By now you’ve heard about “insane mode”, you know about “slip start” and you probably know all about the insane horsepower and torque figures. You know the ones, big eye-catching numbers like “691 hp” (wow), “686 lb-ft” (oh, my) and “0–100 in 3.2 seconds” (holy snapping duck poop!).
If you like cars, or even just Teslas, you’ll know about the 221 hp motor driving the front and the 470 hp unit in the rear, and you’ll know that this one has all-wheel drive.
Did you also know that all that torque is available instantly? Like, really, instantly. I thought I understood that concept, until I lined up on a short shoot ready to launch.
“Let’s see here, hmmm… lined up straight, yep. Okay, bit of brake, let’s pre-load some revs….”
“What are you trying to do?” The Tesla test driver in the passenger seat gave a quizzical look.
“Pre-loading the…. Oh. Silly me.”
In other cars, other instructors tell you to squeeze into the throttle, depress it quickly but smoothly all the way to the floor. For maximum excitement in the Tesla the technique is different – raise your foot about a foot back from the pedal, wait till you are ready, and then kick it down HARD. Try to smash that firewall. The Tesla squats and then BOOM. I’m in motion, pinned back in my seat, the wind sucked out of my lungs. I once said the P85 was literally breathtaking, and I meant it. I gasped, in the D I did more than gasp, I gulped, I choked, I gasped, I struggled for air. This is why they call it “insane mode”.
The Tesla isn’t just a one-trick pony either. For a start, it is gorgeous. The simple elegance of the Tesla is beautiful and well executed, the four-door fastback a timeless classic. The interior is sumptuous, especially in white. The massive centre-stack touchscreen is cool but ugly, breaking up the rhythm of the rest of the interior, while the Mercedes-Benz-sourced column shifter is as unwelcome here as it is in Mercs – it’s gross.
The all-digital instrument cluster on the other hand is brilliant, as good as similar offerings from Chrysler or Audi (yes, Chrysler – their in-dash systems are stunning). The seats are well-bolstered for my frame and comfortable for the short time I had in them, though taller drivers might take issue with the headrests as they’re not adjustable.
You might be surprised to learn that the Tesla can turn. Especially given that it weighs 2,240 kg. You might also go back to the top and re-read the 0–100 time. It’s hard to believe that 2,240 kg (4,936 lb) can get to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds – but it can.
The steering is well-weighted but not overly precise, the car is as responsive as any large luxury sedan on the market, and surprisingly agile too. It is composed, settling over bumps and maintaining its track. To say the P85D is fun to drive is a dramatic understatement. If you listen carefully, you can hear my “SQUEEE” of excitement in the video below. When I’m the passenger, you can hear my quiet “aww” as the professional driver whips it around.