Ludicrous: Tesla Model S P90D L

Cars Culture

we spent some Ludicrous road time with the future of motoring: the Tesla Model S P90D L

In case you were wondering. We don’t know what the ‘S’ stands for.

The ‘P’, however, definitely stands for ‘performance’. The ’90’ refers to the kilowatts put out by the electric motors. The ‘D’ denotes ‘dual motor’ (there’s an electric motor on each axle). The ‘L’ is for Ludicrous – and with 0-60 in 2.8 silent seconds, this car certainly is that.

How to describe the experience of accelerating in this car?

If you could shrink yourself, get inside a Scalextric car and get your mate to pull hard back on that plastic throttle trigger then that would probably be close.

It’s silent. It’s immediate. It’s smile inducing. It’s the stuff of sci-fi.

This otherworldly acceleration experience comes with no throbbing engine vibrations, no roaring or popping, no whiff of oil and exhaust. There are no momentary G-force lulls. No fades. No lags. The torque curve isn’t a curve at all, but a straight, direct line at 45 degrees to the axis.

 

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This is a velocity that keeps giving – like the life-enhancing downward drop of a rollercoaster ride – smooth, powerful, silent and constant. A perfect curve. No, it’s not a curve. This Tesla defies geometry.

Then as you slow down there’s a slight whine that tickles your auditory memory with a thousand Cinemascope renderings of future motion – think Tron Light Cycle powering down.

And at low speed this car is as easy to drive as fairground dodgem. No caged, shaking angry dinosaur bone-burning beast to keep fed and placated, just a yogic calm. In fact, this is a creature that adapts to its environment and your behaviour immediately and totally. It’s a sedate saloon car when cruising. Hit the pedal (you can’t correctly call it a throttle) the running gear stiffens and you’re in a racing car.

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This adaptability aside, and even without delving into the myriad functions and settings behind the 17-inch touch screen monitor/ console / web browser (the car is 3G and Wi-Fi enabled), it’s clear that there is tons of cutting edge engineering in this car.

From the regenerative breaking – which engages as soon as you lift your right foot, only seems weird for a few minutes then becomes strangely intuitive – to the auto pilot mode, and the fact that it remembers the road features on your regular journeys, this is a learning machine. And it’s only ever a download away from new marvels.

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This car isn’t designed by staffers nabbed from the big Detroit manufacturers or even enlisted from the ranks of the Stuttgart professors. It is built and thought out from the ground up by whizz kids from Paolo Alto – Silicon Valley – to answer their own profound questions.

Namely: what should a vehicle be? What should a vehicle do?

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But the answers that Elon Musk and his Tesla corporation have come up with are not all just about power and tech. The answers are about luxury, beauty, comfort – and of course costs and sustainability throughout the life of a consumer decision.

The Tesla Model S is big and heavy. Though it doesn’t have an engine, it has a powerful electric motor on each axle – and the very substance of the chassis is composed of rechargeable batteries and all the associated circuitry.

But despite the bulkiness that results and despite the workaday looks of a traditional family wagon – get it out on the open road and it’s an amazingly entertaining sport to see those Audis and Beemers disappear in the rear view mirror.

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Remember the footage of Saturn V’s stage 2 shell falling back to earth while the command module accelerates into orbit?

The sensation of accelerating in the Tesla reminds us of that.

Slow down, smile a little and let the kid in his roadshagger creep past you, confused and slightly emasculated.

It’s especially enlivening for us parent types to think that the last thing the guy in the V12 sees as you disappear from view is your kids waving from their rear facing seats.

So it’s ludicrously fast, incredibly easy to drive (although it is American and very big in British parking bays), comfortable and practical for kids (if you can get yours to keep their feet off the leather). But what about the thorny issue of recharging, of this new green vehicle phenomenon, ‘range anxiety’?

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Well if you’re driving it like it begs you to you’ll get about 240 miles out of it per full charge which isn’t dissimilar to an equivalent petrol performance car. Musk is clever, but he can’t alter the laws of physics.

There’s a justified truth at the heart of range anxiety

There just aren’t anything like the number of charging points (especially fast ones) as there are petrol forecourts. And of course if you do run out no one can go and fetch you a can of electricity.

That said one of Tesla’s ever expanding network of superchargers can deliver you a good amount of miles in thirty minutes (full charge over an hour) and there are many other options including Ecotricity’s fast chargers and a lead and transformer for home charging.

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The trick for owners is going to be a change in attitude and behaviour. You need to plan your journeys a little more thoroughly (much as early car owners must have had to) and generally treat your car like your smartphone by making sure you always pop it on charge when you can.

In fact this car is all about change. It challenges ideas of what a car should be, of what you should expect from your car, both in terms of its environmental impact and its performance.

But that is as it should be because the future is inevitably about change and when you step out of this machine you feel like you’ve just taken the future for a spin.

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All pics: postfuel/influx

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