A new battery means Tesla’s luxury saloon will go further than ever – but what you really want to know is what happens in electro-nutter mode…
The Model S is already a fine thing. By adding a 100kWh battery, Tesla is aiming to make it finer still.
The bigger battery means two things. One is an officially quoted range of 381 miles, which should translate into something like 250 in the real world.
The other is that in P100D form, as tested here, Tesla’s Ludicrous Speed software is standard – and with the bigger battery, this includes the interestingly named Ludicrous Plus mode. Think 0-60mph in 2.4 seconds, making this a silent assassin with its sights set on more or less every other performance car in the world.
2017 Tesla Model S P100D
Engine@ Twin electric motors
Power: 603bhp (total system output)
Gearbox: Single-speed, direct drive
Kerb weight: 2239kg
Top speed: 155mph
Range: 381 miles (NEDC tests)
CO2/tax band: 0g/km, 7%
Make the most of this, of course, and that 381-mile range will look about as realistic as a news story about Donald Trump on Facebook. The sheer monstrosity of what happens when you floor it in Ludicrous Plus mode, on the other hand, is very real – and very ludicrous. It doesn’t feel like accelerating, really – more like someone’s flicked an on-off switch and you’ve gone from standstill to flat-out instantaneously.
This is hilarious, and frightening, and some wee may come out. Whether it comes out of you or your passenger is a moot point, but they’re likely to make you promise never to do it again. Which kind of means this is a bit of a party piece.
Now, we all like parties. But the rest of the time, the P100D simply has way more performance than you’ll ever be able to use. It feels like a hearty sneeze in the direction of the throttle pedal would be enough to squirt you off into the distance.
Thus it’s not very relaxing as a blat-blat kind of tool. But for generally grooving around, it’s actually pretty chilled. You don’t need to touch the accelerator much, and thanks to the presence of powerful regenerative braking you can keep off the anchors most of the time too.
Naturally, this is the way to get as close as possible to that impressive range. Motorway driving doesn’t seem to be, though: we had reduced the battery to about 50 per cent after 110 miles. Tesla could point to the near-freezing conditions at the time, but we could point to the fact that this is Britain.
So despite its capacity to be insane, the P100D is best treated as a bit of a sensible shirt on wheels. The only problem here is that cruddy roads upset its air suspension somewhat, meaning it’s more composed at higher speeds – though without any usable feedback on the way into corners, and a compete absence of fun buttons to disable the stability control system, it’s actually not very entertaining. Forget the acceleration figures – if you want a luxury saloon that’s great to drive, the Model S isn’t even on the same chapter as the Porsche Panamera.
The Panamera is beautifully put together inside, too. Here again the Model S isn’t quite up to the same standards as its best rivals, with a few ill-fitting edges and noisy bits of trim detracting from the evident quality of the materials from which it’s made.
Thing is, that would be easier to forgive if this wasn’t a £132,700 car. Which is where the focus comes from here, because the P100D is a good car. But the basic Model S 60 only costs about half as much, and it’s a good car too.
The loony-tune acceleration is a laugh, yes. And more range is always going to be appealing. But from what we found, range anxiety does still exist even with this car – and now there’s oh-God-he’s-going-for-the-throttle anxiety for your passengers to contend with too. We like the Model S – but this model doesn’t show it in its best light.