S Club Heaven

Our time with the 85D proved that elec­tric doesn’t have to be eclec­tic. By Tim Pollard

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars -

HAVE WE BE­COME fully signed-up mem­bers of the Tes­larati after liv­ing with a Model S all year? It’s cer­tainly one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing long-term tests we’ve con­ducted re­cently and one that re­quired a sub­stan­tial mind­set shift; like a cinema goer’s will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, you may need to park your prej­u­dices be­fore you join the Tesla cult.

Our 85D was an ap­proved-used model first reg­is­tered in 2016. It ar­rived with 16k miles on the odo and was for sale at £57,200. That steep price is one of the few im­mutable ob­sta­cles to own­er­ship, al­though a Tesla dealer would fi­nance our car for a still-punchy £770 a month. But would you re­ally choose this over a new Jaguar i-Pace at £65k list?

Noth­ing failed or broke dur­ing our test and we re­turned the car to Tesla UK with no prob­lems or glitches to fix. Oc­ca­sion­ally we had to re­boot the cen­tral screen when it froze; you can see why peo­ple talk about Tes­las as be­ing smart­phones on wheels. This is a com­mon glitch, own­ers re­port.

Nearly all the car’s func­tions are con­trolled from that huge 17-inch touch­screen, dom­i­nat­ing the dash­board. It in­vari­ably won ad­mir­ing glances from new pas­sen­gers and the user ex­pe­ri­ence is close to fault­less. If you can boss an iPhone, you’ll love this – the de­sign is sim­i­lar. The screen is so big, and the but­tons and touch­points so gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned, that we never strug­gled to use it, even on the move.

The screen res­o­lu­tion is sur­pris­ingly low, how­ever; you’ll find sharper and brighter in a Ford Fi­esta nowa­days. That’s a re­minder that the Model S dates back five years, as is the way that the in­te­rior fit and fin­ish are sev­eral rungs be­low that of a con­tem­po­rary Audi, BMW or Merc ex­ec­u­tive sa­loon. It’s not badly built, but it lacks the qual­ity of Ger­many’s best.

We can’t say the same of the drive. Our 85D had star­tling ac­cel­er­a­tion as stan­dard and the dual mo­tor’s all-wheel drive meant you could de­ploy it se­curely most of the time, al­though we of­ten de­faulted to Chill mode to ex­tend bat­tery range. It steered and cor­nered with sur­pris­ing pu­rity for one so gen­er­ously shod on 21-inch al­loy wheels, while its agility and fizzy per­for­mance be­lied its 2.2-tonne kerb­weight.

The Model S is much bet­ter suited to a re­laxed gait, how­ever, with the quiet driv­e­train sooth­ing away long jour­neys, the roomy cabin a pack­ag­ing marvel, built-in Spo­tify stream­ing your favourite mu­sic with­out gob­bling any of your own data. Charg­ing at one of Tesla’s Su­per­charger points didn’t cost us any­thing, either – this ear­lier car hav­ing free top-ups for life.

Run­ning costs were re­mark­ably mod­est, ow­ing to the cheap cost of elec­tric­ity. We con­sumed £294 of power over 5600 miles, the equiv­a­lent of just 5p a mile. That’s crack­ing value and the 85D’s 200-mile us­able range meant we could eas­ily take it on long trips to the other end of the coun­try – so long as we fac­tored in de­tour time for find­ing work­ing charg­ing points en route. We had a few pan­ics and learned to be pa­tient; go­ing elec­tric in 2018 will cost you ex­tra time (and cof­fee bills) if you use your EV as long-dis­tance trans­port. This was less of a prob­lem in day-to-day driv­ing, when we sur­vived on home charg­ing and top-ups at the work Pod­point.

Suf­fice to say, our Model S nailed this EV malarkey. We just hope the com­pany can over­come con­cerns over fac­to­ries, fi­nances and fu­ture prod­uct to trans­form from pi­o­neer­ing dis­rup­tor to elec­tric car main­stream.

Touch­screen is a user’s dream, but its fuzzy graph­ics are so old-skool 2016

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