Sunday, February 5, 2017 11:00 am ·  0 Comments
There is no question that the Tesla S has a unique appeal. Since being introduced to the market in 2012, the “S” has changed little in terms of looks but has benefitted from numerous performance and software updates. The latest 2017 version includes changes to the front fascia with the elimination of the “grill”, a small change to the headlights and an overall smoothing of the body shape. The more significant changes have been improvements to the driving range of the various iterations of the Tesla S as well as a new 48-amp charger that is supposed to allow for quicker charging in certain situations. Autopilot is not yet available in Ontario.
New Oakville Tesla store and service location
Tesla is opening a new 27,000 square-foot Store and Service Center to help serve the growing number of Tesla owners in Oakville and the greater Toronto area. Oakville will be Tesla’s third Service Center in the broader Toronto area joining locations in Mississauga and Lawrence Avenue in York. The store will showcase Model S and Model X. The Tesla Store and Service Center is located at 225 Wyecroft Road Oakville, just east of Dorval Drive, South of the QEW.
The 2017 Tesla S Line-up
A quick visit to the Tesla site https://www.tesla.com/en_CA/models reveals that the current line up includes both rear wheel and all wheel drive options for the 60 and 75 kWh battery models while the 90, 100 and P100 models are only available with all wheel drive. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the differences is to examine Tesla’s published data for each version:
* Before delivery and regulatory charges of $1,300, HST and government rebate, where available.
** Ludicrous Speed Upgrade and Smart Air Suspension Included
Driving and handling characteristics
I had the opportunity to drive the Tesla S 75D over a period of five days around Halton Region and almost daily trips into Toronto. The very first realization is that the acceleration is impressive throughout the speed range and it definitely makes a statement from a standing start. Being thrust into the seat back when you “step on it” brings a smile to my face and makes quite an impression (usually positive) on any passengers. The next realization comes during aggressive higher speed cornering including on-ramp acceleration. The car has superb stability and absolutely no body roll that I could detect. In other words, this car is a load of fun. As always – a word of caution – excessive enjoyment can attract unwanted attention with resulting impact on demerit points and insurance coverage.
Beyond the impressive acceleration and road handling features, I also enjoyed a number of other features with this car. Regenerative braking is used to recharge the battery while driving. The Tesla S comes with two available settings – a “normal” setting that provides full regenerative braking and an optional setting to reduce the degree to which the car is slowed down. It was quite easy to become comfortable with the normal setting and once you get used to it, the brake pedal gets only rare use. Other positive attributes included adjustable ride height, adjustable and positive steering feel and good visibility.
Many of the more advanced driver aid features (including enhanced autopilot software option @ $6,800) were unfortunately not available at the time of my test drive of the Tesla. Some of the features have since been added and available, including:
Tesla has also advised that the following software driven features will also be live shortly:
One of the realities of remote software updates across several generations of a car is the need for slow and careful rollout of new versions. Another reality is a constant stream of software patches to correct flaws or simply add new features. Anyone familiar with Apple products understands this. The upside is that generally, new releases provide increased and improved functionality. The downside is that we may not want them or want to “relearn” how to use some of these features.
Power consumption and recharging
The Model S 75D that I drove came with an EPA range of 416 km. That may seem like a lot and it is, in perfect driving conditions. Driving a little more aggressively, faster, in colder temperatures or with AC on can significantly reduce the range. For example – the difference between 90 kph and 120 kph can be as much as a 25% reduction in range. Who drives under 120 kph on the 400 series highways when traffic permits? On the initial day of driving the car into Toronto and back a couple of times, I experienced a long forgotten anxiety creeping back. In the mid seventies, I purchased a diesel-powered car.
In those days, going on a road trip to Florida meant finding a list of gas stations that carried diesel fuel. More than once on that trip, I experienced the anxiety of “will I make it to the next gas station”? That same feeling crept back in, as I watched the battery symbol on the Tesla slowly going down. Of course, one gets used to this and with time that uncertainty disappears – but perhaps not totally.
