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2015 Tesla S Review by John Heilig +VIDEO


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JH Says: The Tesla is incredible, not only for its technology and good looks but for its overall performance as well.

By John Heilig
Senior Editor
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

AUTO PAGE SPECS

MODEL: 2015 Tesla Model S
ENGINE: AC induction, three phase, four pole
TRANSMISSION: Direct drive utomatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 382 hp/225 lb.-ft.
WHEELBASE: 116.5 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 196.0 x 77.3 x 55 (est.)
TIRES: P265/35ZR21
CARGO: 31.6/63.3 cu. ft. (front and rear/rear seat backs down)
ECONOMY: 88 mpg-e city/90 mpge highway/89 mpge average (270 miles range)
FUEL TANK: None
CURB WEIGHT: 4,647 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series,
STICKER: $93,830 (includes $3,170 delivery)

BOTTOM LINE: The Tesla Model S is the most technologically advanced car I have ever driven. Combine that with great performance, handling and comfort and you have a car that’s worth the $93,830 sticker.   

We approached the Tesla in the parking garage of the King of Prussia Mall, where my nearest store was located (between Apple and Lane Bryant). I had the key fob in my hand. As we neared the car, the flush door handles popped out from the doors and we entered. All the screens were immediately and automatically on. There is no start/stop button to push.         

The Tesla’s dash is dominated by a large 17-inch central touchscreen, taller than it is wide. All of the Tesla’s functions are controlled through this screen, from audio to HVAC to switching from “normal” to “ludicrous” power (more on that later). It kinda looks like the Dow Jones graph the last few weeks. This graph can be replicated on the left side of the central instrument panel. A central speedometer dominates the i.p. Of course, there’s a “miles to empty” to let you know how many miles you have before you have to recharge. We had 236 miles to go in our tester, which had just come off the charger.          

Front seats are comfortable with good side support. The Tesla will never be accused of being a sports car, despite its prodigious performance in a straight line, but it’s nice to be ensconced in deep seats. They are, of course, power adjustable and heated. Rearward vision is inhibited slightly by the rear center headrest. Rear legroom is very good. I thought it might be more, considering the long wheelbase, but it’s more than adequate.          

There’s no shifting. Step on the accelerator and the car moves ahead, much like as with an electric golf cart (sorry Elon). There is a suite of alerting devices that will let you know if there is anything in front of you, behind you or on the side. Much like the “overhead” views in some cars, you can pull up a similar view on the screen,          

Ride quality is excellent. A long wheelbase and significant weight are secrets to a smooth ride. Rolls-Royce and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class are typical examples of other long wheelbase heavy cars with great rides.          




Handling is very good. We drove the Tesla in King of Prussia/Valley Forge fairly heavy traffic. Other than the fact that I was a little nervous about driving a strangre to me $93,000 car is such traffic, but the Tesla did everything I wanted it to do. A couple of times I got to try out the car’s acceleration and was able to get to spots before other cars did. The center of gravity is about 12 inches off the road surface, which makes for great handling.          

In such traffic, brakes are important. I liked the Tesla’s brakes in that they, of course, stopped the car, but they weren’t tacky or too extreme.          

We pulled onto an entry ramp to a larger highway. My Tesla representative said “stop,” which I did. Then we checked around for other cars and he said “floor it,” which I did. Now I have driven somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 cars in my career. None of them accelerated like the Tesla. Quoted 0-60 times are under four seconds (under three most of the time) and we were definitely in that range, even without a stopwatch in the car. My wife, sitting in the back seat, thought I broke her neck with whiplash.          

We eventually drove back to the parking lot. There is no need to shut off the car. Simply exit and the doors lock and the car shuts off. We shifted the center screen into “superhead” mode to find out how close we were to the car in front of us. The “beep” helped, too.          

Aside from too narrow sun visors, the design of the Tesla is nearly perfect. With no large internal combustion engine, there are two trunks, a smaller on in the front and the larger, more normal, one in the rear. Tap the key fob once to open the front trunk, twice to open the rear.          

It is possible to “start” the Tesla from your smart phone. This way, it will be heated or cooled when you enter it, depending on the season. The Tesla will then remember your setting. Leave for work and home at the same time every day and the Tesla will remember. It also remembers potholes along your normal route, and if you have a tricky driveway with a raised curb, the Tesla will remember that, too. Sadly, I was more concerned with driving than playing with the multitude of controls, so I didn’t appreciate them as much as I might have.          

Range is a constant worry with electric cars. The Nissan Leaf I drove recently had a 90-mile range. Even the BMW i3 is under 100 miles, although the “range extender” gasoline engine will gain you a couple more. The instrument panel on the Tesla indicated a range of 236 miles when we started our test drive. If you’re planning a trip, let’s say, from Philadelphia to Miami, you can set the screen (an “app”?) to show you the charging stations along the route. They were located about 170 miles apart, maximum. With a supercharger, you can charge it up in an hour or so to get back on your way. It’ still not as fast as filling up at a gas station, but it’s better than sitting by the side of the road.          

The Tesla is incredible, not only for its technology, quality (in fact it blew the doors off the Consumer Report test) but for its overall performance as well. It’s also damned good looking. Our representative told us that Tesla is working on a new car that will be lower priced, like $35,000 or so. I can’t wait.




© 2015 The Auto Page Syndicate

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