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