TESLA

James Ni­cholls test drives the world’s best-known elec­tric cars, nav­i­gat­ing the coun­try roads be­tween Crowne Plaza’s Tesla charg­ing sta­tion-equipped ho­tels.

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Take an elec­tric drive into the NSW coun­try­side with Crowne Plaza re­sorts

Much has been said about the elec­tric car re­cently and much of that has been about the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Tesla. Never hav­ing driven a fully elec­tric car, I was ex­cited to un­der­take three days of test-driving the Tesla S and Tesla X in the coun­try­side of NSW.

The S is a sedan and the X is what might be termed an SUV. Both mod­els were the top-of-the-range P100D: P for Per­for­mance, 100 for big­ger bat­ter­ies/ longer dis­tance, and D for Dual mo­tor (an elec­tric mo­tor on each axle), ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing four-wheel drive.

The ex­ter­nal look of each car is cer­tainly not rev­o­lu­tion­ary, though the Tesla X with its ‘fal­con-wing’ rear doors has that in­no­va­tive flair. It is in­side and un­der­neath the skin that the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and tech­nol­ogy of th­ese cars re­ally start to im­press. In the way of un­der­stated lux­ury, noth­ing is skimped and both ve­hi­cles are re­mark­ably com­fort­able. This feel­ing of com­fort is only en­hanced by the driving ex­pe­ri­ence.

Crowne Plaza Ho­tels & Re­sorts hosted the drive to cel­e­brate the re­cent news that all of its Aus­tralian prop­er­ties are now equipped with Tesla charg­ing sta­tions. The con­cern that ev­ery­one has had pre­vi­ously is bat­tery life and dis­tances achiev­able by the elec­tric car be­fore the charge runs out. No such prob­lems with the Tesla, such is its ca­pa­bil­i­ties and the net­work of charg­ing points it has es­tab­lished – in­deed, I am told it is pos­si­ble to drive from Cairns to Ade­laide with care­ful plan­ning. And no, it does not take any­where near as long to recharge as one might think.

From the city to the coun­try

Leav­ing Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach, our first des­ti­na­tion was sis­ter prop­erty Crowne Plaza Hawkes­bury Val­ley where we vis­ited its Villa Thalgo Day Spa – the sec­ond largest of its kind after Paris – in the foothills of the Blue Moun­tains.

After in­dulging, we had a short brief­ing on how to drive the cars. Es­sen­tially the driving ex­pe­ri­ence is much the same as a tra­di­tional car, and yet, so very dif­fer­ent. Torque is in­stan­ta­neous, and

the de­liv­ery of power lin­ear. There is no gear chang­ing and, in­deed, no chang­ing of gears. And the cars are fast, which we dis­cov­ered as we headed for our stop at Crowne Plaza Hunter Val­ley, home to award-win­ning Red­salt Res­tau­rant and an 18-hole cham­pi­onship golf course trimmed with vil­las.

But be­fore sam­pling the lo­cal wines, what bet­ter way to get an over­all pic­ture of the vine­yards than a he­li­copter ride?

Well, per­haps the only way to top that ex­pe­ri­ence is to see the sun rise over Aus­tralia’s old­est wine re­gion the next morn­ing. If you have never tried a hot air bal­loon ride, the feel­ing is one of free­dom, ease, peace and tran­quil­lity.

Which, with­out stretch­ing a point, is the feel­ing one en­coun­ters driving the Tesla. The con­trols are so in­tu­itive, the hap­tic panel screen do­ing away with the ne­ces­sity for any ugly knobs or switches on the dash­board. All can be con­trolled from here: sun-roof, air-con, mu­sic (via the on­board Spo­tify ac­count), seat po­si­tion­ing, sus­pen­sion, driving mode (‘Chill’, ‘Stan­dard’ or ‘Lu­di­crous’!).

What can this car not do for you? It even has an Au­topark driver as­sis­tance fea­ture and, would you be­lieve, semi­au­tonomous ‘Au­topi­lot’ steer­ing.

But be­fore re­lax­ing be­hind the wheel while the Tesla vir­tu­ally drives it­self, it was time to lay back and think about the mag­i­cal bal­loon­ing ex­pe­ri­ence while soak­ing up Crowne Plaza Hunter Val­ley’s Ubika Spa Man Treat­ment, a com­bi­na­tion of back cleanse, mud masque and skin detox­i­fi­ca­tion.

End of the road

When it was time to un­plug the Tesla and get back into the (heated if re­quired) driver’s seat, we headed to Kirk­ton Park Ho­tel in the heart of nearby Pokol­bin. Here the coun­try manor charm was en­hanced by a pad­dock-to-plate lunch, with lo­cal pork, beef and trout ac­com­pa­nied by the ho­tel’s own gar­den pro­duce from car­rots, toma­toes and pump­kins to straw­ber­ries and olives.

But as the poet Robert Frost wrote: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have prom­ises to keep/ And miles to go be­fore I sleep.”

In­deed, we had miles to go to our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion for fur­ther recharg­ing of mind, body and car, with a din­ner at Crowne Plaza Ter­ri­gal Pa­cific. Here, in the stun­ning Lord Ash­ley Lounge pri­vate din­ing room, we were treated to a shar­ing feast of squash risotto, poached jas­mine and honey chicken, Black An­gus steak, slow-cooked beef and king salmon. With a glass of Pros­ecco in hand, sun set­ting over the ocean, our coun­try­side drive ex­pe­ri­ence came to a fit­ting end.

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01Tesla’s in­tu­itive touch screen 02 Tesla S 05 Tak­ing off with Hunter Val­ley He­li­copters 03 Recharg­ing at Crowne Plaza’s Tesla charg­ing sta­tions 04 Guest room at Kirk­ton Park Ho­tel © IHG 06 Ocean views from Crowne Plaza Ter­ri­gal Pa­cific © IHG 07 Tesla X fal­con-wing doors in ac­tion

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