Tesla Model S – Flying the Electric Vehicle Flag

2015 Tesla Model S | First Drive Review

Written byMalcolm Flynn | Carsguide

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MyDrive | Tesla Australia  – The Tesla Model S is the revolutionary electric car brand’s first proper passenger model, and now you can buy one in Australia.

It may look like an alternative to an Aston Martin Rapide, but it starts at one quarter the price of the $378,500 big British V12, and will never cost you a cent in petrol thanks to an all-electric drivetrain.

The Model S also starts at less than one third the price of the $299,000 BMW i8 hybrid, but trumps its green cred with the Tesla’s simpler all-electric layout.

The Model S also starts at less than half the price of the brand’s first car, the also-electric Tesla Roadster, but is easily double the car. For a carmaker that’s still very young, it’s a very big step.

MyDrive - Carsguide | Tesla Model S

MyDrive – Carsguide | Tesla Model S

DESIGN

The Model S uses a similar five-door hatch bodystyle to the Audi A7, and its dimensions are a near match for the big Audi. This makes it slightly smaller than an S-Class Mercedes and slightly larger than an E-Class.

The overall design successfully avoids any link to other premium brands, and the aluminium and steel platform has been designed from the ground-up to suit the electric drivetrain.

On the inside, the Model S’s most striking feature is the giant 17-inch touchscreen, which is used to control pretty much everything the Model S does. This is very intuitive to use, works well in bright light, and will please gadget freaks no-end with the depth of personalisation and information available.

The roomy five-door body will easily swallow four adults, but headroom in the back would be a bit tight for anyone over 6 foot and the battery under the floor pushes your feet higher than you’d expect.

MyDrive - Carsguide | Tesla Model S

MyDrive – Carsguide | Tesla Model S

It’s also got the biggest boot known to man at 745-litres, with an extra 150-litres up the front that’s big enough to swallow three carry-on bags. Try that in your E-Class, or anything else for that matter.

Some of the Model S’s details lack the sophistication of a new BMW or Merc, but for Tesla’s second-ever model, it is an incredible achievement.

VALUE

The model S kicks off at an impressive $91,400 in Australia, which is around the same price as a base model E-Class or BMW 5 Series.

Despite the revolutionary drivetrain, the Model S comes similarly equipped. If you start stacking on the options however, you can spend considerably more than the $161,800 figure attached to our test example.

MOTOR / TRANSMISSION

Tesla makes the Model S in four different power levels, with a single motor and rear wheel drive or dual motor with all-wheel drive, and all versions use a single-speed automatic transmission. Our test example was the up-spec P85+, with a single 310kW/600Nm motor, rear-wheel drive, and upgraded 85kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

This also means an official range between charges of 502km, and 4.4 second 0-100km/h acceleration that will trump a BMW M5 performance sedan.

However, the big question facing every new electric vehicle is where it can be charged and how long does it take?

Tesla plan for a standard 10 Amp wall plug charger to soon be available, but this will take longer than overnight to completely recharge.

The P85+ comes included with a 40 Amp home charger that reduces this time to 9 hours, but requires installation by a professional and will ultimately limit your ability to travel far from home.

To address this, Tesla is also rolling out a network of public Supercharger locations to connect major destinations, which can cut charge times down to a relatively convenient 20 minutes. No more than a family toilet stop really.

Tesla’s 4yr/80,000km standard warranty is pretty standard for the industry, and the battery carries a warranty of up to 8yr/unlimited km, depending on spec.

SAFETY

The Model S is yet to be rated by ANCAP, but the strong aluminium chassis helped the US model earn the highest safety score in the history of the NHTSA.

Standard safety features include six airbags, a huge reversing camera that can be set to remain on while traveling forwards, child seat anchorage points in all three rear positions, and the high voltage system is automatically disconnected in the event of a collision.

DRIVING

Like all electric cars, the Model S’s acceleration is instant, and the sensation of power is like no petrol or diesel engine.

Considering the Model S’s heavy electric drivetrain pushes its weight over 2 tonnes, this is pretty impressive.

Throw it at some corners, and the Model S’s low centre of gravity helps it to change direction far better than you’d expect.

The lack of engine over the front end helps with this nimbleness, and no doubt contributes to the reactive steering feel.

MyDrive - Carsguide | Tesla Model S

MyDrive – Carsguide | Tesla Model S

Given the technology on board, you’d expect the Model S to drive like a laboratory on wheels. However, it’s surprisingly fun to drive for a car with a single-speed gearbox and no exhaust note.

This lack of noise is inherent with any electric vehicle, and despite the huge 21-inch wheels fitted to our tester, the also-optional air suspension helps the Model S waft around with the serenity you’d expect of a top spec S-Class at three times the price.

Our Model S was only available for one day, so our testing was combined with the harsh conditions required for filming the above video, plus 38 degree Sydney heat thrown in for good measure. Hardly ideal conditions for proving the Tesla’s efficiency, but the Model S took it in its stride.

At the end of the day, the projected range after 202.4km was showing 50km remaining, suggesting a total of 252km if we’d pushed it to the limit.

This is incredible given the heavy throttle and vigorous stop/start driving required for filming. Based on this, the official figure of 502km seems very achievable under relaxed conditions, and more than enough for most weekend jaunts.

VERDICT

So, would we buy a Model S over a conventional-engined E-Class or 5 Series?

It’s a pretty impressive novelty that will work well for the driving habits of most Australians. It’s quick and comfortable, and wears a badge that will be the centre of conversation at dinner parties for some time yet.

The Tesla Model S is well worth a look.

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