Tesla Motors Model S: Australian Review

The Tesla Model S is the most incredible car that I have ever driven.

I say that because the Model S is such a fascinating vehicle to drive, to sit inside, to be driven around in, to look at, to be a part of the culture of. Buy one and you won't ever pay for petrol again. Buy one and you're buying into the first car to be a rolling beta test, updated monthly with new technology and new software features. Buy one and you'll have arguably the most innovative and important piece of steel and aluminium (and lithium and graphite) on four round pieces of vulcanised rubber in a long time.

In early November, I had the chance to take a Model S, Tesla Motors' $100,000-plus all-electric sports sedan, out for a day of driving around Sydney. My particular poison was a circa-$150,000 Model S Performance P85+. If you're reading this review, you probably know a little about the car already, but I'll get into detail on that further on. On my test drive day, I picked up Giz editor Luke Hopewell from the CBD, we drove up to the city's Northern Beaches to meet another Model S owner, around the North Shore, and down through the city itself, turning heads and impressing punters on the side of the road as we went.

This review, obviously, is based on my one day's experience with the car. It's experiential. It's not comprehensive, it's not expert, and it's not conclusive — even though I have been following Tesla's journey to Australia for quite a while now. I've driven a Model S since, at Tesla's Sydney showroom launch, but that was for a similarly short period of time. I haven't had the chance to experience living with the Model S — charging it on either Supercharger or home-installed wall charger, driving it to and from work every day, taking it out on the open road for a holiday, and so on. I'll leave those experiences for the owners themselves to share.

Read more of our coverage of the Tesla Motors Model S in Australia.

The Company

Tesla Motors (relatively) quietly entered the electric automotive game in 2006, with the first generation of the Roadster released in the US, based on an all-electric modification of the Lotus Elise sportscar platform. A few Roadsters made their way down under, but by and large we didn't see Tesla's first car in the country apart from in the hands of super-enthusiasts like Internode founder Simon Hackett.

Fast forward eight years, and Tesla Motors has launched its large-scale Australian operations with a bang, delivering the first few Signature edition Model S all-electric sedans to customers. More cars are on their way, there are plenty of customers lined up with pre-orders placed, and the car itself is constantly evolving as the weeks and months go on.

Tesla has its fingers in a lot of pies; a quickly expanding Supercharger network in the US and Europe and soon in Australia, a huge investment in an electric battery gigafactory, and ongoing development of a gullwing-door SUV and a smaller, cheaper city car. But the Model S is the sole focus of Tesla's Californian factory attention for now, and in Australia at least, the automotive industry's collective eyes are keenly fixed on how this disruptive newcomer will perform.

The Supercharger Network

Yes, Tesla is building a network of Supercharger fast-charging stations across Australia. That network is still in its extreme infancy, but it is happening. There are five Superchargers at the company's Artarmon showroom and service centre, and four at The Star casino in Pyrmont — in quite close proximity to each other in geographical sense — but more are on the way.

For the uninformed, a Supercharger is an electric charging station, specific to Tesla's Model S, that allows for super-fast charging. That is, half of the Model S' 502km rated electric charge filled in 20 minutes. The entire battery filled from (near) flat in an hour. That's a long way from taking five minutes to fill your dinosaur-burning petrol or diesel's car with fuel, but it's not the eight-hour overnight recharge that other electric cars, even those with smaller batteries, are subject to.

Tesla Motors plans to build out the Supercharger network over the next year, with Superchargers at the moment slated exclusively for the east coast of the country. By mid-2015, you'll be able to travel between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, with 'chargers placed roughly 200 kilometres from each other. The first Supercharger location outside of Sydney is in Goulburn, as far as I'm aware.

By 2016, the network will have expanded — if the company's plans come off without a hitch — to connect Adelaide to Brisbane, and everything in between. Cities in more relatively remote locations like Darwin, Alice Springs, Perth, Broome — don't expect a network per se, but it makes sense that if enough cars are sold to owners in those locations then a Supercharger station would be set up. If you want one outside of the east coast, you gotta talk to Tesla.

The Car

The Tesla Motors Model S is a four-door sedan measuring 4970mm long, 2187mm wide, and 1445mm tall, with a front and rear track of 1662mm and 1700mm respectively and a wheelbase of 2960mm. That is, it's quite a big car. With a driver inside, you'll be tipping the scales at 2200kg, too, so it's not exactly lightweight. I drive a VW Polo GTI day-to-day, and manuevering the Model S around car parks and the city, sometimes it felt like I could fit that GTI inside the Model S.

