Tesla testing

Friday 27th March 2015

Last week I went up to Bristol to test drive the Tesla Model S electric car. I've never loved driving a car as much as this.

In fact the Model S is more like an electric supercar. It's becoming well known partly because the top of the range model features a brilliantly-named Insane Mode which accelerates the car like it's on a drag strip.

First the good points, and there are lot of them.

Good points

The car is beautifully smooth to drive; responsive and solid with adjustable suspension and steering. It's enormous fun and feels a lot lighter than its 2,200kg. The acceleration is just unbelievable, everyone told me that electric cars go fast, but 0-60 in four seconds takes your breath away.

Driving the car really feels like you're in the future - essentially it's a beautifully-designed computer on wheels. It's got adaptive cruise control that keeps you a set distance away from the car in front. In cruise mode when you indicate right, the car accelerates automatically to help you overtake. The autopilot mode, coming soon and which will be installed automatically over the internet, pretty much drives itself on a motorway. After this, getting in a normal car feels like a pony and trap.

There's loads of space, including under the bonnet (or 'frunk' as they call it) because the electric motors are between the wheels and the batteries sit under the chassis.

The range is pretty good with 200-300 miles on a full charge with a network of charging points around the country. Tesla supercharger stations fill the batteries in half an hour, and you can charge it overnight at home too.

Bad points

Although the driver who took us out claimed that there was nothing he didn't love about the car, there are a number a bad points.

First, and slightly worryingly, the software in the central console seemed a bit buggy. A couple of times it froze for a few seconds, the music skipped and it was occasionally slow to respond or unresponsive. They're constantly releasing software updates for it, and I know there are always teething problems with new code, so I'm happy to let this slide.

My biggest criticism is that it feels very American - flashy and attention seeking. For example the key fob looks like a tiny Tesla (see pic), which isn't something I'd expect from a European car. The control screen is unnecessarily large and dominates the front of the vehicle. I'd like to see a toned down version for normal people.

Lastly it's very expensive - the one we drove was £80,000. Check out the design studio to configure yours - my preferred options were £100K and change.

Would I buy one?

I really want our next car to be electric, but to be honest it's not going to be a Model S. For a start, I don't want to spend that much on a car, but I'd like something less brash. I'm hoping to test drive a BMW i3 soon, so I'll keep you posted!

To end, I want to share a thought. At the end of my drive I had a moment of realisation: This is the most high tech car I've ever seen, but one day the Tesla Model S is going to feel old-fashioned.

I can't wait to see what high tech looks like then. 


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