One of the fastest EVs on the road The Model S is a technological marvel, and that doesn’t stop at the powertrain
Elon Musk is a marketing genius. Simply put, he knows exactly what he wants to do and will not rest until his dream is completed. This 2013 Tesla Model S P85 is proof in the pudding that the electric car is here to stay. It is truly a technological marvel and the first electric car I have ever driven that doesn’t feel like a technological experiment.
The first thing you need to know about the Tesla Model S is that there is no backup gasoline motor in case you run out of electric range. It’s 100% electric and as such, there is nothing under the hood. Lift the bonnet and there is a compartment I like to refer to as the “frunk”, a front-trunk. Under the rear liftgate is a small jumpseat large enough for two children. Yes, this sleek, sexy sedan is actually a seven-seater, making it incredibly practical for the growing family.
I had previously heard that the Model S is a very quick car. This is the understatement of the year – this Model S P85 is stupid fast. On paper, the numbers are 416 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. What makes this car accelerate so quickly is that due to the electric motor, all of the torque is available instantly. While doing highway speeds, if maximum throttle is applied, the rear wheels will get skittish and the car will take off.
Much like the new BMW i3 I just drove in Los Angeles, Tesla has implemented an automated regenerative braking system which means one-pedal-driving for the most part. Once you release the throttle, the brakes are automatically applied, slowing the car down to a crawl. The brake pedal needs to be applied to stop the car completely. This feature can be disabled, but I left it on to achieve maximum range. My particular tester came with 21” wheels on winter tires, making this a truly unique test.
The P85 badge on the back of my test car refers to the fact that this Tesla is the Model S Performance with the 85 kWh battery. This is the Model S with the longest possible range. I have spoken with owners who, in ideal settings (read: summer!), have achieved up to 550-600 km on a full charge. Being an electric car, driving style seriously impacts driving range. I had a serious case of range anxiety – I drove the car extremely carefully to try and conserve as much energy as I could. Using features like the heated seats and leaving the instruments in high-brightness settings was minimized; I even used the 580-watt 12-speaker Dolby ProLogic stereo sparingly.
With ours being a winter test, the battery range on the Model S was a huge deviation from numbers reported in other tests. I must specify here that this was a particularly unique situation – I had the car during Toronto’s biggest ice storm in years. There were power outages and falling trees everywhere, temperatures consistently lower than -10 degrees Celsius, and of course, a serious amount of traffic. I averaged 300-375 km per charge; not shabby numbers in the slightest. Also, because I only had the Tesla for a week rather than actually owning it, I was charging it on a regular household outlet. This means that a full charge takes up to 3 days, at a rate of 5 km of range per hour. I used the PlugShare app on my iPhone to locate a quick-charge station near me, where I was able to charge the car to full from a 50% charge in a matter of a couple hours. Awesome. I will admit that the paranoia from my range anxiety got the best of me.
Like I said before, the Model S is a technological marvel, and that doesn’t stop at the powertrain. Once you sit down on the comfy leather seats, you immediately notice the huge 17” touchscreen. Yes, you heard me; it is seventeen inches. The only real buttons in the car are for the power windows (the buttons are sourced from Mercedes-Benz), the four-way flashers, and the glovebox release button. Everything else is controlled through the touchscreen, which I think can be a bit extreme at times. For instance, to open the huge panoramic sunroof, one must go through the infotainment system. Want to disable the traction control? Yup; through the system. The system will also remind you that it might be dangerous to disable it, and will ask if you’re sure that you want to do so.
The interesting thing about the Tesla’s infotainment system (namely the navigation part of it) is that it’s Google-based. The touchscreen is extremely responsive and is just as easy to use as any Android phone. Two USB ports are located below the center console, but interestingly enough, they are only to be used for charging devices. Unfortunately, there is currently no support for iPod connectivity on any Tesla vehicles. However, you can use the voice commands to ask the stereo to play any song you can think of. For example, I literally said “Play Hotel California by The Eagles”. Within a few short seconds, the car automatically connected to the Internet via the built-in 3G connection and started playing the iconic song through the speakers.
One thing that I can’t get out of my head about this car is how silent it is. It is brutally fast; it can easily get the unsuspecting driver into trouble. The enthusiast inside me can’t help but be a bit bored. The driving experience for me is completed by the sounds and smells. When I stomp on the throttle, brisk acceleration is only part of the thrill. The sound coming from the engine and the exhaust completes it for me. At wide-open throttle, the only sound out of the Tesla Model S is a barely-audible whine from the electric motor. It’s so quiet that you can hear the tires. What I like about cars such the BMW M3 or the Audi RS7 is that sound rushing through the cabin to supplement the sensation of the drive.
As-tested, my top-tier 2013 Model S P85 tips the scales at just over $105,000. Our government currently gives out an incentive of a few thousand dollars if you buy certain eligible electric vehicles. Would I recommend a Model S? Absolutely. I don’t think I’m personally ready to buy one yet – I prefer the pure, minimalist driving experience, but that’s just me. I often remember how a few years ago, I handed my mother an iPhone. For the first time ever, I didn’t have to spend hours and hours teaching her how to use her new gadget. Tesla’s product is as revolutionary to the automotive industry as Apple’s first phone was. Give them a bit of time to work out the kinks and I am confident we have a real game-changer on our hands.
2013 Tesla Model S P85 Gallery