QWest – the Tesla Estate
The first of a new genre of motor vehicle
There’s a lot of pressure for a sequel to perform, yet comic book movie franchises seem keen to push their product out over and over again, weaving ever more tech and intricacy into their storylines.
Often, after the building blocks of the first movie had been put into place and left you excited, thrilled and entertained, they leave you with a little tease of what’s to come, and leave you wanting more.
Our first visit to QWest in Norfolk was very similar. At the time, they were almost finished with their Tesla Model S conversion, breaking new ground with the world’s first Tesla estate. As I left there I was undoubtedly excited, thrilled and entertained and absolutely buzzing at the prospect of their next move. Either that or I’d absorbed a few gazillion rogue electrons from the Tesla’s colossal batteries.
When they invited me back for the finished car, I was sorely anticipating something akin to a comic superhero movie sequel – a progression of the storyline now all the building blocks were in place, with the added thrill of the latest technological developments. I jumped at the chance.
I met Phil Hayton, Director of QWest Norfolk Ltd, at the Adrian Flux office in East Winch, Norfolk, a short drive away from QWest’s HQ. He’d not only brought along the star of this sequel – the car itself (possibly the world’s fastest estate, but more on that later) – but also a faithful sidekick in the form of Tesla Ted, a rather placid and unflappable labradoodle.
After a crowd was drawn from the offices, admiring the whispering supercar, each of them going over the rear of the car with the kind of awe we wish our other halves would give to us, we grabbed a few photos and chatted about the finished article.
“The car was originally a pool car for my business,” said Phil, whilst Tesla Ted watched on, “the Model S in its original form was a great choice for the job – as well as the obvious emissions and economy benefits there were more day to day benefits. When working in Tower Hamlets, for example, we can always get a space near the front of the nearest car park as that’s where the charging bays are, and when one of my employees is now at an age where walking is difficult, it’s great that we don’t have to find an alternative car park miles away.
“For a business, too, it works incredibly well financially. The only trouble was, I couldn’t get the dog in the back…”
Phil went on to flesh out the story I covered back in our original article, when the challenge to create a labradoodle-able Tesla was taken up by the QWest team, including designer Jim Router, who had previously worked on Le Mans entries for a few teams including Panoz, Audi, Nissan and Jaguar, and had also been part of the McLaren team which produced the finest road car of its time (and still possibly the most desired road car ever), the F1.
When questioned about range anxiety Phil shrugged it off. “It doesn’t need to be fully charged to go a long way – 200 miles is plenty because, by that point, you need to stop for a toilet break anyway!
“It then only needs around 20 minutes of charge to get you back up to 200 miles. If you have more time you can carry on to about 270 miles but I’ve never needed that many.”
After that, the chat turned to performance.
It has to be said, standing beside a large estate car with very little in the way of bling it did not (at first) appear to have the drama of the cars which can match its performance. The car has practically the same weight as a standard Model S, and the revised shape means its stability is unaffected, yet the cabin is even quieter. This turned out to be a key point in this whole experience for me. Figures like ‘under three seconds to 60mph’, ‘top speed limited to 155mph’, ‘intelligent four-wheel drive’, ‘all the torque available at any speed’ etc. are all a bit like the stats of a comic book superhero. A bit hard to compute. 150+ mph may not be as fast as a speeding bullet – but it’s sure as heck as fast as a whopping great speeding ticket.
It all starts to get a bit tricky to get your head around, so the best thing to do was go for a ride…
Luckily for us, Phil is a mild-mannered businessman and not weighed-down by points on his licence, and is even the owner of the business behind those lights that flash at you for doing 31 in a 30. Not someone to need a speed-gun jammer, for sure.
I hopped into the front of the car beside Phil, with Tesla Ted happily sat in the capacious boot, and one of the Adrian Flux managers stretching his legs in the huge rear passenger space, and we headed out onto the roads of Norfolk. The road was greasy but nonetheless ohmyblinkywhattheactualfrickingheckisgoingon – Phil had planted his foot down and we were instantly somewhere near King’s Lynn. It was frankly weird.
I’d suspected that the lack of a screaming 10k rpm exhaust note and a series of jolty gear changes would dull the drama of this LaFerrari-esque performance but it was simply not the case. The ability to alter your speed from, say, 30mph to 60mph almost instantaneously was so incredibly mind-boggling in this whooshy, serene, senses-cosseting machine that it became an entirely different form of entertainment.
It was, let’s be honest – comical. Giggle-inducingly mind-warpingly comical. The extra sound deadening by the revised QWest shape meant it was even more comical than a standard Model S – it was more like a fairground ride than a sports car. Or, even, an estate car. And it wasn’t just me, our back seat passenger was grinning from ear to ear. He and I have both owned some seriously quick sports cars in our time, and both felt completely bemused and entertained by this hard-to-compute experience.
As greasy roundabouts came and went with a smooth and confident spin of the steering wheel, the Tesla showed it’s no drag king. The cornering was just as unbelievable. It may be a big heavy car (Phil admitted it weighed around the same as his Landrover Discovery) but because the vast majority of that weight is in the batteries beneath the floor, and with Tesla’s clever software distributing the power to the tyre most capable of dealing with it, it handled like the cars Jim Router had been designing in the ‘90s.
Whilst bothering AMGs and other German execs on the next dual carriageway Phil calmly regaled us with tales about EV tech. The Tesla warranty, for example, still applies as Tesla said they didn’t mind what QWest did to the body as long as they didn’t touch the wiring and software. He barely batted an eyelid at the performance, it was so accessible and easy.
All in all, the performance was incredibly impressive, it was a spirited performer, as happy to entertain as it was to sit silently in traffic. It could well be the fastest estate ever, but as QWest is a new company it hasn’t got the funds (nor desire) to start renting out Ehra-Lessien or Nardò and get Guinness along to prove it.
The only reason this car exists at all is not a desire to challenge the record books, it’s to make sure Tesla Ted can join his Dad for the day. And he seemed very happy with the car.
If you want to spec up your own QWest, they’ll take on board precisely what you need and create the conversion for you, whether it’s to go surfing, camping, or just to get adults in the back (the Model S is a seven-seater after all, but normally adults can’t get in the back row…) – or maybe you want to scare your mates on a track day without worrying about a piston coming through your bonnet.
It’s a very very interesting machine, and the future of motoring looks very cool from this angle.
Superheroes don’t have to wear capes, but wearing a bit of carbon fibre, a load of cutting-edge tech, and having a labradoodle sidekick really helps.
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