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