Recharging the Tesla is simple enough. Plug it in at home to you regular 120V receptacle and leave it overnight or longer to get recharged. The standard home plug is really not sensible due to the slow charging rate and you would typically upgrade to a dedicated 240V system and even add the Tesla wall connector to give you a 55-kilometer per hour recharge rate. Tesla also has a number of “supercharger” stations across the province that can recharge the S to a 270-kilometer range in 30 minutes. My various trips around Toronto and Oakville identified lots of electric vehicle locations to plug the car in, including local Starbucks and Tim Horton parking, downtown Toronto office building parking lots, etc. With a little planning, your regular driving habits should not pose any problem for this vehicle.
Comfort and Styling
This is a very attractive car with modern lines. An absolutely standout feature of the Tesla S is the large 17” colour touch screen that is angled to make visibility easier for the driver. This is one of the very few in-car screens that is easy to read and interact with, due to its larger size and brilliant clarity. This feature is matched with navigation, internet connectivity, high definition cameras, a high fidelity sound system, and voice activated controls to provide most of the modern driving conveniences. My 75D also included several options to increase comfort and looks. Tan-leather “premium” seats with ash wood décor added $3,400 to the base price. The premium upgrade package added another $4,700 to give you HEPA air filtration, dynamic LED turning lights, LED fog lights, ambient interior lighting, lighted door handles and various leather trims.
Because we live in a “cooler” climate, the car included the optional “sub-zero” weather package for $1,350 that includes seat heaters, heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters and water nozzle heaters. The price of the car also included the optional pearl white “multi-coat” paint ($2,000) and sunroof ($2,700) to complete the exterior look. Finally, for ride comfort and ability to raise the car for higher driveway curbs, it also included the optional “smart air suspension” ($3,400). I don’t understand why someone would buy this car without these options so Tesla might just as well have included them in a higher base priced model. The remaining option included in this car was the “enhanced autopilot” ($6,800) that is of course at this moment, not fully available in Ontario. You can add this option later at an additional cost.
Despite all of these great features, there were a couple of real annoyances with the car. As a physically larger person, I like to have features that allow me to enter and exit the driver’s seat with ease. This means having memory positions for both the seat and steering wheel that can be selected before physically entering the car. The difference in seating positions between my wife and myself is so great that I can’t even get into her car if the seat is in her position. Hence the use of my “memory” position before getting in. Many cars have this on the inside of the driver’s door – but not the Tesla. This can only be adjusted from the center screen – not very practical. On a similar note, the Tesla S does not have an easily accessible switch for the driver to unlock the passenger door. More than once I found myself fumbling to locate the door unlock symbol on the center touch screen. Might be nice to have a lock/unlock switch on the driver’s door as well. It is abundantly clear that Tesla is focused on the electric motor, battery and related software technology. They are clearly not equally focused on the more traditional elements of the car and driver interface, deciding instead to use other manufacturers’ solutions for drive engagement, wiper and turn signal controls to name some. There is no doubt that with time, Tesla will focus on these things as well. For example, Tesla intends to roll out a fob that includes a unique driver’s profile, to allow for such things as remote seat positioning. Of course, when both my wife and I have our own individual fobs and approach the car, there may be times when the fobs will fight for seat adjustment supremacy.
Things to consider
Let’s be clear, this is a very enjoyable and attractive, modern car to drive. The matters to consider really boil down to practicality and your willingness to pay the initial price. I think the other consideration might just be buying vs. lease. I anticipate that over the next two to four years, we will see another leap of features, options, models and suppliers in the electric car marketplace. Those “drivers” that strive to stay up with the latest, may want to have the flexibility that a lease provides.
A final set of considerations includes warranty, maintenance and repair costs. Tesla provides a 4 year 80,000 km limited warranty (whatever comes first) in addition to an 8-year unlimited km battery and drive unit warranty. There is also an available prepaid service option that can cover a full eight years – at a reduced cost compared to the pay as you go option. Finally, should you Tesla suffer damage from an accident, there is an approved Tesla Collision Center in the GTA (Excellence Auto Collision).
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