Don’t worry, we’ve not gone mad. We know that most of you, our customers, don’t have £80,000 lurking around in your wallets and purses, but 18-30-year-olds often have an inseparable relationship with their smartphones and like keeping up with the latest in technology. This month, then, I thought you might like a glimpse into what’s probably the coolest car on the market at the moment – the Model S from a company called Tesla, which was set up by one of the clever geezers behind PayPal.
The first thing that makes the Tesla Model S stand out is that it’s the world’s first all-electric posh saloon car. Unlike many hybrid and electric cars, especially from the days when firms had just started developing them, it doesn’t look like a genetically mutated fish and could easily be described as drop dead gorgeous. I know, I know, it looks a bit like a Jaguar and an Aston Martin from the back and a Maserati from the front, but I don’t reckon anyone would complain if their girlfriend looked like Amanda Holden or their boyfriend like Jamie Dornan – so who cares if the Tesla doesn’t look radically different? During my week with it, loads of people stared at it as I drove past or came to talk to me as soon as I’d parked up, making me feel like a celebrity.
Little touches can really make a product feel special and the Model S brings a smile to your face before you even sit in it, as the door handles cleverly extend out of the body when you approach the car, then slink down again when you walk away. Inside, the Tesla is swanky, modern and minimalist, like a high-tech kitchen, with hardly any buttons or controls to be seen. You won’t miss the touchscreen, though, which is simply ginormous at 17 inches and controls everything from the sunroof and climate control to the lights, plus screen after screen of other settings. Indeed, most people I took for a ride in the Tesla said it’s like an iPad on wheels. I just wish it had a bit more storage inside, as I carry so much claptrap with me when I go on road trips. With no engine powering it, there’s a second boot (or ‘frunk’) under the bonnet, though. The sat nav is powered by Google, so you can pinch and zoom, long press with your finger to set a new destination, and easily search for restaurants and cinemas.
It has an automatic ‘gearbox’ with just one gear which is always poised to provide maximum power at any time, and there isn’t even a start button or parking brake, as the car knows when you’re sat in the driver’s seat. What’s more, the clever air suspension even raises and lowers the car automatically depending on your location, which is really handy when you’re in a town you don’t know and encounter loads of pesky speed bumps. Even the key is an interesting conversation piece; a cute model Tesla that you press at the front to open the frunk, press at the back to open the main boot, and press on top to lock the car. Everything about this car has been designed to be refreshingly different and stimulating.
The Tesla Model S runs totally on electricity and is available in various levels, with either a 70kWh or 85kWh battery and with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. There’s also a completely bonkers Tesla Model S out there called the P85D, which accelerates so fast it makes your eyes hurt. I’m talking motorbike speeds, here, making the Tesla send shivers up the spines of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other cars like that. The 362bhp Model S 85 with rear-wheel drive that I was testing felt fast enough for me and it’s quite an incredible experience hurtling towards the horizon in near silence. Apart from lacking a bit of feedback through the steering wheel, the Tesla’s handling really impressed me, too, letting me chuck it around corners without any unwanted body roll. It’s also a safe car with cameras everywhere, and the radar cruise control and parking sensors even tell you exactly what the distance is between you and the car in front. I did find its dimensions a wee bit bulky when it came to parking, though, and the turning circle seemed quite large.
Owners can charge their Teslas at home using a normal mains socket, but it’ll take a day and a half to get the battery back up to 100%, so it’s best going for a special wall box which speeds the charging process up nicely. Tesla has a generous philosophy and is also rolling out a UK network of superchargers, located near motorways, where the Model S can be fully charged in around ninety minutes, free of charge – yes, really. It just means you’ll find yourself on first name terms with the nearest coffee place, unless you loiter around in the car park while it’s charging, which might look a bit weird.
Until now, most electric cars had a range of between 50 and 125 miles, meaning they’re just not suitable for some motorists. The Tesla changes all that, the Model S’ range varying between 265 and 310 miles, which is very impressive indeed. I played roulette and dared to drive from Crosby on the west coast to North Cave near Hull on the east coast, then back again, on the equivalent of a single charge. I made it to my final marker point with 6 miles (about 2% battery) remaining.
All this car needs is the ability to drive itself. Oh, wait, Tesla is already really pushing the boundaries and the Model S will soon be available with various driverless functions, from Autopilot which takes over the steering and maintains a suitable speed, to Lane Changing, which is pretty self-explanatory. The Model S will park itself, too. One of the most eyebrow-raising features in the pipeline is the ability to summon a Tesla S to come and meet you wherever you are, which is great if you’re at the Trafford Centre entrance and it’s raining, for example. It’s probable that Tesla cars will be able to drive themselves to the nearest store to get serviced, too.
I hope this brief look into the awesome world of the Tesla Model S has been interesting, because technology always trickles down, meaning a lot of it will also be found in smaller cars in the near future. If you have any questions about the Tesla, give Carrot Insurance a shout on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be glad to help.