Tesla Model S P85+ – the most shocking executive drive in the world!
In defining the most appropriate executive vehicle there are many parameters to take into account, states Iain Robertson, although he admits to sampling one specific car that might take the honours with electrifying ease.
In the past few weeks, I have sampled several archetypal ‘boss’s cars’, in a vainglorious attempt to search out a solitary victor. My first priority was to establish what the typical business owner, CEO, or company chairman might like to drive. I was clear in my thoughts that, whichever vehicle would take the honours, it needed to be a daily driver’s car and not one that would be chauffeured.
While I quite like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, its cachet as an autobahn-stomper seems to overwhelm its more pleasant aspects. The BMW 7-Series is a classically elegant sedan but is, ultimately, a character-free mode of transport. Audi’s A8 offering is about as clinically perfect as a Teutonic steamroller could be, which also sums up the German trio quite succinctly. All of them qualify and there are ‘green’ elements worth considering from the three brands, which would serve to impart, in part, a positive image.
Of course, executive funds are squandered annually on unfeasibly large, overly complex and largely unnecessary 4x4s, at the top of which list is the take-your-pick Range Rover leviathan. While the Discovery range offers a Rangie-lite alternative, with equal capability in the ‘urban jungle’, owners still have the ‘frilly-dilly’ radiator grilles foisted upon them and the smaller Evoque is truly more of a woman’s wheels. Personally, I feel that these vehicles are acquired lazily. They are big and impressive (a top Range Rover now weighing in at well over £100,000, if you so desire) but eminently pointless too.
Some senior executives do contemplate Jaguar operation. However, regardless of patriotism (bearing in mind that Jag is now Indian-owned), the current XJ would not be my choice. While the previous generation model was elegance in the metal, the new one misses the mark by a long chalk. I would venture to suggest that it is quite ugly and, in terms of practicality, it falls some distance behind its German rivals, losing out in important head, shoulder and legroom and its ‘bling-count’ is more Daewoo than Great British. Mind you, fat discounts are very much the order of the day, so, tolerate the cramped conditions and an XJ might suffice…just about.
However, with a flurry of publicity that I have avoided like the plague, Tesla Motors has now landed in the UK officially. From its strangely named founder, Mr Elon Musk, who created PayPal, his multi-millionaire promoted dreams that include space travel and his wondrous electric vehicles, an inevitable buzz has been in existence. I like the dust to settle before engaging with anything novel, most especially in the automotive scene, which has a very up and down relationship with EVs. The media seems to like the concepts but barracks the outcomes, opinions which are understandable, when the average EV is so questionable in its ‘green’ stance that you wonder how it exists in the first place.
Yet, the Model S, which is priced from around £49,900, to the near £85,000 of the model tested here, can boast a raft of benefits that makes its present day rivals look like dinosaurs. Looking very Jaguar-like but somehow more complete and less fussy, the Model S falls into the coupe-like class, not dissimilar to a CLS Merc, or even this car’s potential nemesis, the Jaguar XJ. Very curvaceous and highly sensual, the Tesla is hunkered down to the road surface at standstill, although its air suspension can hike it above ‘sleeping policemen’ and enable easier access to multi-storey car parks, many of which can truly ‘do’ for a great many luxury models, inflicting largely irreparable damage below the car and often at each corner too.
What is interesting to note is that, instead of following the usual design precepts of ‘plug-ugly’, a handle that can be applied to every electric vehicle from the Renault Fluence to the Nissan Leaf, taking in several hybrids en-route, the Tesla is clean and contemporary. Yet, beneath that lovely alloy body (to keep rolling weight and the centre of gravity down) lies a five feet by nine feet ‘plank’ that is packed to the gunwales with Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. It is a clever design, as it also encompasses the crumple zones fore and aft, as well as the space frame to which the rest of the body is attached.
The first surprise is that beneath the bonnet is a load area that is not only deep but also quite long, reaching back between the front wheel arches. Okay. So the ‘engine’ must be in the rear? Well, no. Pop open the hatchback rear door (electrically operated, naturally) and you will find a large and accommodating boot that would be somewhat less so, were the extra pair of rearward-facing jump seats erected. You see, the ‘engine’ is the battery-packed chassis.
It is available in a number of guises, from 60kWh to the 85kWh of the model tested. Put into perspective, the 60kWh unit enables around 210 miles of range and 0-60mph in around 6.0 seconds, whereas the 85kWh unit, also fitted with the performance pack (a higher capacity drive inverter) will manage between 265 and 300 miles of range, but accelerates from 0-60mph in around 4.2 seconds. I would love to give you an impression of what that feels like but it is utterly unearthly.
Floor the throttle, as you would in any vehicle, and the reaction is not merely instant but it throws you back in the very comfortable driver’s seat and you need to ensure that you have a firm grip of the steering wheel. The only noise is a gently increasing but un-annoying ‘whine’ from below the car, the subtle whoosh of air past the windows and a slight rumble from the enormous tyres. There is nothing else. Yet, the speedometer needle continues to rise at unabated rate, all the way to over 130mph. I am reliably informed that indulging in the performance in this way consistently will bring about a return of the range anxiety that most EVs provide to their owners, a condition that normally does not exist for Tesla customers.
The reason for this gargantuan slug of verve lies in its instant torque output of around 443lbs ft that is switched on as soon as you hit the not-so-loud pedal. There is no massive reciprocating mass to overcome. That is what electricity is all about. In addition, the engine has a horsepower equivalency of 416bhp, which is directly in the middle of the class. It feels and is intoxicatingly rapid. There is a downside, in that the greater capacity batteries also take a bit longer to recharge, although Tesla is installing a network of chargers around the UK and overnight, at a domestic location, need take no longer than eight hours for full recovery.
To be quite honest, I am not the world’s greatest technocrat and, confronted by a dashboard, specifically a centre console, that is the size and clarity of a portrait-format laptop screen, was initially quite daunting. I know that, with familiarity, I would soon become adept at tapping the screen and allowing the map to fill it, while returning to a full Google-search facility the rest of the time, with various short-cuts being directed to the steering wheel controls. It was slightly unnerving but the speedometer dial (actually LCD displayed) appears moderately conventional to make life a little easier for the technophobe.
The cabin is very spacious, with plenty of leg, head, shoulder and hip room fore and aft, even for very tall occupants. The driver’s seat could do with more lateral padding. However, I could not get away from the fact that the Tesla is more like a living concept car than a production reality…which is quite exciting in some ways. The screen and its 3G sat-nav does demand a good quality connection to avoid the spinning clock face but the information portrayed is a country-mile ahead of anything else on the market. There is no CD player, as the system relies on music streaming (Bluetooth, or USB), or digital radio. Its sound reproduction is of the highest order.
The Tesla’s performance is effortless and its handling is smoothly progressive. The only time that it feels ‘bottom-heavy’ is when the suspension is on full droop and when the car is attempting to recover its composure. It is not bad but the driver is conscious of the trait. Mind you, if that is the only trade off, then I believe that most Tesla owners will scarcely notice it. It is dynamically sound, even though it is devoid of traditional linear feedbacks from steering, or each corner of the car. Its 21-inch wheels and tyres are more for the style statement than what they impart to the Tesla’s handling.
The bottom-line lies in its raw running costs and, after the pennies for recharging, it is all financial benefits. A 40% BIK taxpayer would normally expect an annual user’s fee of around £10,000 for a car of this class. Yet, there is none and cruising into the Congestion Charge zone is equally impressive, as long as the Tesla Model S P85+ is registered and fully-charged. This is it. The Tesla. It is the ultimate executive’s barge, bar none.