Hands on: Tesla Motors Model S P90D
One of the first things of note on that display is the range. The quoted range for the P 90D variant with its all-wheel drive capability is 509km, with a 250 kph top speed delivered by motor power of 510 PS at the rear and 262 at the front, and 967 Nm of torque.
To put that in context, the Audi A6 C7 we drove a few years ago had a 3.0 l diesel V6 twin turbo that kicked out 248.4 PS, with 500 Nm of torque. Granted, the Model S has a kerb weight of 2,100 kg compared to the A6’s 1,895 kg, but it still gives an idea of a fairly lively power to weight ratio.
In an entirely unscientific test of the ‘Ludicrous’ (read full power) acceleration mode, our car went, with four adults and quite a bit of luggage aboard, from 0-100 kph in 4.4 seconds. Under ideal conditions, and with less weight to lug, it will do it in 3.
The other party trick is autopilot. On the M50, where the road markings were clear, the autopilot was activated. The car then drives itself according to the posted speed limit and the lane direction. A more knowledgeable automotive journalist than this scribe reported that European law requires that even in a car equipped with autopilot, the driver must keep a hand on the wheel, whereas in the US this is not required.
With a hand resting lightly on the steering wheel in autopilot, to change lanes, one need only activate the indicator for the desired direction and the car will then use its sensor net to see if it is safe to move and then execute the manoeuvre.
As regards the driving dynamics, the car felt surprisingly ordinary — in the way that a €80,000 luxury saloon does. When not in Ludicrous mode, it is languid and long-legged, responding like a pussycat in town, but showing its teeth when the accelerator is stroked more vigorously. One did notice a slight heaviness to the steering response at lower speeds, in the 50-80 kph range, but this was not apparent above or below that range. As such, this may have been an engineered response, but was still noticeable. The ride is supple and compliant, responding well to road conditions and driver intent, resulting in little by way of intrusion by the road surface on the experience.
The combination of luxury feel, high-tech equipment and very pleasing driving experience all blended to make a very strong impression of a highly competent and refined car that happens to be electric. Prices were not yet available here, but the UK price for a P 90D is in the region of £90,000, which is an eye-watering €113,000!
If you have to have one, they will be available here soon by all accounts, by going to TeslaMotors.com and specifying the EU models, the Model S starts from €74,100 odd for the 70 D, all-wheel drive 70 kWh battery model. The P 90D starts at €104,300. Both of these prices are for base models before the likes of paint, trims and accessories are added.
One could wait for the Model 3, which was recently opened for pre-orders. The Model 3 is more of a family saloon, affordable model, but with pre-orders now topping 400,000, when 100,000 was anticipated by the industry, the wait may be significant.