If I'm honest, I found the Model S' interior — not precisely the choice of materials, but the fit and finish of the interior door skin against the dashboard, the stitching of the driver's seat panels — just OK for a car costing $100,000. It still feels luxe, and you're spoiled with a choice of different colours and materials and dashboard finishes, but it doesn't scream expensive. If you're paying $200,000 for a fully specced P85+ or P85D, you will probably find the interior a little less premium than a comparably priced European luxury sedan from BMW or Mercedes or Audi. There's also a little less noise deadening and a little more road noise than I expected to find.

It is a special interior, though. There's a lot of room whether you're a driver or passenger, sitting in any of the four standard passenger seats. Or in the boot, to which can be added at purchasing time two rear-facing child seats. Or in the front trunk (front boot here in Oz), where there is space for someone to curl up If I had to guess the Model S' luggage capacity, I'd say that you could fit one body in the frunk and four in the boot — the most scientific measurement I can come up with. The floor is entirely flat, a function of the car's complete lack of transmission tunnel, transaxle, differential, and traditional drivetrain in general.

The dashboard, which can be customised in different leather, alcantara, woodgrain, faux-carbon fibre or plastic trim finishes, is angular in the same way that modern art is. The air vents — which spew forth very cold air from the electric air conditioning, which I'll admit initially concerned me having only experienced mediocre electric in-car cooling in the past — are arranged in the traditional fashion, there's a button-operated locking glove box above the front passenger seat, and for the most part the driver's side mimics any other car's. The front seats are vaguely sporty-shaped one-piece buckets, electrically adjustable in most ways as well as heated.

The feature of the Model S that grabs everyone's eye — and doesn't let go — is that 17-inch touchscreen, sitting in portrait orientation in the middle of the dashboard. The gloss-finish, daylight-bright panel is powered by a Ubuntu Linux-based PC hidden away in the bowels of the dashboard, and it's your one-stop shop for navigating through every function of the car's controls. It has live maps and navigation handled by Google Maps, hundreds of Internet radio stations, Rdio music streaming, and so much more.

Everything from media playback to navigation to energy consumption tracking is done on that full-colour touchscreen display. Either the driver or passenger can reach it easily, and the interface feels natural — tap and hold to drag items around the interface, which can be split into two segments — it is by default — or locked to a particular setting. The Model S has a rear-view reversing camera, which runs still while the car is moving (like a scene from C'était un rendez-vous or Climb Dance), and if you sync your phone over Bluetooth your daily calendar and contact list will appear for you to peruse. You can, obviously, call your friends over the car stereo and tell them you're driving a $200,000 smartphone.

Being an electric vehicle, arguably the chief purpose of the touchscreen is to keep you, the driver, updated on your electric vehicle's remaining charge and range. Thankfully, that function works very well — you're able to see the Model S' current and past power consumption statistics, presented in a graph over whichever elapsed distance you select. You can chart where you've mashed the loud pedal — a big spike in instantaneous energy consumption — or coasted or gone downhill, where the power consumption actually returns to a positive level and the Model S is generating its own power. The driver's dashboard is where you'll see remaining rated and expected range, but the main screen gives you the Cliff's Notes too.

Of course, it's worth mentioning that the Tesla Model S is also an Internet-connected vehicle, with its own 3G mobile broadband modem and SIM provided (at no cost to the customer) by a partnership between Tesla and nation-spanning telco provider Telstra. That 'net connection, unless you hook the Model S up to your home Wi-Fi or a mobile broadband hotspot (yes, the car has Wi-Fi, obviously), powers its Internet radio streaming, Google Maps navigation, and downloads over-the-air software updates when and if required.

One special note — In Australia, the cars are delivered sans Web browser, almost certainly as a result of government safety and on-road distraction testing. If there was one car you could hack to install a Web browser on, it'd be the Model S, but don't expect to be looking up Gizmodo on your Model S' touchscreen any time soon.

As a driver's car, you're presented with everything you need — and that's not much on an all-electric gearless appliance on wheels — within easy reach. The P-R-N-D is on the right stalk, indicators and wipers on the left, and cruise control has its own dedicated stem. The driver's dashboard is a full-colour display in the same vein as the 17-inch touch panel, although it is a display only — you'll use the steering wheel controls to change settings and views as you wish. That display gives you a live read-out of your speed and electrical power consumption, whether you're expending it to accelerate, or regenerating it — as the car slows or maintains its speed on a downhill descent and the electric motor is driven by gravity and momentum.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel, with contextual controls on either front face for volume and media control and voice commands for the Model S' speech-to-text-to-action voice recognition system, is quite large and chunky and easy to grip. Because it's large, it sometimes makes the car feel large, like you're operating heavy machinery.

