I’m not normally the type of guy that walks up to a car on show in a shopping mall. I’m not a rev-head.
But I made an exception this time because the crowd that surrounded it and the chatter and excitement flurrying from the general direction of this ‘car’ was actually distracting. So, as I sipped my macchiato, I took a cautious lap around this ‘car’. Then I did another. And another. I was looking at the Tesla Model S. I had never heard of it.
Sure it was my first look, but the sleek lines, the futuristic interior and the control centre had me running up to the man in the Tesla t-shirt asking questions like a kid in a candy shop with free taste-testing. The car is immaculate. If you have read my other opinions on tech and gadgets, you know aesthetics is important to me, followed by performance.
Me: What’s the 0-100kmph timing?
Tesla Guy: 3.4 Seconds.
Me: Wait, WHAT?!
Me: How big is the engine then? V12?
Tesla Guy: It’s electric. Tesla has reinvented the electric car, what do you think?
Tesla Guy: Go check out the interior!
So I’m fighting through the countless others that were drawn to the vehicle’s appeal and mystique, I sat in the passenger side front seat and had a play around with the control centre. It looked too good to be true. It looked like a publicity stunt perhaps to draw attention to car makers that you can put a sexy vehicle body on battery and 4 wheels and people would buy it… I even thought to myself, this probably couldn’t actually drive. Again, I had not heard about Tesla’s innovation and ground breaking progress in this space.
I got out and the Tesla guy greeted me again, asked my opinion again and handed me a brochure on the model variants.
Tesla Guy: Would you like to book a test drive?
Me: <Once again, speechless>
Me: I’d love to but I don’t think it would be in my price range
Tesla Guy: Would you like to drive one anyway?
Me: Yup. Yes. Yes please.
So he took my details and I thought that come Monday, I would be receiving calls and emails about how much my life would change if I bought one and force me to place a phone order for a car. But that didn’t happen.
In fact, when I went home, I jumped online and configured my own car. I picked the interior finishes, exterior colour, moon roof and 21″ alloys, of course. I basically optioned the thing up to the highest possible combination and the final outcome was that i would be parting with approximately AUD$200k to have this thing in my garage.
I saved my config and didn’t put another thought into it. That is, until 4 weeks later, when I received a call from a Tesla rep in Hong Kong wishing to confirm my test drive booking! I reiterated on the phone that after doing my homework, the vehicle was out of my budget and although i was impressed and wanted to drive it, I didn’t want to waste their time with another tyre-kicking test driver. The Tesla rep assured me that it is a no-obligation test drive and that they welcome everyone to try it for themselves. I guess, at the very least, to inform the general public of the non-petrol/gasoline options that Tesla is pioneering.
So, with that final reassurance, I found myself locking in a time slot to test drive a Model S P85 in Sydney.
I haven’t been this excited to test drive a car since I got behind the wheel of a CLA 45 AMG Mercedes-Benz. That was way fun too. But the mystique and the ‘unknown’ that surrounded the Tesla and electric cars really tipped me over the edge.
The host venue of the test drive process was the Sydney Star Casino, the Darling Hotel. I met up with the local Tesla evangelist, Stone (not the same guy as the shopping mall), and we got to talking about the journey of Tesla and where things were heading. Elon came up in conversation. Of course. I knew of the name but didn’t realise the connection. Before I knew it, I was in the hotel’s garage looking at the same, white Model S P85 from the mall.
Stone walked me through all of the settings, alerts, cameras, sensors, climate control, customisations and the cool keyfob to access the car – its a miniature Model S! The ‘car key’ is a miniature Model S toy car. you click the toy car in your hand (which also has a proximity sensor in it)! So with a click of the keyfob car, the door handles that were once flush with the contour of the doors, slowly emerged and presented themselves for use with a tasteful LED glow around the handle to boot.
Getting into the vehicle,whether in the front seat or in any of the back seat positions, one thing remains constant: ample space and leg room! I’m 6’1″ and sat in the middle back seat without my head touching the ceiling and with my legs comfortably stretched out in front of me. Same for either of the front seats. AND you get a great view outside of the car no matter where you sit. The moon roof and the generous window sizes literally make travelling in this vehicle a joy. We haven’t even left the garage yet.
