I just test drove a Model S P85D as part of an event put on by Tesla. It was definitely the most fascinating car I have ever driven. However, in order to talk about it, I first need to talk about the Lotus Elise. Stay with me here…
About a year and a half ago I was in the market for a purely fun car, but wasn’t finding anything that really did it for me. I had always lusted over the Lotus Elise ever since seeing a rover engine series 1 way back in 1997 in Dublin, but given how rare they were I never thought I would drive one much less own one. That is why I was shocked when suddenly two different friends were selling theirs at the same time, and they were in my price range. It seemed like destiny, so I called one of them up and drove it.
It absolutely transformed what I appreciate about a car. The unassisted steering was so phenomenally direct and communicative. The high revving engine was a blast to wind up to a scream. The seats were snug and thin allowing you to feel every bit of what the car was doing, and it was so light and small and agile it felt like you could break physics. As a toy it was absolutely incredible, the best thing I have ever driven, and that includes a single seat formula race car.
As a car however, it was the worst thing I had ever driven. It was incredibly loud. It rattled like a can full of rocks. It leaked when it rained, and you had to be a Chinese acrobat to get in and out of it. But it didn’t matter - I came so close to buying it anyways, it was that good. If I had been an inch shorter, I would have, no question. I ended up going with the next best thing I could think of, a Honda S2000. It isn’t quite as good to drive, and it is still loud and rough and small, but the roof doesn’t leak and I can get out without requiring a crane operator. I ABSOLUTELY love it.
Which brings me to the Tesla Model S, which is the EXACT opposite of the Lotus Elise. As a “transportation appliance” it is unparalleled. I have never been in something more comfortable and easy. It is so quiet even at 60 mph that if feels like you are alone in a recording chamber. It is absolutely effortless to drive, not even requiring the bother of moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake, the regenerative braking is all you need. It is absolutely enormous, but feels small and manageable to drive. The suspension and steering are taught yet smooth. The rear trunk is bigger than any american car after 1971, and then it has a second one in the front. It has no routine maintenance. It has a full time free internet connection for google maps navigation and internet radio streaming, even web browsing. You don’t even have to turn it on or off, you just get in and go, and when you are done, get out and walk away. It turns off by itself. As a car, it is phenomenal.
Performance needs to be talked about as well, since it is the P85D with “Insane mode” which I drove. It lives up to its name. The acceleration is so mind blowing that it doesn’t even seem real. When I hit the gas from a standstill, the G force was so great that the air actually compressed into the back of the car, causing my ears to pop from lack of pressure at the front. There was absolutely no drama whatsoever, not even any noise other than a barely perceptible whine that could barely be heard over the conversation volume radio. It completely scrambles what your mind thinks is possible, and still doesn’t seem real. It feels like you just passed out for a few seconds (3.1 to be exact) and woke up at 60 mph.
This is why it is the exact opposite of the Elise. Even with acceleration that is so powerful it is faster than falling (1.1g I believe) it has no drama. It just is there, taking you from point A to point B in the least stimulating and most comfortable way possible.
It really is a phenomenal accomplishment, and is the future of the mainstream automobile. I even will seriously consider the cheaper Model S when it comes out in a couple years.
However, I will only have a Tesla if there is still room next to it for something crude and shouty.