But my god, is the Model S great to drive.

The Driving Experience

Stepping on the accelerator pedal in the Model S is so unlike doing the same in a petrol-powered car. In a fuel-burning internal combustion vehicle, you order power and torque in (increasingly large) increments as the engine's revolutions per minute increase, get your car up to the speed you want, and then coast Using the Model S' accelerator is like turning up the volume knob on a stereo — you set a power output level, you arrive at a certain rate of speed at a certain rate of acceleration determined by said output level, and you continue to maintain that speed. Lift off the accelerator and you don't coast, you lose speed. Press it harder and you'll go faster — that much is at least similar.

And the Model S P85+ is quick. Tesla quotes zero to 100km/h as being achieved in 4.4 seconds, and while I didn't have my stopwatch out, I'd certainly believe those figures. Moreso than the numbers, what is impressive is how ceaseless and urgent the acceleration of the Model S is — it really just doesn't let up, anywhere from a standstill to well above any speed you should be legally driving on this nation's public roadways. There's no gearing, so there's no split-second break in the car's sprint up to speed. There's so much power on offer that if you turn the traction control off, I'm certain that you'd just sit there spinning the rear tyres, but even stepping on the pedal at a traffic light grand prix or coming around a bend you'll feel the tyres chirp and power management applied before you blast off very quickly.

One special addendum, for something I found difficult to get my head around on the test drive day. When you want all-out power, you have to literally step on the pedal to get it instantly; even pressing it quickly to the floor like you would in a fuel-burner you'll be breaking the national speed limit before your sole touches the Model S' interior carpet. That's half a function of the fact that the Model S is electric, and half a function of the fact that said Model S P85+ has 310 kilowatts of electromotive force just waiting to be used.

Braking is similarly odd. To do 90 per cent of the braking in the Model S, you simply let off the accelerator to reduce your speed. Engine braking — in that electric motor sense, at least — slows the car down. Of course, you still have piston-applied aramid-composed brake pads, calipers and discs should you need them. To be honest, apart from a few overly enthusiastic tests of the Model S' capabilities (practiced on a closed private test track, obviously), you very rarely need to actually apply the brakes, and even then you basically never need to apply them with any substantial force.

The steering weight can be adjusted on the Model S — obviously, it's an electrically assisted system as is everything else on the car — in three increments from Comfort to Sport. Sport is pleasantly weighted, and is responsive and accurate enough to throw the car around surprisingly effectively if you so choose to. Coming from a smaller more nimble car I found the Model S the most fun to drive in Sport, but if you're just travelling between work and home or the shops, then you'll probably want one of the two more relaxed setings.

There's no getting past the fact that the Model S weighs twice what my car does, but it hides that weight so well. This 2100-plus kilogram sports saloon has the vast majority of its weight planted squarely between its four wheels — on the skateboard chassis, the motor is mounted between the rears (and up front too on the dual-motor P85D), all the ancillaries are between the fronts, the battery sits low on the flat floor and everything above is the passenger safety cell and exterior panels. Because of that incredibly low centre of gravity, you can throw the car around quite a bit before you feel body roll, which itself is compensated for somewhat if you happen to have a car specced with air suspension.

The ride quality of the Model S is a mixed bag. The particular car I test drove was the sporty P85+, rolling on 21-inch rims and with the optional adjustable air suspension. Over especially bumpy roads — the track up to North Head in Sydney, where I snapped some photos, has potholes and speed bumps aplenty, as does glorious Parramatta Road — you do feel the car shift around quite firmly, in that it's-a-luxury-sports-car way, but you're never bounced around in your seat uncomfortably. Owners have suggested the 19s are better for ride comfort (and overall range, with a five per cent boost in maximum distance alleged), but your mileage may vary.

People generally wonder whether an electric car is silent, and the answer for the Model S is mostly. Apart from the road noise that I mentioned before — the stiff low-profile tyres on the 21-inch rims play a big part in that — the main noise you hear is a very faint whine from the Model S' rear electric motor and power-generating circuitry. Stamp on the accelerator and that whine becomes an urgent electrical whirr as the motor spins into overdrive. Mostly, though, you just hear the same whoosh of air rushing past, that you feel in your body, as the car moves more and more rapidly.