Anyways, we were messing about with the settings and how the computer stores multiple driver profiles that instantaneously alters the car’s configuration. You can even select the steering stiffness (there’s probably a technical term for that). Talking battery life and range, charging modes and options, power consumption and C02 emissions from fuel cars vs battery factories and electricity I consume to charge the vehicle. Any question I had – Tesla has the answer.
At this point, I’m trying to calculate what I can sacrifice in my lifestyle today so that I could own this puppy.
We eventually leave the garage for the drive. In the valet, we do a driver change over and I’m now behind the wheel. A few adjustments and we’re away.
As I gently exit the casino valet, I’m cautious of the braking response and anticipating the lag as we edge up the incline and in my mind, I’m thinking that I’m driving a refined golf cart. Nay. Not the case. Breaking was effortless and efficient and then accelerating away from the casino, the Model S does the rest of the talking. I can’t hear the car. I can hear the normal sound of the tyre on the road, but there’s no ‘car’ noise. But I’m moving. Quickly.
This beast was a head turner. Every traffic light stop we got, we had people rubber necking and at one stage, contenders in the rear with their euro money pits revving to take the attention. Take off from dead stop to 65kmph was like I was sitting in a rollercoaster ride at Disneyland – the take off, torque, g-forces whatever you wanna call it, its pinning me to the chair as the speedo climbs. Handling like those expensive vehicles – the ones with logos of horses and bulls on them. The Model S went from strength to strength.
On the journey back to the casino, the audio system came up as a point of interest for me. The sound system is Tesla designed and made with influences from industry experts in the audio/recording label arena. Whatever the credentials, you simply need to play some T-Pain or Jay-Z’s Tom Ford to appreciate it. It goes to 11 but 8 was loud enough! Speaking of the audio system, Stone asked me to voice my song request by clicking the voice activation button on the steering wheel.
The 17″ touchscreen powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 4 searches online using Rdio and returns results for me to choose from. Within seconds, we’re STREAMING the song of my choice using the inbuilt 3G connection (provided by Tesla, free of charge and without limit – for now). Music wasn’t the only voice command. Phone calls of course, searching with navigation and soon to come, web browsing.
Another feature that is aided by the 3G SIM provided is the free, ongoing software upgrades and tweaks that constantly improve the vehicle. The car’s own running operating system is updated OTA!
Talking about charging the vehicle, I was shown the charging station that comes with the vehicle that would be installed in your car’s garage. The plug socket is neatly tucked in behind the rear left side brake light. There is a button on the charger head that, when pressed, opens the flap (petrol flap style).
Just like a smartphone or tablet today, the ‘battery life’ or more fittingly, the ‘battery left’ dictates your level of activity or tasks you can achieve before it goes flat. It’s no different in the Model S, however, I truly believe that this innovative path that Tesla is trailblazing is forcing consumers to rethink how travel is consumed and ultimately planned and enjoyed.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to own a Model S, you will learn that each night, the last thing you do before bed is put the cat out and plug in the car to top up your charge for the next day. Even if you have only driven 20km’s, you would still top up to give you full range for tomorrow. Interestingly, you can elect when the ‘charge’ kicks in so that you’re only using off-peak charges for the electricity instead of paying a premium to charge. You can set these parameters up in the car on the stunning display, or via the iOS or Android app available for it.
Now I haven’t covered off all of the vehicle’s features, benefits and interesting facts that make this vehicle so special, so make sure you visit the Tesla Australia page here. Heck, why don’t you configure your own car!
Needless to say, as a tech and gadget lover, the Tesla Model S ticked EVERY single one of my boxes. It was truly an exhilarating test drive, albeit brief, enough for me to be won over mentally and emotionally.
As I commented to Stone before we parted ways, for me its not a question of if, more so when. I will definitely be a Tesla customer in the very near future.
The only disappointing area in the whole process for me actually wasn’t due to Tesla forgetting a creature comfort… my disappointment stems from the lack of government funded incentives and/or heavily discounted finance offerings to encourage and reward the early adopters of this eco-friendly automobile delight. Sure the LCT was reduced slightly, but really a token gesture.
Should the government and even the private banking sector be incentivising and partnering with innovative companies like Tesla? Leave your comments below…
(Picture credits: Tesla Motors Australia)