I don’t like wasting anything. I don’t like wasting food, I don’t like wasting time, I don’t like wasting money and I certainly don’t like wasting energy! So it was with glee that I accepted the challenge of road-testing the Tesla Model S. It’s the iPhone of the motor industry – an electric car for the future – and one that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie.
This high-performance vehicle is ideal for those used to the big executive drive of a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus and more cost efficient to run. The Model S, the first fully-electric sedan, combines performance, safety and efficiency. It’s sleek, yet sporty, and certainly looks good on the road.
Built on the Tesla platform, the battery’s floor location gives the Model S an extremely low centre of gravity, lowering the risk of rollover while also enhancing handling and performance. It seems weird to drive a car without an engine, but it’s all about re-educating yourself. When you unlock the car the handles pop out automatically. Inside it’s very simplistic, with little in the way of buttons and knobs. But then you see a large central screen to access the wizardry of the information system, controlling everything from drive performances to a touch-screen swipe to open the sun roof.
A keyless ignition starts the car and you can’t even hear a soft purr, it’s that quiet. The most exciting (but scary) feature is the ‘autopilot’. I tried it out on the M6 south to see what it could do. The safety feature requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel. (Note to self: autopilot is not an excuse to put your hands on your head, use your phone or start searching in your bag!) So with a deep breath I hit a steady cruise of just over 70mph and hit the lever twice. Be prepared to be freaked out by a car with a mind of its own. The autopilot senses the parameters of the lanes and keeps you central. The infrared senses cars around you and in front, and you can feel the car move itself, and have to resist the urge to counteract its movements.
Another car indicated and pulled out in front of us and the Tesla, sensing this, steadily slowed down behind it. If you want to change lanes, hit the indicator and the car will sense the cars around you, steering itself automatically but safely. This was weird! I could see there was a truck in the adjacent lane and was praying the sensors would sense it and ignore the indicator instruction. It did – but it gets some getting use to, putting your trust in a computerised vehicle.
It’s really hard resisting the pressure of reacting to the bumps and traffic around you. You can always click it back to self-drive, or simply take control of the steering wheel to instantly turn the auto pilot off. But I forgot to do this at one point and we ended up taking a slip road on a bend at 70mph! Arrghh! No worries: the Model S took it in its stride and I didn’t feel it was a car that was too powerful to handle.
The Tesla has the highest possible safety ratings, the longest range of any electric vehicle, and over-the-air software updates that are said to continuously improve its performance. It also comes with its own handy app so if you’re at home and want to get the car out of your drive, your app can turn the engine on, set the temperature controls inside and – by pressing ‘summon’ – it will drive itself out for you. Pretty impressive stuff!
It also has auto parking, so you can stand on the pavement, press the button and – using the onboard infrared – the car parallel parks itself. This is ‘Oh so 007’, and I certainly felt like a Bond girl, cruising along in my high performance car with even the odd ‘white van man’ nodding at me appreciatively.
Price: The Tesla S Model starts at £53,400.
Fuel: You’ll never have to visit a petrol station again! Just plug into a charging station. You’ll get one at home for your main overnight charging. And on the road, there are charging stations at many hotels and service stations.
Road tax: There’s none! And the government gives you a £4,500 grant towards the purchase price.
Where to buy: There are no Tesla dealerships. There are 14 stores located throughout the UK, or you just choose your specifications and place your order online at www.tesla.com/en_GB/models/design.
This is internet shopping at its best, with delivery times of around 3 months.