Drive into the fu­ture JUSTIN CON­NOLLY

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I’ VE driven cars that have an eco mode be­fore, and quite a few with a sport mode to stiffen sus­pen­sion and beef up ac­cel­er­a­tion. But I’ve never driven a car that can be put into ‘lu­di­crous mode’ be­fore.

But then the Tesla S is frankly un­like any car I’ve ever driven in so many ways – the lu­di­crous mode, al­though very aptly named, is not even the most im­pres­sive thing about this all-wheel drive, al­l­elec­tric, tech­ni­cal mas­ter­piece.

It’s a cliché, I know, but truly – some day all cars will be made this way.

Tesla Mo­tors boasts the bil­lion­aire co-founder of PayPal Elon Musk as its CEO.

Since PayPal was sold to Ebay in 2002, his big­gest pas­sion has been ex­plor­ing tech­nol­ogy that can help hu­man­ity solve its rather self­de­struc­tive love af­fair with fos­sil fu­els. Tesla builds all-elec­tric cars and is also big in bat­tery tech­nol­ogy, not just to use in its ve­hi­cles, but also for the home in the hope that so­lar en­ergy can be har­nessed in an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able way.

If that all sounds a bit wor­thy and dull, let me tell you that Musk also clearly has a pas­sion for fast cars. Very fast cars.

To the un­trained eye, the Tesla S per­haps doesn’t look all that ex­cep­tional – it re­sem­bles noth­ing more than a Jaguar XF. And per­haps it would turn a few more heads if it sported a more futuristic look – like BMW’s os­ten­ta­tious hy­brid i8. But that wouldn’t be as cool or as classy.

Not many peo­ple no­ticed I was driv­ing per­haps the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced pro­duc­tion car in the world as I zipped silently by. A few were cu­ri­ous enough to take a closer look, still fewer knew ex­actly what they were look­ing at and be­came in­stantly giddy with ex­cite­ment.

I’ve never tested a car that elicited more re­quests from friends and fam­ily for as quick spin. And that’s when lu­di­crous mode came into its own. In that mode the car can go from 0-60 in 2.8 sec­onds. Yes. 2.8. That’s the same as the McLaren P1, and only hy­per­cars like the Bu­gatti Vey­ron Su­per Sport (2.2 sec­onds) can top it.

The re­sponse from pas­sen­gers when I floored it and glued them to their seats was, al­most uni­ver­sally, help­less gig­gling (only one per­son started cry­ing). I could never grow tired of it.

But there’s so much more to the Model S than just speed – its range is re­mark­able, for one thing. The bat­ter­ies are housed in the floor be­tween the two axles (which helps give the car its low cen­tre of grav­ity to help pre­vent rollovers), and give the car an ex­cep­tional range of around 315 miles on a full charge. Com­pare that to the all-elec­tric Nis­san Leaf or BMW i3, which can man­age around 100 miles.

Then there’s the sim­ply in­cred­i­ble Au­toPilot fea­ture – when switched on the car sets its cruise con­trol to the speed limit for the road you are on, and will try to stick to that speed un­less some­thing gets in its way. At that point it slows to keep a set dis­tance be­tween it­self and the car in front, even com­ing to a stop if it has to, start­ing again when the car in front moves away (it will stop just a few feet be­hind a ve­hi­cle that comes to a stop in front of it).

That’s not all, though. The car will also steer it­self and re­main in lane – it’s the clos­est thing you’ll find on the road to that fa­bled self-driv­ing car we keep hear­ing about. Af­ter a while it seems like a chore when you have to flick the in­di­ca­tor left or right to change lane...

It’s not quite at the stage where you can punch in a post­code and then drop off for a snooze, but it’s much fur­ther down that line than any other car I’ve driven. All the sen­sors are in the car al­ready, and Tesla can up­date its soft­ware over then in­ter­net. The car didn’t ship with Au­toPilot – it’s been added since, as has lu­di­crous mode, re­veal­ing yet an­other ad­van­tage to a car this tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced.

The in­te­rior is as stylish and as un­clut­tered as its out­side, dom­i­nated by a large touch screen in the cen­tre con­sole, from which you con­trol many as­pects of the ve­hi­cle, from the ra­dio to the sun­roof, and from the sat­nav to the sus­pen­sion. Even the user’s man­ual is ac­cessed through the touch screen (it has to be up­dated when the car is).

There are three gears, se­lected us­ing an in­di­ca­tor-style stalk stick­ing out of the steer­ing col­umn – for­wards, back­wards, and stop. It’s as if they’ve de­signed a car for today’s tech­nol­ogy, ig­nor­ing the con­ven­tions of tra­di­tional mo­tors

PHOTOS: Vin­cent Cole that hold in­no­va­tion back. There’s no hand brake but­ton or lever – you en­gage the hand brake by push­ing the brake pedal down firmly once you are at a stand­still. It dis­en­gages when you touch the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

All this in­no­va­tion must come at a price, though. And it cer­tainly does.

The base price for the top-end Model S P90D is £87,300 (in­cludes £4,500 gov­ern­ment plug-in grant), but the ex­tras on our test model stacked the price up to £115,980.

That in­cluded £1,300 for the pearl white multi-coat paint job, £1,300 for the glass panoramic roof, £3,900 for the 21in grey tur­bine wheels, and £8,700 for the lu­di­crous speed up­grade.

I’m safe to say this is not a cheap car, but given the tech­nol­ogy in­volved it seems quite rea­son­able, and will be even more rea­son­able as that tech­nol­ogy trick­les down into cheaper mod­els.

You can get a Model S for £54,100 right now – but that gets you a smaller bat­tery (and hence a shorter range – 260 miles), and rear-wheel drive only. And of course, no lu­di­crous mode (al­though it will still go from 0 to 60 in 5.5 sec­onds...).

But these are the cars of the fu­ture, and the price will fall over the next few years as pro­duc­tion vol­ume in­creases. And it will – like I said, some day all cars will be made this way.

Visit Tesla’s Manch­ester store and ser­vice cen­tre at 396 Welling­ton Road North, Stock­port, SK4 5AE, or its Knutsford store at 21-29 Canute Place, Knutsford WA16 6BQ. And, of course, all the de­tails are avail­able on­line at tes­lam­o­tors.com.

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