Elon Musk is one far seeing individual; not only does he have his fingers in the space and mass transportation pies (Space X and Hyperloop) he wants electric cars in everyone’s garage. It’s a dream that many have had and many have failed at.
Sure, there’s hybrids and almost fully electric cars such as the Volt, but the Tesla car is fully electric, meaning there’s no petrol engine to supplement or charge. There’s a single or pair of electric motors, charged up at home via a modified power point to deliver three phase power or at a growing number of “Supercharging” stations that will line the east coast of Australia in a short space of time. A Wheel Thing was granted a (too few!) number of hours with the Tesla S 85 and commenced the journey from Tesla Cars Sydney’s HQ, in St Leonards.
On arrival, I was met by the courteous and friendly staff, immediately making me feel welcome. I was introduced to Will, who gave me a pretty thorough introduction to the Tesla S 85 I would be spending a few hours with.
The centrepiece of the Tesla is the enormous 17 inch, vertically inclined, touchscreen. It’s the powerhouse for all of the controls, from the aircon to the Google Maps navigation (voice guided, as is the audio system), information about the car to being able to select how open you wish the sun roof to be…precisely! The layout is intuitive, user friendly and follows a common sense method when a window or tile is no longer needed, by having an X in a corner to be tapped to close.
The driver gets a hi-res screen too, with crystal clear info including an on the go battery usage chart; the battery itself can be charged at home with the charger supplied by Tesla and the system can be programmed to charge during off peak periods, such is the attention to the small yet important things.
As such, there’s exceedingly few “real” buttons inside, with just a couple located on the left and right spines of the tiller, with two rotary buttons that will double as hard reset buttons, should they be required. The wheel itself is of a good size and thickness, allowing an easy, relaxed driving position to be found, along with being electrically motivated for rake (up and down) and reach (in and out). Naturally the seats are electric, heated and LED lighting provides plenty of pure white light for all passengers.
The Tesla S is a big car; it’s a touch over five metres long, has a wheelbase in excess of three metres and is close to two metres wide. Interior room, then, is sizeable.
Exterior panelwork evokes hints of Italian and British muscle car luxury.It’s a proper five seater, as a result, with plenty of leg, hip and shoulder room. The seats themselves are nigh on perfect in comfort and support although the pattern, seemed, to my eyes, to look a bit retro, harking back to the days of hand-stitched covers in classic cars.
The steering wheel and controls are sourced from a German automotive company; the important part is the stalk on the right hand side, with PRND set into the plastic. It’s the now typical foot on the brake, move the lever and……nothing.
No noise, except what’s outside the Tesla (and inside if the superb audio system is on) as you move off. Insulation keeps any noise from the electric motor totally at bay; what isn’t hidden away is the astonishing acceleration and the seat of the pants sensation of space shuttle like thrust. It’s quick off the mark (the go pedal does need more feedback) but rolling acceleration is unbelievable. The space of time between 80 and 110 is so small Dr Who would have trouble defining it. Again, it’s not neck snapping fast in the sense of the term, it’s that unrelenting wave, that ongoing surge which happens and continues oh so quickly that is the noticeable part.
The steering sometimes feels a touch heavy but never unmanageable, there’s a touch of numbness on centre however it’s communicative either side. Ride quality is superb, with no truly discernible dive under brakes, no roll when thrown hard into a turn and bump absorption is more than adequate. Rolling stock is simple but attractive 20 inch plus diameter alloys, in a turbine fan blade design.
Again, the only noise is what’s outside unless you turn the audio system up to 11 (yes, it is deliberately configured for that) but be prepared to bleed from the ears. It’s loud. LOUD! But there’s no distortion, the part of the sound that causes headaches. Activation of the search system is easy: you say “Play….” and it will search and then bring up a list of songs, artists etc from that command, if the rights to the songs etc have been authorised. You can’t play The Beatles, for example, from a search as they don’t show up. With only a few hours to try the Tesla, I found that I couldn’t get, for example, an album to play in order from start to finish. I would hope there’s a mechanism in the programming to do so.
Because of the flat floor, the aluminuim chassis holding the battery and engine on the single motor Tesla situated behind the rear seat, there’s ample interior room and storage space, front and rear. Tesla quotes over 740L for the boot and that’s without lifting the (subtly Tesla logoed) boot floor covering. And yes, there’s plenty of storage at the front as well.
There’s no doubt, no doubt, that this company, its founder and its products, is destined to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable in car technology further than what we expected just a few years ago. Elon Musk is a visionary, unquestionably. The Tesla S is the embodiment of his vision.
Details of this vision can be found here: http://www.teslamotors.com/en_AU/
A heartfelt thanks to Heath and Alex at Tesla HQ and to Will at Tesla Sydney.