They’re potentially expensive. They’re controversial. They’re cracking good drives. And totally fully electric. The Tesla range consisting of the Model S variants and Model X variants has been with us in Australia for a few years now and the Model S remains the most visible. The P100D name means the car is an all wheel drive machine, with a pair (the D stands for dual) of electric motors powering each corner. The 100, by the way, means the kilowatt hours the engines produce and it’s through the range the numbers tell the output. Body wise the Model S rocks a five door coupe shape in a smooth and svelte design, the Model X a more pumped roof.Pricing structure within Australia varies state by state for the Tesla cars. Tesla Model S pricing and Tesla Model X pricing are the links for your location, however starting prices are $113,200 for the Model S 75D and $120, 200 for the Model X 75D. The top of the range gets the “P” designation, with Ludicrous mode, top end interior, and Premium Upgrade package standard. That’s the zero to goodbye license in 2.9 seconds for the Model S and 3.1 seconds for the Model X. Passing speeds are also eyeball smashing with the sprint from 75 to 105 km/h lasting a mere 1.2 seconds.Interior trim is full machine made leather or as Tesla calls it, an ecologocally sustainable material, alcantara roof and pillar lining, a massive 17 inch touchscreen that controls virtually every aspect of the Tesla, and a key fob shaped like a car that has to be on you if you want to get in. There is an app that can go on your smartphone that will open and close doors, start the car, and even pre-start air-conditioning. However the corresponding service has to be enabled via the touchscreen for the mobile app to work. Should the key fob be mislaid the app can also be used to get you underway.The powered and heated seats are comfortable to a fault, the steering column is easily adjusted via an electric toggle, and it’s a pretty simple office to be in and a good one to look at.There’s carbon fibre inlays to complement the black plastic, leather, and alcantara, and looks a treat. Cup holders are on board but no door has storage in the Model S. None. The Model X, being aimed more at the family, comes with a customisable seating configuration of five, six, or seven seats, and the doors do get holders. The doors, by the way on the Model X are powered and opened via buttons on the fob. Individual doors can be opened or closed or all of them, including the gull wing rear passenger doors at the same time. The car and fob communicate wirelessly so when walking to or away from the P100D Model S the door handles slide out or in. It’s secure and safe and it’s a switchable option from the touchscreen, meaning it can be deactivated.
A talking point about Tesla vehicles is the autonomous driving factor. In a basic form it’s here however there’s some caveats and they’re pretty strong ones. Hidden in the B pillar and front guards are tiny cameras that link to software on board. If these cameras can see white roadside markings then the full LCD dash will display a grey steering wheel icon. This tells the driver that autonomous mode can be used. A small lever on the bottom left of the steering column needs to be pulled twice and this engages the software. BUT it also warns you to have your hands on the wheel and if there’s no lines, no auto steer. So what this means is that as a fully autonomous driving system, no, it’s not. As an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) yes but the human factor is crucially important, still.
The main screen covers everything from driving modes, to a swipe to open or close the sunroof fitted to the review car. Battery usage, air-conditioning, radio apps like TuneIn and Spotify (no DAB, as a result) are all accessed at a touch, even down to an onboard user manual. The driver’s screen has information accessed via two roller switches on the steering wheel itself, such as navigation, fan speed, battery discharge rates, and more. The audio itself is wonderful and comes with Dolby Surround. The dash of the Model X has something akin to a soundbar mounted directly at the base of the windscreen too.The centre console is spacious, comes with one 12V and USB port, and prefitted with a charge point for Apple phones that have a Lightning port. If you’re an Android user, you have to make do with the USB port and cable. Having said that, the cars use Google maps for their mapping system. The rear camera provides a high resolution image which is great as the rear vision mirror wouldn’t look out of place in a 1960s car. There’s even a bio-weapons style defense mode, says Tesla, when it comes to the air-conditioning system, blocking pollen, viruses, and bacteria. A cold weather package is also available as an option for non P cars, which give touchscreen access to heating seats and steering wheel. Updates? Over the air with wifi.Outside the Model S is slinky, lit with LED at either end with a neon look, and at around the five metre mark in length covers some real estate. The Model X looks like it’s slightly shorter however the higher roof-line may have something to do with that visually as both cars share the same chassis. There’s no grille on either, an optional carbon fibre spoiler for the Model S and a fixed wing on the Model X (fitted on the test car), and with an engine up front, storage is restricted to a small “frunk” in the S, a slightly larger version in the X. That’s Tesla speak for a front trunk. And yes, you can only open this via the touchscreen. The charge port is on the left rear quarter and will open at a push or via the touchscreen as well.The rear cargo section in both is huge (up to 2492 litres for Model X in five seater configuration) and there’s a hidden compartment under the rearmost section to add even more space. And for all but the tallest of people, the front and rear seat space is more than adequate. There’s even a bio-weapons defense mode, says Tesla, when it comes to the air-conditioning system, blocking pollen, viruses, and bacteria.To say the pair are quick is a massive understatement. There genuinely is nothing like it on four wheels. That all wheel drive system and the nature of electrical motors where max torque is at zero means eyeballs become pancakes at the back of the brain pan. Ludicrous mode is simply unbelievable if you’ve never experienced it. Overtaking is a doddle and slowing not only is super quick, it feeds energy back into the batteries. That recharge energy is also a switchable option as to how “hard” the braking system hauls down off acceleration. With a time of three seconds to 100 km/h a driver needs to be ready to deal with that acceletation otherwise issues, politely, could arise. And it all happens with no engine noise at all.
