I recently took Tesla’s flagship sedan–the Model S P100D–for a test drive to see just how far things have come since I last drove a Tesla. At 6,000 pounds, this Tesla feels heavy and solid, like a big luxury sedan. What’s surprising is how fast and nimbly this three-motor electric car moves. It makes good use of the 100kWh battery, sprinting from 0 to 60mph in about three seconds (using the launch mode setting, which takes a toll on the car’s driving range). Going over bumps at slow speed reminds you that this is a three-ton automobile with a clunk as it bottoms out.
Of course, the question everyone keeps asking is how far can I go on a full charge? The answer is, up to three hundred miles or, to put it another way, you’ll make it from LA to Vegas with juice to spare for cruising the strip. Get to a supercharging station and you can add another couple of hundred miles of drive time in about 15 minutes.
Tesla cleverly conceals its 100kWh battery pack under the length of the undercarriage, leaving plenty of room for five adults. Foldable rear seats and front and rear trunks provide ample space for long distance travel. A 17-inch touchscreen controls a long list of comfort, safety and entertainment features—all iPad ease. Trip planning, cabin environment, Bluetooth communications, entertainment, and lighting are all under fingertip control.
Blind-spot warning, auto emergency braking, rearview camera, lane departure warning, and parking sensors add both safety and convenience. Choose the Enhanced Autopilot option if you want your car to steer, accelerate and brake for you in almost any traffic lane. The car will automatically change lanes on most highways to overtake other cars or navigate to interchanges and exits.
The brakes feel progressively solid and the standard air suspension provides a firm ride. A well-insulated cabin does a good job of muffling out traffic noise and the characteristic electric drivetrain whine as you accelerate.
The P100D has all the comfort features of a big Mercedes or high-end Beamer, but its ballistic acceleration overshadows these perks. While the car feels heavy due to its big battery, the future is clearly electric. Hopefully, the advanced electric storage technology will solve this problem.
One big regret is that Tesla won’t be offering a reasonably priced sports car to compete with a high-end Beamer, Corvette or Porsche. Instead, the sports car being offered is their new Roadster. While it probably is the fastest car on the planet–short of anything you’d find on the Bonneville Flats, it will set you back a cool quarter million.