1. Stealth Mode Comes Standard
The sound of a regular car firing up is a chaotic symphony of electric starter motor turning the engine’s flywheel to get the crankshaft and pistons working. There’s a certain sense of comfort to that; you can hear the engine running and know that it hasn’t conked out. The Tesla makes no noise whatsoever, and that’s odd. It’s the first thing that hits RISING when we ‘start’ the car on our test drive. All we had to do was press the brake pedal, and the dash silently fired into action. There was a distant and muted whine of electric motor noise buried in the background when we got going but, in the main, the car was a quiet as a mime tiptoeing in Hush Puppies.
Once I got over the lack of engine noise, the next thing that hit me was the instant power the car has on tap. Petrol motors have sweet spots, and even supercharged and turbo-charged supercars have a little section of their rev range where they’re girding their loins for a major push, or running out of puff. The Tesla is different: it’s able to instantly tap all of its torque – or pulling power at zero rpm – which means you’re able to peel away from a set of traffic lights, ghosting everything else in your silent wake.
2. It’s Future-proof Enough To Be An Extra In Blade Runner
Well, in as much as any car can be. Tesla doesn’t like you calling the car an iPad on wheels, but it’s easy to see why people draw the comparison. The manufacturer constantly fires through over-the-air updates to its cars, much like Facebook cloning Snapchat every five minutes. While many of these are mundane improvements, there are some biggies that occasionally filter through. Earlier this year, Tesla’s lab rats unlocked four new functions, including automatic emergency braking, side collision warning, front collision warning and an auto high-beam function for the adaptive headlights.
‘Model S will hit 60mph in 2.4 seconds; bought a Bugatti Chiron? We hope you kept the receipt’
3. It’s Goes Like Gravy Off A Greased Shovel
From hover boots to tiny smartphones, sci-fi movie tech usually makes its way into RL eventually. Every Tesla comes equipped with the kit needed for autonomous driving, and while that’s still a few years off from full integration, there’s some stuff packed into the car that you can tap into now. Just like Lord Dark Helmet’s ship in Star Wars spoof Space Balls (Google it), the Tesla Model S P100D comes equipped with ‘Ludicrous’ mode. The whole 17-inch console screen displays a star-warp animation once you engage Ludicrous mode, and you’re set for business. The P100D model, and the Model S will hit 60mph from standing in 2.8 seconds, fast enough to trouble the likes of limited-run exotic hypercars like the Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari – and a recent firmware update has unlocked even more speed!
Dubbed ‘Ludicrous Plus’, the new mode means the Model S will hit 60mph in 2.4 seconds. Bought a Bugatti Chiron? We hope you kept the receipt. It’s difficult to explain just how impressive this is without going full car-geek, but the Model S creates such tremendous shot-out-of-a-cannon acceleration that everything you’ve not bolted down or tidied away in the front seats will end up pinned against the rear ones, until you back off the throttle. Of course, max-speed runs tend to suck all the juice out of the battery very quickly but if you’re careful, you can squeeze over 370 miles out of a single charge. Frankly RISING was having too much fun booting it to keep an eye on range or power usage – we just couldn’t get enough of that acceleration. Thankfully, recharging is a quick job if you have access to a Tesla Supercharger station. We managed to top up a half-tapped battery in 20 minutes.
4. It Turns Your Smartphone Into A Parking Valet
What use is a car without an app? While other luxury car makers let you start and set the interior temperature of the car from your phone, Tesla takes it a bit further. You can lock and unlock the car from afar, locate it and track its movements – and even open or close the panoramic sunroof. You can monitor just how much energy the car is storing via its solar panels, and precisely how much it’s drawing or exporting to the national grid via your Powerwall charging unit. The best trick, though, is being able to get out and roll the car into a tight parking spot using the app to control it. Once autonomous driving becomes commonplace, the Tesla should be able to find a parking spot, and return to you when summoned.
‘Mechanically speaking, the Tesla Model S is about as complicated as a remote control car’
5. Self-Driving Is The Future – Time To Embrace It
Car nuts will hate the very concept of self-driving cars, but most commuters simply don’t care about driving any more. The reality is that driving in congestion is simply a waste of life, and any time spent behind the wheel comes at a price – and not just in hair transplants. Autonomous driving cars are coming, and there’s not much you can do to resist once governments have established the infrastructure and legal frameworks to cater for it. Tesla owners are already prepared for the switchover. Eight cameras provide a 360 view around the car out to a range of 250 metres, and combine with 12 ultrasonic sensors capable of detecting hard and soft objects. There’s a forward-facing radar set in the top centre of the windscreen that scans the road ahead. All of this data is crunched together by an onboard supercomputer, which then feeds the car with the information it needs to match speed to traffic conditions, automatically change lanes without the driver needing to steer, and drive you to your destination. Full implementation is still some years off, but the gradual roll-out of features is already happening.
6. No Need For Space-Eating Heavy Metal
Mechanically speaking, the Tesla is about as complicated as a remote control car. There’s a battery – a pretty huge one, we’ll admit – and one or two motors, depending on whether you want your Tesla rear- or all-wheel-drive. Unlike a petrol-driven four-wheel-drive car, there’s no mechanical link between the front and rear, and no exhaust pipe running the length of the car, so the floor of the Tesla is flat and there’s a lot of legroom in the back. Power to the front and rear motors is digitally controlled, and there’s no gearbox. That means there’s a ton of space in the cabin for five people – seven if you opt for the extra two in the boot. And, with no engine up front, there’s a fairly decent sized spot for luggage or one extra ticket dodger for Glastonbury, under the bonnet.
WHAT NEXT? Check out the Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode Plus in action on a drag strip – yup, Telsa drag racing is a thing now.