Getting underway is simple. As long as the key fob is with you, it’s a matter of foot on the brake, pull a small (and cheapish looking) lever on the right of the steering column down, and go. The onboard GPS has a memory where it can raise and lower the car’s airbag suspension as you travel a previously driven and stored route. Parking is a press of a button at the end and that engages a parking brake. Around thirty seconds after exit, the door handles retract on the Model S and the car goes to sleep.Ride quality is superb if using the standard suspension setting. It will go lower and hunkers down at speed by itself, but raise the car and it crashes and bangs. The bedamned speed restrictors in shopping centres are ignored, there’s simply no body movement yet it never once feels like it’s going to shake, rattle, and roll. Considering the massive 20, 21, or 22 inch turbine style wheels and rubber, the overall ride is very enjoyable.
The steering is precise and that’s crucial with such an astounding drivetrain. There’s no freeplay, no wasted turning, although the turning circle itself would be shamed by an American aircraft carrier. It’s superbly weighted too, with the standard mode almost indiscernible from the Sports mode.Range is, naturally, dependent on how the P100D is driven. In day to day traffic usage a good 600+ kilometres should be expected and with the charging network in Australia expanding, finding a place to plug in shouldn’t be too hard. The Google maps included allow a listing of charging points to be easily located. An online version of Tesla recharge points helps too. Naturally, just like a petrol or diesel vehicle, that expected range is subject to driving habits and conditions.
On that point, Tesla include a charging cable system that allows the cars to hook into your home energy system. If you have a solar/battery combination that will ease the small load on the normal home setup however Tesla do offer a supercharger style package that works directly from a three phase output, meaning quicker charging.
Warranty wise Tesla offer a comprehensive 8 year, infinite battery and drive-train warranty plus a standard 8 year limited warranty for all other components.
At The End Of The Drive.
The Tesla Model X as tested was $290,310 on road, with a starting price of $205,700. The metallic silver paint was a $1400 option, the 22 inch Black Onyx wheels $7600. The Enhanced Autopilot system was a further $6900 and the six seater configuration with centre console came to $8300. That’s before GST, luxury car tax and other government charges. Included are items such as the Premium Interior, Subzero Heating package, and Smart Air Suspension. The Model S starting point was $198,100. On top apart from the aforementioned government charges were $2100 for the frankly gorgeous metallic red paint, $6200 for the 21 inch turbine style wheels, $6900 for the autopilot system, which took the sedan to $267,650.
These put the pair up in the high end Mercedes-Benz/Audi/BMW/Jaguar price point…BUT, no more fuel costs, fast charging at selected sites to give around 400 kilometres of range in around a half hour (time to pause and enjoy that coffee and cake)…and then there’s that breathtaking acceleration and virtually incomparable ride quality, huge touchscreen, and that eerie cabin silence as you quietly whoosh away.
Are they worth it? The old saying that goes something like “you get what you pay for” says yes. Compared to those high end cars the cabin does lack ambience, appeal, cachet even. If wood trim or rocker gear selectors are your thing, that’s fine. If you’re a driver and technologically inclined, there’s still plenty of options. None of those options currently offer the sheer driving exhilaration of a Tesla. And for the driver, that’s enough.