One thing that can't be encapsulated by talking steering weight and acceleration factors and braking is just how weird and wonderful the Tesla Model S is to drive. The electric-ness of the whole thing makes you feel like you're piloting a spaceship, moving levers and dials and feeding in power to navigate around your surroundings. Maybe the novelty wears off — it probably does — but for a day-long drive, as an avid driver of normal cars, it feels really special.

The Bottom Line

Can I buy one? No. (I can't afford one.) Can you buy one? I don't know. Should you buy one? Yes.

The Model S is a very special vehicle, and it feels like a very important vehicle at the same time. It's all-electric — no emissions, no guilt, no filling up at the petrol bowser every week and being a slave to ever-rising oil prices. It's fun, if initially odd, to drive. It's also a luxury car, which is always nice.

It's an expensive car, too, and an expensive beta test at that. You're not getting a finished product, you're getting a work in progress, and for some people that's not at all acceptable. For the Model S' prospective customers, though — the early adopters, technologically savvy, interested in the future and invested in the company's philosophy — it's perfect.


Comments

    Can I buy one? No. (I can’t afford one.) Can you buy one? I don’t know. Should you buy one? Yes.

    wish more reviews ended with a summary as succinct as this.

    Great review Campbell! The Model S is truly a special car.

    Glad to hear the points about the interior. Was REALLY disappointed when I went to the dealership on the weekend with the fit and finish, body panel gaps and the style of the interior. What is up with that bin in the centre? The leather was of poor quality and the seats don't look good at all.

    The clincher was the top of the dash which wasn't bolted down in any of the examples I sat in. Grab it and see for yourself....it wiggles up and down by about a centimetre.

    I was so sold on the electric technology but the interior and quality is just nowhere near the Germans. It was enough to turn me off unfortunately.

    Also the temp sales assistant..."I've heard they are fantastic to drive". "Heard?" I said. "Yes, they don't trust us to test drive it". ?????

      i have model s - and the interior fitting is average-not its high point-the paint is soft , very soft - water do collect around the charger cap of the car- abit freaky make sure you a have good circuit breaker-but its has so many good points that its all worth driving- wait till model x come in- might get this one if it can tow a small trailer

    wouldn't the usage of electricity produce emission? ... so emission is there but no directly from the car.

    Also have you compare the cost of running it, from fully empty to fully charge, how much it is compare to petrol car?

      It costs about $12-$20 depending on your local cost of electricity

      But the home charging infrastructure costs as well, so this has to be factored in. If you don't have 3-phase available in your home, then there will be extra costs to the local utility to get this capability.

        No it charges well on 2 phase. I asked to confirm on my drive.

        Next gen (I spoke to the developer) batteries could be a killer - 1,000kms on a 'tank' 15 mins full charge, 20y life.

        Important, brilliant, dynamic, amzingly quick & game changer - I'll wait for the 2nd gen tho

          Wow, I'd get down on "1,000kms on a 'tank' 15 mins full charge, 20y life". Pefromance in these things (distance on a charge, charging time and battery longevity) are usually the big downside after you factor in the efficiency advantages of an electric motor over a good old four-stroke internal combustion engine.

      The general rule of thumb is that it costs around one-fifth as much to run a car on electricity as it does on petrol. And for the moment, at least, there aren't enough EVs around that electricity generators need to increase output so plugging your car in doesn't add so much as a single gram of CO2 to the atmosphere because the electricity is being generated anyway.

        By that argument, nothing that uses electricity produces carbon emissions. "The base load is already there, so using more doesn't generate any additional carbon emissions." Your usage pushes up the baseline that must be generated to avoid a brownout. Unless electricity is being generated primarily from renewable sources, an electric car will indirectly produce carbon emissions by increasing total power draw. Actually manufacturing the car also generates quite a bit of carbon.

        It may produce considerably less than a petrol powered car, especially since braking recovers energy, but to claim zero emissions is specious.

      Most, if not all, Australian electricity retailers offer 100% greenpower. Bam, zero emissions.

        That comes from coal. You money goes to green infrastructure. Your still using mostly coal generated power.

          Your money goes to renewable energy certificates. Obviously they can't differentiate the electricity that comes in to your house, but the marginal electricity generation to match your use is 100% renewable. That is, if you're on 100% greenpower, then the difference between you using power and you not using power is 0kg of carbon.

