Test Drive: Tesla Model S 85

Test Drives | July 27th, 2015 by 28
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Only six short years ago I found myself at the wheel of a prototype released to a small audience to gauge the functionality of the …

Only six short years ago I found myself at the wheel of a prototype released to a small audience to gauge the functionality of the electric car by BMW. The prototype, the MINI E, was a leasing program whose participants, aptly nicknamed electronauts, were breaking new ground testing day-to-day life with the electric car. The vehicle in question was an R56 chassis MINI Cooper with a stack of batteries wedged in place of a turbocharged 1.6L motor.

Driving it was an interesting experience. It was quiet with the exception of a low pitched whirring of the batteries and electric motor working in conjunction to putter me along.

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My time with it was brief but in hindsight I can see how it was a catalyst for what would become a technical triumph known as the i3. The i3, similar to the MINI E in layout and powertrain, progressed the game forward with a heavy reliance on carbon fiber-reinforced plastics to lighten the load on the battery. While BMW is breaking new ground with the i3 as one of the first mass-produced electric city cars, another brand has quickly begun to establish itself as the premiere luxury electric right of choice.

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I’ll save you the superlatives but no doubt you know the name Tesla Motors. Elon Musk, a man who could be called a benevolent Bond villain, has made enormous strides in bringing a small California-based company into the spotlight as the face of the electric car and done so on the wide-body rear haunches of Tesla’s flagship Model S.

Recently, I had a chance for a brief test drive as Tesla is pulse-checking Jacksonville as a prospective market. When the opportunity presented itself to try out their wares – I jumped at it and reserved a spot.

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The Model S I reserved was a Solid Black over black leather Model S 85 powered by an 85kW battery pack. Aside from Smart Air Suspension and Premium Interior Package, the car was stock and with minimal options. Even it fairly standard form, the Tesla S has a handsomeness that sets it apart from most other cars surrounding it in the parking lot. It carries the presence and stance of a German luxury car despite its California roots. Interestingly, the Model S is a 5 door that manages to very cleverly disguise its rear hatch, which can be converted for 2 extra, rear-facing seats, into the wide rear.

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Unlocking the car, the recessed door handles protrude outward letting me into a very modern interior dominated by the massive center screen. In lieu of the navigation screen and a center console, Tesla has a Spartan yet, elegant dashboard reaching up from a somewhat nautical-themed tray sitting where traditionally a transmission tunnel would reside.

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Slipping behind the seats of car – I began to try out the onboard systems that mirror anything you can do in a BMW albeit with virtually no buttons and all driven through a iPhone-like interface activated with the swipe of your finger. The only downside of the Tesla is the need to learn what menus hold what otherwise it is easy to find yourself poking around while on the road. Beyond the deep menu system, the binnacle in front of the driver has a litany of information from the radio station to speedometer to range and if the regenerative brakes are charging the batteries. The amount of data on display at any given moment is almost overwhelming.

With a quick tap of the right stalk, I backed up the electric car via its rear camera and we were off on the road test.

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The Model S is, if anything, eerie to drive on the open road. There is virtually no noise beyond a whisper of air as it passes over the sleek body. In contrast to my 428i, it’s a bit shocking as to how little noise permeates the cabin even with the radio switched off in addition to the distinct lack of an engine note. Another shocking element to the Model S is the way in which it can apply its power. The rear-wheel-drive model at my control, the middle Tesla and one rung beneath the Ludicrous speed P85, surges down the road with a romp of the throttle. Where it deviates from a combustion-engined car is that the power curve is very linear – push on the right pedal and power comes on in a very smooth, straightforward fashion allowing the car to steam onto a very real 0 to 60MPH time a hair over the 5 second mark. It’s just so much more comfortable with its power delivery, no fuss of a gearbox kicking down, no hunting for revs to get into the power band, it is just pure straight-line performance.

The rear-wheel-drive model at my control, the middle Tesla and one rung beneath the Ludicrous speed P85, surges down the road with a romp of the throttle.

