The last time I test drove a Tesla Model S was a few weeks before the introduction of the D option. I drove a modestly configured Model S 65 with a couple of additional features. It was someone’s canceled order, so it was neither a base 65 nor a fully loaded 65. The P95D I drove yesterday night (29 November) had every option offered on it – including Ludicrous Speed.
My primary reason for scheduling a new test drive was a desire to try out the autopilot features. The Mercedes ML350 my parents have back home had Mercedes’ “safety package”: a 360º camera, front and back cameras, auto park, lane assistance, blind spot warnings, and laser cruise control.
They’re not great. Of the bunch, the blind spot and 360º camera are my favorite. The backup camera is utterly useless at night. Autopark was far too complicated to learn to ever get it to work, and the lane assistance was like someone installed a constantly vibrating Dualshock 4 in the wheel.
The Tesla, on the other hand, can seriously drive itself. My co-pilot actually said, “Go ahead and take your hands off the wheel now,” after we merged on to the freeway and activated autopilot.
However, Tesla very strongly reminds drivers it’s a beta feature. It’s pretty solid already, but it is definitely a beta. Remarkably, the Mercedes back home could account for traffic merging on. The Tesla could not. But, the Tesla can change lanes when safe entirely by itself. Just turn the directional off quickly if approaching an exit or it will think you want to exit. Autosteer, like the Mercedes’ lane assistance, does require painted lanes to function. Don’t expect it to work in a residential neighborhood (well, not the unpainted ones I’m used to anyway.)
The Tesla’s self parking was a bit tricky to get working as we had to find a spot in a nearby residential street that would be large enough and not block a driveway. It’s a good thing my co-pilot from Tesla knew how it worked, as I would’ve completely missed it. From the Mercedes, I’m used to a huge Parking icon appearing in the center of the screen with an arrow appearing to signal the car found a spot. In the Tesla, you have to look for a small gray P icon to appear in one of the bottom corners of the car on the dashboard. A dotted P means keep going a bit more. Once you have that solid gray P, that’s when the fun begins.
To auto-park a Tesla, wait for the icon, and signal you want to pull into the spot. You then push the button on the main console and take your hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals. The Tesla is the only car I’ve been in that will 100% park itself. Every other auto-park I’ve used requires you to change the gears and supply the gas and braking while the steering is automatic. The Tesla smoothly glided into the spot and automatically adjusted where it was between the two cars so they could get out too. It did appear to pull up more to the car in front though, leaving more room behind. Once it was done, the parking brake engaged, the car chimed, and the doors unlocked (I could hear the handles extend outside as well.) My co-pilot said I was the first person she ever had that actually wanted to try it out. So we looped around the block and did it again.
I was the last test drive scheduled for the night, so I got to drive the car back to the car park, but before we did that, we’d use a side entrance to the mall that had a straight away. I was told to bring the car to a complete stop.
“Whenever you’re ready, I want to to floor it. I mean it.”
“Ludicrous” is not an understatement. I didn’t have time to see how fast we had gone because I was too busy braking when I realized we were running out of road already. When I asked my co-pilot if they ever got tired of that, she said, “I don’t. Want to do it again?” I was not going to say no. The 65W model I drove a couple of years before I thought had beautiful acceleration and handling. The P95D… well, I don’t think there are words to describe it. Even mind-blowing understates the power that beast has.
My test drive concluded with backing the car into a spot in the car park, which was comparable to other backup cameras I’ve used. However, while the Tesla did show lines to show where I would be going, I actually prefered the Mercedes’ color-coded lines, plus additional line to show the clearance the rear liftgate would need to open. The Tesla did eventually chime, and the center console showed in inches how much room I had. Eventually, a large STOP appeared behind the car icon.
Overall, the experience is absolutely one I would do again, and if I had the cash to burn right there and then, I would’ve offered to buy the car I had just driven on-the-spot.
But, the fact of the matter is if I were to get a Tesla, I don’t need a P90D. There were other options in the car I drove that I would pass on too. However, I was glad that the interior had one of the wood options, because it convinced me to change my mind on sticking with the default Piano Black; the glossy Obeche wood looks much better in-person than it does on the computer.
For me, I’d actually be happy with just a 70D. The 240 miles range is sufficient, and it comes with the all-wheel drive, which really did make a difference performance and handling-wise. I would, however, add the deep blue paint, panoramic roof, tan next-generation seats, the obeche wood, and of course, autopilot, premium lighting, and the 12-speaker premium sound. All Classical Portland sounded fantastic on it. But, again, if I had cash to burn, absolutely I would go with a P90D – it really is mind-blowing, but the 70D is both practical and sufficient for my needs.