I thought it was about time I gave the Tesla Model S a proper urban road test and no location seemed better than Electric Vehicle hotspot, Milton Keynes, in the UK.
The Model S was first launched back in 2012, when they were a rare mythical beast sparkling in shopping centre store displays. By the end of 2016 they had sold over 150,000 cars and in Europe I see them everywhere.
Of course I went for the P100D AWD. It was in black (in case you care) with pretty nice matching black rims on it’s 21 inch wheels. If Batman had a Tesla, it would probably be this Tesla.
Before I set off, I started out by spending some time testing out the Summon feature, which I hadn’t tried before. Essentially the summon feature allows you to summon the car using the Tesla app on your phone. It feels exactly how I’d imagine playing with a life-size remote-controlled car would feel, because that’s pretty much what it is. You stay fully in control of the movement of the car, using your finger on the app to control motion, but of course the car has built in sensors as well to detect its surroundings.
But where would I use this undeniably cool feature?
Getting out of very tight parking spaces? Getting the car closer to the house in the rain? Other? I asked twitter and to be honest the Tesla owners on there also didn’t seem to use it a lot, but it’s certainly a nice feature (and definitely fun) so I’ll move on.
I do the usual rounds of the car, admiring the boot space (and front storage space), which is a huge plus of the Model S, but let’s face it, it’s an American-proportioned car. It feels big sat next to all the other cars in a UK car park. I wouldn’t like to try parallel parking it on a busy London street, but luckily Milton Keynes is a modern city full of infamous roundabouts and infinite dual carriageways. It’s a city that lends itself to the Model S.
I get in the car and make a note to self that I am not a fan of the wood-effect dash board. Less batman and more bond villain. I’ve seen carbon fibre effect look in the Tesla shop, which I would definitely go for instead.
One of the brilliant things about the Model S is its unashamedly huge 17 inch in-car display screen. I discovered that when you listen to music, you are able to isolate where the sound centres. If I am alone, I can centre the sound just around myself, or if the car is full, surround all the passengers.
I like the full glass roof a lot, but some of the interior quality is a bit lacking for a car in this price range. Bits of the finish are a bit messy and I can see marks round the interior where the glue has left behind residue
The P100D contains an AWD Dual Motor, adding a “high efficiency” front motor to the standard “high performance” rear motor. It’s the fastest accelerating production car available on the market and does 0-60mph in around 2.5 seconds. With Ludicrous mode it has done it in under 2.3.
There are several driving modes you can choose from; standard, comfort, and sport. After a bit of a play, I opt for sport, because I enjoy the firmer steering feel when driving. Personally the more assisted steering modes make me feel like I don’t have as much control and the Model S does feel quite assisted in general.
Driving the Model S is exceptionally comfortable. I am keen to try out the Autopilot features on it as soon as I find an appropriate road. I head towards the A5, which has a nearby dual-carriageway section, enjoying the smoothness of the ride.
Once on the A5, I turn on the autopilot features. This section of the dual-carriageway has two lanes in each direction, so I stick to the left lane, as I’m interested to see how it reacts to being overtaken. The car will stick to the centre of the lane, as well as keeping a prescribed (set by the driver) distance from 1-7 car lengths between you and the car in front. All the driver needs to do is keep their hands on the wheel and if you remove your hands, the car will apparently remind you to return them every minute and a half.
I’m lucky with the weather, but curious how it would respond in more adverse conditions. Tesla answers this question well on their website:
Eight surround cameras provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength that is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
One of the things about the Tesla brand that is a real selling-point for buyers is its range capabilities. I’m not going to talk about it much here, because this is info that anyone can get from the internet. The range on the Model S is very good and always has been. It seems like the other manufacturers have just about started to catch up with it now.
Charging a Tesla is straightforward (and free if you get referred from another Tesla owner!) NB: The referral thing is pretty important- and not widely advertised- so if you are in the market for buying one, make sure you find an existing owner to give you their referral info.
Tesla superchargers are frequent on most major routes (see map below) and when they put down chargers, they definitely put them down en masse. The superchargers provide around 170 miles/ 270km in just 30 minutes.
When I am out fast charging one of the Electric Cars I drive, I often get asked by people how long it takes to charge. My BMW i3, for example, takes around 30 minutes for an almost full charge. Most of the people I speak to are surprised by this, not realising charging capabilities are pretty fast and only getting faster (bring on 350kW!)
Of course the Tesla superchargers are currently the fastest in the world.
As someone that suffers a lot in poor quality air (asthmatic), I am grateful that the car comes with an inbuilt HEPA air filtration system. According to Tesla it “removes at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from cabin air.” It makes a noticeable improvement to my comfortability in the car and would be a huge benefit for long journeys. For other people, it’s probably more of a nice detail that they don’t pay much attention to.
Milton Keynes is a serious EV hub, so it doesn’t surprise me that during my half day drive I see no less than 10 other Tesla vehicles (9 Model S + 1 Model X) out on the roads. Tesla is no longer a mythical rare beast and now a commonplace, identifiable reminder to the general public that the EV revolution is happening.
So what is my verdict on my urban Model S experience?
The acceleration and feel of the car is a winner and I love the way it looks. The glass roof is a must for me- big fan, but the interior is slightly lacking in a car of such a price. Range is of course brilliant and all the driving features that I managed to explore are useful and usable. Summon via the app is fun! Tesla has certainly gone above and beyond in terms of the in-car tech and driver assistance and the cars very actively update with new tech features as it is released.
Plus, all of Tesla’s seat options are now vegan and there is even an option to get a non-leather steering wheel wrap, proving their dedication to a more sustainable future.
It’s certainly an awe-inspiring, exciting car, but with prices upwards of £60,000, it’s not necessarily attainable price-wise for the average customer. Of course the Model 3 will hopefully be the remedy for this problem, but as we won’t see them arrive in the UK until early 2019, I guess I’ll have to head over to the US if I want to test one any time soon!
Would I like to own a Tesla Model S? Yes, definitely. I’ll take one in batman black, please!
I’d love to hear more about your real-world experiences with the Tesla Model S and other electric cars. Send me a tweet @BethLilyRace