While my quick test drive didn’t allow much for a handling overview, I found the steering controls, in Sport mode, to be well-weighted and comparable to my F32 428i in the same settings. Overall the wheel felt light to the touch in a parking lot but with a sense of heft to inputs when driving at speed; no doubt electric steering but one giving adequate feedback to know where the 19 inch front wheels are beneath the long hood. With the suspension set to its “Low” setting, I found the ride of the Model S to be comfortable and communicative if not a bit softer than a comparable 5 Series.

After a quick run on surface streets and a few highway on and off-ramps, the test drive came to an end. In my short time with the Model S 85 – I feel I didn’t scratch the surface of the capabilities of this electric car – light years ahead of the MINI E I drove almost a decade ago. However, it left me with the sense it is a very strong sense of completeness – this car isn’t a gimmick or a flash-in-the-pan technology. The Model S gives credence to the thought that an electric car can function as a daily driver and that it doesn’t have to be a miniscule hatchback that forsakes style and performance for range. Tesla, no doubt, has battles it must face ahead of it in terms of both growing competition and infrastructure but I am certain the car industry is a better place with Tesla in it.

The Model S gives credence to the thought that an electric car can function as a daily driver

 

Only six short years ago I found myself at the wheel of a prototype released to a small audience to gauge the functionality of the electric car by BMW. The prototype, the MINI E, was a leasing program whose participants, aptly nicknamed electronauts, were breaking new ground testing day-to-day life with the electric car. The vehicle in question was an R56 chassis MINI Cooper with a stack of batteries wedged in place of a turbocharged 1.6L motor. Driving it was an interesting experience. It was quiet with the exception of a low pitched whirring of the batteries and electric motor…
Exterior Appeal - 9
Interior Quality - 7.5
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 9
Handling - 9
Price Point - 8

8.4

28 responses to “Test Drive: Tesla Model S 85”

  1. WeaponZero says:

    Why not a P85D with next gen seats? or maybe get them to give you a P90D to try with ludicrous mode.

    • Andrew W. Murphy says:

      Agreed – I would love to try the P85 at some point. They mentioned the P90 is coming although not yet available to the public (Website shows it as a future upgrade to current P85)

      • WeaponZero says:

        P85 is a discontinued Performance RWD model. (As fast to 60 as the current 85D). There was also a P85+ which was the P85 with handling improvements but got discontinued as well.

        It was replaced by the P85D completely which is an AWD Performance model with Insane mode.

        The upcoming model is the P90D with ludicrous mode.

  2. Kaisuke971 says:

    As i expected, this car is brilliant. Elon Musk just has to hire competent interior designers (because 3 colors and 4 trims come on guys…) to make it as elegant inside as it is on the outside (i mean, the side you see the most when you buy it…It’s not like you see the exterior that much ) then it will be perfect. It already seems better than most cars on the market, but then if they do an effort i doubt something will be able to match it.

    • Andrew W. Murphy says:

      The Model S is very much a complete car. Keep in mind with design options – this is still a startup company in many ways so economies of scale with production is very important. You’ve seen BMW do the same over the last few years with the reduction of available interior/exterior color combinations outside of the Individual program.

      • Kaisuke971 says:

        The thing is the “limited” choices available can lead to various and beautiful combinaisons of style. Here you just have grey black and beige, not even brown ! I mean If it was White, black and Brown it would be ok, but here…
        But you’re right the company was relatively small and the Model S was their ultimate chance so maybe it has suffered a bit from that in the interior design area. But as the rest of the car, it’s still pretty pure and that’s the key point… They just need to drop a more appealing design and it will be ok.

  3. Tom says:

    You said you couldnt really test the handling and gave 9 points? That makes absolutely no sense! I drove it too and would say a 6-7 would fit way better. The interior looks shiny but it isnt. Its actually very cheap or it feels very cheap. The big screen and the system behind it is so slow and of course not comfortable to use it while driving (thank BMW for the iDrive!!). All in all the car is more hyped than real in my opinion.

