceptional driving experience for even the most jaded and pessimistic of critics.
The price will be one of Tesla’s challenges, since currently it ranges from a base of $49,.900 (£32,215) to $97,900 (£63,204) at the top. However they are working on that problem, with the intent of bringing the Model S technology into the mainstream of consumer demand – which translates to the average middle class driver.
The bottom line, naturally, is the great debate over whether battery power can replace petrol power as the future of automobiles. Tesla’s Model S would seem to be a significant argument that yes, it can. The designers are talking about the Model S as just the beginning of a class of cars that will transform the highways as we know them, replacing petrol stations with charging stations to the benefit of the environment and the sorrow of non-believers. Time, as they say, will tell.