      You would also have to factor in the $100,000 price tag. This machine isn't cost efficient for a consumer, its really more marketed towards rich people as a status symbol

        not $100 000 -its more like $150 000 optioned out- / but for full aluminium car with the highest safety rating and no petrol - its worth upgrading the prius

      off peak charge- costing me 20cent for 1killowatt with covers 5km taking it very easy like a prius.
      if you want to leave others behind then100km on the computer you can do it 54km in real distance. but this is with drag racing acceleration

    Nice car, but sadly Australia does not produce enough clean energy to be able to say that this car does not produce any emissions...

      Then vote with your dollars. It's not hard to buy from renewable sources.

      Actually, even if an electric car gets its power from a coal fired power plant, it will still produce less emissions than an internal combustion engine. Engines today are at best 40% efficient at utilising the potential energy inside the petroleum/diesel and turning it into drive power (the rest is lost as heat, sound etc). Coal fired power plants achieve much higher efficiency in getting energy from the fuel, so you end up with a higher amount of energy achieved per unit of fuel consumed. Multiply that by the few million vehicles we have and you get significantly lower emissions. But yes, ultimately the best solution is to also use clean, renewable energy in the long term.

        One does not follow from the other in this case. Emissions from motor vehicles has been reduced by 87% in the last 20 years. That means burning a litre of fuel in a new car in 1994 produced 5 times more pollutants than a new car does today. How much less pollution are coal fired power stations pumping into the atmosphere today, compared to 20 years ago?

          Coal fire are in the range of 90% efficient. Petrol is still under 20%.

      If you have a spare $100k + to drop on a car you probably have the cash to install some solar panels too.

    Hydrogen is the future. Not this.

      Hydrogen is in no way the future of transport. Hydrogen is very unstable and is in a high energy state when it exists by itself. As a result, following the laws of entropy, it almost always combines with other elements so that it exists in a more stable state (i.e with oxygen to create water). Therefore, to use hydrogen in a fuel cell (as you refer to), one must separate the element from water (there are other ways, but this is the easiest) in a process called electrolysis which ends up requiring a significant amount of electricity. Unfortunately, the amount of energy the hydrogen produces when combined in a fuel cell is always less than it took to separate it in the first place. This means you come out with a net loss in power production. It makes no sense. Plus, add in the difficulty of storing and transporting such an extremely volatile substance and you end up with a huge waste of time and money.

      No, Hydrogen simply shifts the emissions from the car to the hydrogen extraction process. It requires as much energy to create the hydrogen as is released when it is burned which makes it useless.

      Hydrogen is ultimately just another way of storing energy. You can catalyse it into water and so generate electricity, or you can burn it to drive pistons (which is generally less efficient, and also generates water vapour, which is a greenhouse gas.)

      The energy itself needs to come from somewhere. A hydrogen car, of whatever sort, is probably having that hydrogen generated from electricity (which in turn comes from other sources). Whether storing the energy as hydrogen in some form of hydrogen cell, or using some more traditional battery technology, doesn't ultimately make a huge difference.

    "It’s all-electric — no emissions, no guilt, no filling up at the petrol bowser every week and being a slave to ever-rising oil prices."

    No emissions depends on how the electricity used to charge the car is produced! there are still plenty of coal power stations around the word.

    Oil prices is falling!!! Tesla share are crashing to due the falling fuel prices.

      Yes, there are plenty of cola-fired power stations but, right now, there are not so many EVs that those power stations have to increase their output to supply them. So the electricity you use to charge your EV is electricity that is being generated anyway. Therefore, not one extra gram of carbon is being produced to charge these cars, making them absolutely zero emission vehicles in real terms.

        That isn't how electricity works. Supply has to *exactly* match demand or the whole grid goes haywire.

      Buy Buy Buy!!!!

    Single phase is ok, but slow. The U.S. change on a 110 volt.

    You forgot to add "Buy one and you’re obvously a spoiled, rich asshole who deserves to be smashed in the face with a freight train." Succinct enough?

      Woah, bit jealous there? Or do you just think everyone should drive a Honda Jazz?

      What a hateful thing to say.

      Have you actually met any Model S owners? I have. I was at the launch event. Some I've come across are upgrading from a Ford Falcon, Peugeot 308 and Toyota Prius. They seemed like pretty decent people to me. Of course some are going to be spoilt, rich and maybe egotistical, but I'm guessing the percentage of Model S owners who fit into all of those categories is markedly less than those who buy premium vehicles from other brands.