    • Andrew W. Murphy says:

      I didn’t experience any lag via the onboard system and additionally, nothing felt cheap to me. The doors have a good thud noise when being shut ala a German car and overall the car feels it is worth the price charged for it. Does it rival a 7 in terms of outright luxury? No, but then that’s not exactly the point.

  4. AceDoubleDown says:

    Tesla cars are useless toys runnin’ on coal. (cant see it from my house)

    • Ken says:

      Time to prove you a drooling moron again.

      Coal is less than 37% of the grid and falling while green renewables are the fastest growing electricity source.

      From the EPA: Battery EVs are significantly cleaner than gas cars no matter the carbon intensity of the grid.

      On the current US grid, the Tesla puts out 4 times less CO2 than a gas car and, as the grid gets cleaner, the already clean Tesla gets even cleaner.

      You’ve just been proven a drooling moron – again.

      • AceDoubleDown says:

        You are going to need a fire truck boy – We are just gettin’ warmed up.

        • Mike Vella says:

          How does it feel to know that everyone that reads what you are writing thinks you’re a complete imbecile?
          I realize that in the world of trolls, most likely it doesn’t matter, but sometimes I wonder.
          As you sit there in your teabagger trailer – or your log cabin in Idaho with your arrested development and your “rolling coal” dual wheel truck you bought to make up for your lack of manhood – remember that you can troll till your heart’s content, but you’ll always be ignorant and wrong.

          • AceDoubleDown says:

            Do you know “everyone” pal? I know Tesla propaganda goons don’t like their “bunk science” being exposed. None of you Obama gestapo EPA types knows how to tell the truth. It’s funny to watch the bunk science goons resort to name-calling every-time their false narrative falls apart. You qualify – Straight Musk propaganda goon.

          • Mike Vella says:

            Suspicion confirmed, thanks!

          • AceDoubleDown says:

            Keep busy now.

          • Ken says:

            You’ve failed to show a single facts because you are a drooling moron.

            You have been proved a lying loser and have no credibility with any thinking person.

          • Horatiu B. says:

            Why is everyone arguing over this?

          • Ken says:

            Only countering a troll that is trying to spread lies. You can see how many times he’s posted, even replying to himself.

            Some sites ban trolls like Ace. That’s why he is here.

          • AceDoubleDown says:

            All Day – Everyday – Everywhere – I hope you have a lot of energy because “everyone” that is not a lobbyist in the GOP is lined-up to take Musk and his BILLIONS in taxpayer funding OUT.

          • AceDoubleDown says:

            Oh -Yea – I was born in San Francisco and currently live in Santa Cruz California. I watch The World Champion San Francisco Giants,Big Bang Theory and FOX NEWS.

          • AceDoubleDown says:

            I surf and ride Harleys – You are an entitled un-employed spoiled little brat.

        • Ken says:

          Nice job proving yourself a moron – again. LOL!

          You have no credibility with anyone with an IQ over 60.

          Great job, little man.

  5. TW says:

    MS is an awesome machine and its surprising the big names haven’t even came close to catching up now or in the future 3-4 years at this point. The car and its already burgeoning supercharger network definitely give it the advantage over anything else out there. The X, III, and next S will only get better! Whips our BMW that our MS shares the garage with in many ways…

  6. AceDoubleDown says:

    The American taxpayer is no longer going to pay Musk for failure. The failed Obama Administration and his gestapo EPA chief can’t save Musk now. Musk and ALL of his trash are going to be takin’ out by the GOP. Musk is a failed bum.

  7. AceDoubleDown says:

    Tesla cars are useless toys runnin’ on coal. (can’t see it from my house) Already ancient lithium ion toxic battery dump/grid stress/grid storage device. Salt Lake city to Frisco over Donner Summit in the winter:10 hours 55 minutes in a 1974 Ford Pinto – At least TWO DAYS in a Tesla “Touring Car” Donner Party. (Tesla Style)

  8. AceDoubleDown says:

    NOT a zero emission car – Joke – Propaganda – Rip-Off.

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