Few carmakers in history can claim to be as influential as Tesla, and its Model S is stunning in almost every respect.
|100kWh lithium-ion battery, twin electric motors||778hp||687lb ft||2.4sec||250kph (limited)||2250kg||$150,000|
This is a genuine game changer and a bona fide evo machine.
Those were the words with which we closed our Tesla feature in issue 117 and, truth be told, some readers were surprised by them. With so much controversy surrounding this brand and its methods, as well as the tales of woe relating to build quality and the true
impact of mining minerals for batteries and a whole host of other negatives, how could we have been so resoundingly positive?
Yet the proof is everywhere we look in the UAE. Tesla has taken over – it is the brand that gets people excited. Excited enough that home builders are offering them ‘free’ with the purchase of a new home during the Dubai Shopping Festival, when those huge billboard ads on the side of Sheikh Zayed Road used to feature Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. And let’s not forget the wording. This is a “guaranteed” deal and it has to be, because it appears demand for these electric cars is outstripping supply.
That, of course, won’t last. But it does prove the point that Tesla is a genuine game changer. Since we drove the Model S P100D, of course, the company has unveiled its new Roadster – a sleek and sexy sports car that will no doubt send shock waves through the supercar world. It has also been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, experiencing serious problems with its production lines which have resulted in customers being let down with their orders for the new (more affordable) Model 3.
But none of these things can change the way we feel about that top line Model S that blew everything else into the weeds once its ‘Ludicrous mode’ had been activated. In near complete silence, it destroyed everything else on the road and did so without emitting a single pollutant. It turned heads and got onlookers talking wherever it was parked and it was obvious that everyone knew what it was.
We’re well aware that a machine with room for five normally proportioned adults, five doors and no engine should not really be something that evo gets excited about. But here’s the thing: you shouldn’t dismiss the Model S, or any other Tesla, until you’ve tried it for yourself. Any electric car feels nippy, thanks to all its torque being available the instant you floor the accelerator. But this particular car generates 687lb ft of the stuff, with 778bhp – figures that send the establishment into a collective tailspin. At $150,000, this car isn’t exactly cheap but if you want a similar performance repertoire from another brand you’ll need to spend 20 times that amount and wait two years for your Chiron to be built.
We can’t sugar coat the build quality issues, that’s the truth of the matter. Small details do let it (and every Tesla) down – evident every time you see one parked up in the street. Panel gaps can be less than perfect, door rubbers are not quite flush and inside there’s a cheapness to some of the materials that you’d never find inside a modern BMW or Mercedes-Benz. But these issues are obviously not enough to put off paying customers, for whom the novelty of silent propulsion, zero emissions and gull wing doors (at least on the Model X) make ownership a tantalising and irresistible proposition.
Another thing detractors can’t help but mention is the fact that these cars require charging up, which is both inconvenient and time consuming. Yet queuing at petrol stations in this country can sometimes feel like forever and, in any case, if a Tesla is charged using one of the firm’s Supercharger outlets, it might take an hour to top up the battery from flat but it doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t cost anything to park in Dubai, either, or to use Salik toll roads. There are parking spaces allocated to ‘green’ cars throughout the city and charging points are beginning to appear outside shopping malls. Things are changing here and elsewhere in the region, and the lure of the petrol-powered V8 is diminishing with each passing day.
So ownership here is, against all odds, perfectly feasible and will become more so as the infrastructure continues to adapt. The future of mobility is one most evo readers won’t be wanting to accept in totality (do any of us really want to give up driving?) but the Model S is a brilliant compromise in that it delivers a true driving hit and one unlike anything else out there.
Remember that all the money you might save by not having to pay for parking or charging, will likely end up with the government anyway, after settling your speeding fines if you drive one of these. From rest to 100kph takes just 2.4 seconds and it doesn’t stop piling on the speed until it reaches a limited 250. Granted, that Chiron will then experience some proper gains and leave the electric upstart in a cloud of the desert’s finest dust, but in real world conditions the sling shot delivery afforded by this car never fails to bring a smile to its driver’s face or a scream from its passengers.
This is just the beginning – we haven’t seen anything yet.