Road Test: 2012-13 Tesla Model S Performance 85

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This weekend I drove what many have called the future of automobiles. One of my buddies recently bought a Tesla Model S Performance 85. I was over at his house, and he offered up a short test drive. I quickly agreed and away we went. First off, the car is gorgeous. Very sleek, nicely detailed, it looks every bit its $90,000 price tag. The Model S has similar proportions to the Porsche Panamera, but it all comes together much more harmoniously.

There is a commodious hatch in the rear, which seemed to easily fit my buddy’s golf clubs and other various articles of life. One can order two rear facing children’s seats, but they would have to be pretty small children, and I myself can remember that riding backwards in the “way back” can lead to a bit of queasiness. In reality, I think the 7 passenger claim seems to be a bit of marketing, and not particularly practical.

I opened the driver’s door and slid in behind the wheel. The cockpit feels pretty low slung, but there is a good deal of room. I am not at all a small guy, and I had no difficulty getting comfortable. The first thing you notice is the very large touch screen that has taken up the entire center console

This screen controls just about every aspect of the variability of the car. One can change many of the features of the car, to make it perform stronger or get better use of the batteries. The screen also controls the navigation, the audio system, the full panel glass sun roof, the air conditioning and heating. Basically just about anything you want to configure, you access it though the touch screen. The screen also offers the internet, which can be a bit disconcerting as you are booming along a back road at 50 miles per hour. And considering the power the car has, booming along is what you are very likely to do.

Tesla claims that the 0-60 for the Model S P85 is 4.2 seconds and it felt even quicker. This was by far the quickest car I have ever driven, feeling incredibly stronger than the Boxter S I had recently taken out. The surge of acceleration from the immense and immediately available torque was seamless and massive. The car just effortlessly pulls away like a freight train, all while doing so silently. It is almost disconcerting how fast and how quiet it all is. The handling felt on par with the last Panamera I drove, with little body roll, and a nice sense of what the car was doing, and what the road conditions were. One aspect that took some getting used to was the regenerative breaking. Take your foot of the accelerator, and the car did not coast, but rather used regenerative breaking to slow the car and boost the battery. It was a different feeling, and let you hold off using the actual breaks as the car decelerated a fair amount just by the use of this system. You could use the control screen to lessen the amount of regeneration, but that seemed to go against what this car was all about.

The Tesla Model S P85 has a range of 265 miles according to the EPA. Using a 240-volt outlet the car can be fully charged from “empty” in about 5 hours. If you are at one of Tesla’s Supercharging Facilities, one can get over a half charge (200 miles) in about 30 minutes for free. This makes the car feasible for longer trips as Tesla is building these facilities in all major municipalities. There are currently 14 Superchargers with plans for 27 by the end of the summer, and enough to cover 80 percent of the US by the end of next year. Even more exciting is the idea of battery swapping, which would allow you to swap out your battery for a fully charged one in about 5 minutes. This will give a superfast option for those who are willing to spend a little for the time.

I came away incredibly impressed from my 15 minutes with the Tesla Model S. This car blew me away, not just as an incredible electric car, but as just a plain incredible car, well worth its very expensive price. I cannot wait to see what Tesla has planned next, reportedly something the size of a BMW 3 series for around $40,000.