      There's something about Tesla that inspires even those who aren't your traditional car enthusiast to purchase their cars. I suggest it might be wise to hold judgement and speak from actual experience before making sweeping, unfounded comments like that.

        It may be a wonderful, technologically advanced car, but no matter how you describe it and its attributes, it's still a rich person's car that only the elite will be able to afford, run, register, etc. And those elite will only be able to live near wherever the chargers are located. And I'm going to go out a limb here and suggest those will only be in large cities. Again, where the aforementioned rich live and, possibly work. Most likely just "socialise and go to parties".

        It's not a car for the masses, it's ridiculously priced for your average person. There's no way Mr Average Joe, mechanic, garbage truck driver or hairdresser is going to be able to afford one. Hell, even a Prius is expensive new! Now they're getting on a bit and much more attractively priced as a used car, the batteries in them are getting on and not so efficient. So you won't get as much range.
        But at least it's efficient! Just don't go pricing new batteries any time soon.

        I for one am all for greener, low-cost alternatives to our carbon-producing gas-guzzling monsters we currently drive, but I'm not going to get excited by a rich boy toy that I probably won't see in a regional area like where I live, unless it's gone too far from the coast and its batteries have gone flat. Oh dear, better call for my personal helicopter to fly me back to the penthouse...

          Your hate stems from envy: you don't have an expensive car (and resent everyone who has any wealth) so no one should. The fact is, Mercedes and BMW are similarly priced and that is where this car is competing. The interior isn't made to compare with a Toyota or a Nissan, so trying to say it's a car for the masses is ridiculous.

          The Model S may be a "rich persons car" (although I don't think $100000 is overly expensive for what it is) but the important thing is that it has proved that fully electric cars are feasible and desirable (maybe not to you but to a lot of people). Remember that all the things you take for granted in a $20000 car now were once only available on "rich peoples cars" - ABS brakes, air bags, cd player, etc all were initially only on the most expensive cars. Even the car itself - I am sure that there were people who thought that the car would only ever be a rich persons toy as they could never go from where you could get petrol and that the "Average Joe" would always prefer a horse and cart.

          The Model S has proved that it can be done and that people will buy it, as battery technology improves the price will fall and the technology will filter down to cheaper cars like it always does. As more electric cars come onto the market then charging stations will expand to regional areas (but remember your own garage is a charging station so you don't need to have a commercial one close by anyway). Undoubtedly the fully electric car is not suited to everyone but I am sure that within a decade there will be fully electric cars available at a price that even an "average Joe" can afford.

          Way I see it it's a beta, in about ten years there will be mainstream EVs, eventually you will need a permit to drive a petrol or diesel car and people will be nostalgic for that engine roar.
          Remember when air conditioning and ABS brakes were premium priced options on expensive cars and soon became mainstream. Once they start racing EVs at Mount Panorama, car makers will be developing cheaper versions.

          Last edited 21/12/14 8:21 pm

          As others have pointed out, the Model S itself is not intended to compete with a Toyota Camry. It competes with premium sedans from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. However, there are many who own vehicles similar to the Camry that are purchasing the Model S, despite its higher purchase cost. Some of those people aren't classed as "rich", but are excellent money managers who have worked hard to get themselves into a position where they can afford to purchase one. That Ford Falcon I mentioned was over 10 years old. The Prius, 6 years old. Not sure about the age of the Peugeot, but they're pretty cheap brand new. The running costs of the Model S are significantly less than equivalent petrol powered cars.

          It might be worth your while doing a bit more research into the company and its mission. Back in 2006, Elon Musk wrote a blog post called "The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me)" in which he outlined the mission of the company. The TL;DR version is that they built an electric sports car (the Roadster) to prove the technology and then use those funds to build a less expensive car (the Model S/X) and then use those funds to build an even less expensive car (the Model 3) and so on. The Model 3 will start at US$35k and is expected to go into production by the end of 2017.

          They are building a battery factory (called the Gigafactory) that will produce more Lithium Ion batteries than the entire world production of Lithium Ion last year(!). They are using the revenue from the Model S (and soon Model X) to do this. This battery factory is necessary to have the scale to reduce the cost of battery production, which is currently the main reason why electric vehicles are expensive. The Model 3 will not be able to be produced in 2017 at the projected US$35k price point without this factory. The mission of the company is to bring EVs to the masses, but you cannot do that without iterating the technology and having the scale to do so.

