January 15, 2013
The Model S slips silently out of the lot, that pussy-footing party trick of all electric vehicles. For a fairly big car, it’s easy to see out of, with only moderate rear-quarter blind spots. Traffic is heavy as we wind our way out of West Vancouver towards the upper levels highway; a clogged on-ramp provides little joy, despite the sunny day.
At speed, there’s as little noise as you’d expect from any other luxury sedan. The ride is supple, the seats supportive. The sharply defined instrument panel shows a range of just over a hundred and eighty miles (this is a US-spec demonstrator from Tesla’s Seattle showroom), enough to take us up to Whistler with joules to spare, or so the readout says. Relaxing. Ho-hum.
2013 Tesla Model S. Click image to enlarge
Stuck behind a bumbling delivery truck, we’re not getting the full Sea-to-Sky experience, despite the crisp clearness of the day. Sun glints off the choppy water of Howe Sound, a pair of kiteboarders off in the distance taking advantage of the breeze. We go 40 km/h.
And then, blissfully, at one of the all-too-brief passing lanes created during road improvements for the winter Olympics, the truck oozes over to the right, I show the Model S the clear road ahead and, lulled by quiet comfort, stomp on the accelerator. At which point, we are apparently rear-ended by the Millennium Falcon.
This Tesla is equipped with the 85-kWh battery back and hi-po drive inverter that puts out the equivalent of 416 horsepower. Let me just put this out there: horsepower is now an outdated measurement.
With no transmission, transfer-cases or other drivetrain slop to soak up the power, the Model S transforms nearly all that stored electric power to instant, full-torque thrust. It’s a completely different beast than an equivalently powerful internal-combustion-powered sedan – in fact, the last time I was on this particular piece of road, it was in the much-lauded Porsche Panamera GTS. The Porsche growled, where the Tesla utters little more than an amusing “phfweeeee!”, but the electric car is faster. Much faster.
Blink and we’ve suddenly arrived at the other end of the two-lane zone, as quickly as if teleported. Suddenly, there’s a wolf pack of buzzing, angry sportbikes ahead, as well as a lone driver in a rare Porsche Boxster Spyder. From overhead, the Tesla must look like a whale shark surrounded by a cloud of pilot fish.
And yet, through the first corner as the bikers all lean hard and the Boxster does what it was built to do, the Model S sticks and moves. Yes, its 2,087-kg (4,600 lb.) curb weight is more SUV than sports car, but the centre of gravity is very low to the ground with that flat-mounted battery pack, and the adaptive suspension works in concert with the balanced chassis to produce an engaging drive. The only shortfall seems to be in the seats: not checking the sport option allows you to slop around a little too much.
2013 Tesla Model S. Click image to enlarge
Admittedly, this is nothing like a traditional combustion-engine car, but it’s also not artificial-feeling. Compared to a mastadon-in-running-shoes like a BMW X6 M, it’s much more genuinely a sporting machine. Of course, the range is suffering somewhat.
And then, suddenly, no more forward velocity. My Tesla chaperone for the day, Shanna Hendricks, dials up the Seattle dealership, who link up to the car directly via 3G to confirm that there’s a speed limiter in place. They also make sure to tell me that my energy consumption levels are, quote, “weak-sauce”. So, more a car for the lead-foots than the hypermiling crowd?
At the turnaround point, I’m completely smitten with this big sedan. Not that there aren’t a few warnings for first intenders. The range is down quite a bit as a result of putting my foot in it – enough to get to Whistler, but not enough to get back without risking a flat-deck tow. Also, the rear passenger door handle is broken on this demo.
So, a few warts on the lightning bolt, then. But some time after I return the demonstrator, I run into BC-born NHL defenceman Willie Mitchell as he parks his white Model S near a ski store in West Vancouver. He’s effusive about the car, talks about charging it off a windmill at his place in Tofino, loves the way it handles downtown Vancouver traffic, can’t wait to leapfrog down the coast once Tesla’s chain of quick-fill Supercharger stations are set up.
Here’s a guy who could have just as easily bought a Bentley or an Aston, but paid a premium for something completely different. As an early adopter, it’s a heck of a risk to take – just look at Fisker’s currently unstable position. On the other hand, style, grace, exclusivity and performance in spades? No sticker-shock here.
Model S 40-kWh battery: $67,100
Model S 65-kWh battery: $77,800
Model S 85-kWh battery: $88,500
Model S Performance 85-kWh battery: $103,000
No related posts.