          So, they are starting from the top down so that they can get the funds to scale and lower costs. This is what tends to happen with new technology. Think flat panel TVs, mobile phones, etc, which started out as very expensive technology. Now you can pick a 32" LED TV for a few hundred bucks and a mobile for less than $100 outright. These things used to cost thousands of dollars.

          As for the supercharger network, if you check out their rollout map for Australia, most of the superchargers will be in regional towns along major highways. Their main purpose is to facilitate long distance travel. By the end of 2016, Model S owners will be able to drive from Melbourne to north of the Sunshine Coast using superchargers. It will expand further after that.

          FYI, Lithium Ion batteries don't get less efficient over time, they just eventually start to lose storage capacity. However, with the size of the battery, chemistry and the advanced battery management system they have used, conservative estimates for the Model S battery are that it will last 400,000-500,000km before it drops to 80% of original capacity (I'm guessing that's why they're comfortable having an 8 year, unlimited km warranty on the 85kWh battery). Even then, it can either be recycled or re-purposed for use as stationary energy storage (e.g. for a solar PV system). It will still have a lot of value at the end of its life as a car battery.

          Also, the car is awesome! :)

          When the first car came out do you think it was for the masses? This is a big step in auto technology that when you think about it, is actually pretty good value for what it is...

          In time this sort of thing will become cheaper to produce and will make it into vehicles aimed at someone with a more modest budget.

          Its a bit juvenile to have a tanty over the new thing being out of reach for you and most people.

          if you do a lot of driving like 10000- 15 000 km year / you will get your savings back quiet quickly - but with your envy tone you should do more research before commenting

      Tall poppy syndrome. Quite sad.

      See that phone in your pocket? They were originally only used by people with a high disposable income. The fact that they purchased them in large quantities is what helped get the price down.

      Now, if you want the Tesla to be affordable one day, you should be singing its praises and hoping more rich people buy them. Then the sales will hit a critical mass and the prices will come down down dow. Consumerism at its best.

    I can and I did: buy one. A P85D, all up, to be delivered in June (can't wait)

    Tesla has introduced in seats, new interior, new "engines", new software functions, air suspension, etc....but no car to see for a few more months. Everyone knows that they introduced a new model right in the middle of the Aussie launch, so the cars out for tests were the "old model" P85+

    Ownership costs are really unknown. The fuel cost (at least on longer trips) will be free (free supercharging with most models). The cost of installation of the charging station at home will be a few $K, except under exceptional situations. We are doing three phase and the bill for 40 amps, off peak, is $3K

    Service and up keep should be minimal.

    With the drop in the AUD currency, the USD price IN AUSTRALIA, is almost at parity to the price in California. This can't be said of ANY high-end German car, which is 2-3TIMES more expensive in Oz compared to the native country.

    So expensive, Yes. A real deal, ALSO YES

    "There’s a lot of room whether you’re a driver or passenger, sitting in any of the four standard passenger seats. Or in the boot, to which can be added at purchasing time two rear-facing child seats."

    Two rear-facing child seats in the boot? Um...

      Yes, have a look at their website. There's harnesses for that option.

        So it is a hatch, not a sedan. But I am struggling to understand the logic, motivation and sanity of putting child restraints in THE BOOT of a car.

        Possibly the most ridiculous car "feature" I've ever heard. How can it even be legal?

        I am not a car safety/crash analyst, but I certainly would not feel comfortable with a huge sheet of glass right in front of children's heads in a car.

          As opposed to the huge sheet of glass right in front of your head whenever you drive, or sit in the front seat of any car?

          Not commenting on the actual safety of seats in the boot, but that seems a rather poor point to get hung up on.

          It is not a ChildSeat in the boot - it is a third seat row that faces rearwards (like you see from time to time in older Falcon/Commodore station wagons). AFAIK this is NOT available in Australia anyway but an option on the USA models - probably didn't comply with our design rules. As far as safety goes it would probably be MUCH safer than the third seat row in many people movers which are pretty close to the back of the car (with nowhere near the body strength that the Tesla has). Also rear facing seats are MUCH safer in a frontal collision as the forces on your body are distributed over the whole seat rather than just the seat belt but it is all irrelevant anyway as you cannot get it here (if you need the extra row you will need to wait for the model X).

    My understanding was that the rear facing seats were not available in Australia?

    I don't see what all the fuss is about here. The Model S is still not practical for a lot of people. e.g. I visit friends in Orange and Canberra for the day, once or twice a year, and even the top-of-the-range model wouldn't make it there and back. And the supercharger network will only ever cover the main highways, removing your choice of routes. Even with the superchargers, you'll be stopping all the time to recharge, adding several hours to a Sydney-Melbourne trip. To me, cars like the Holden Volt make far more sense at this point and that car is half the price of this one.

    I also cannot imagine enjoying the drive without gears or an intoxicating soundtrack to accompany the acceleration. It simply cannot be as involving. If I was going to drop $150,000+ on a sports saloon, I don't think this car would make my list at all.

      I've found that you seem to find any opportunity to say something negative about the Model S in every related story on Gizmodo. Sure, at the moment the Model S doesn't fit your needs once or twice a year. Nobody is compelling you to buy one even though it would work for you for the other 99.5% of the year.

      For me, it would suit me very nicely. If I'm driving long distance it is either to Brisbane or Melbourne or somewhere in between. With the supercharger network, I'd be able to do it for free. It also wouldn't take much more, if any, additional time than what it takes me now. We stop every couple of hours for 20-30 minutes to stretch the legs and have a toilet stop (I have kids), which is the perfect cadence for supercharging.

      I agree that plugin vehicles like the Volt are a good bridging technology for those who would want to venture further than the reach of the supercharger network on a regular basis. Although, IMO, the Outlander PHEV is a much better buy than the Volt.

      By the way, there are many who are now Model S owners who are car enthusiasts who also couldn't "imagine enjoying the drive without gears or an intoxicating soundtrack to accompany the acceleration"...... until they drove it. Have you driven one?

        It will only work for you if you take the route that has the supercharger network. OTOH, I could choose whichever route I like. e.g. I'm driving to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test via Canberra and the Snowy Mountains because it will be a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable than the Hume. Last time I drove to Melbourne I returned up the coast, again because it was more interesting and enjoyable. In a Tesla, I imagine the Hume would be your only choice, unless you had a few days to spare, making the Model S even more boring.

        As for "free", it's a relative term. With oil prices at almost half what they were in June, I expect to get to Melbourne and back for around $200. Even with the supercharger network in place, you'll probably spend a couple of hours recharging during each trip. So if your time is worth less than $50 an hour, you'll be saving a bit of money but, when I'm on holidays, my times is priceless so from where I stand you'll be spending a far more valuable commodity than I will.

        And no, I haven't driven one but I recently hired a Porsche Cayman for the day and found that the PDK transmission completely ruined the experience, despite it having a nice, loud engine sound. I enjoyed taking my manual Astra over the same roads more. If all I wanted was to go fast, I'd own a bike and spend more time go-karting but speed is only a small part of the overall experience.

          If you can afford a Tesla and your time is so valuable why would you be driving to Melbourne anyway? If I am going that far I would much rather go by plane anyway.

          I don't get why people feel the need to post comments saying the car is no good for them - do you go to a story about a Porsche 911 and post a negative comment saying the car is rubbish because it doesn't carry 5 people??

          As with all cars there are positives and negatives and you just need to find the car that suits your needs best. Personally, except for the fact I can't afford it yet, the Tesla would suit my perfectly. I have not driven more than 400km in a day in the last 8 years and if I did for some reason then why not hire a car for that one trip. I need to take rubbish to the tip once or twice a year but it would be stupid to buy a ute just to cover that - I have a car that suits 99% of my needs and hire a ute (or a minibus, etc) when I need it.

            You speak as if the drive isn't the best part of the holiday when, clearly, it is. OTOH, I don't recall ever enjoying a trip to the airport or the flight that follows. Then there is the dilemma of how to get around at the other end. Last time I flew, the only manual car I could find to rent was a Suzuki Swift. It's a fun little car but hardly a match for my own, which makes the decision to drive doubly obvious.

            And good luck getting 400km out of a Model S. When the Motor Report tested it, they got less than 300km. And as we all know, Li-Ion batteries lose efficiency over time, so you can expect that 300km to be further reduced by the time your lease expires.

              Clearly you have a different idea of a good holiday to me - with 3 kids in the back seat anything over a 2 hour trip is pretty much my idea of hell! A 1.5 hour plane trip is much more appealing to me than 10+ hours in a car.

              Would that Motor Report review be the one that concludes with this statement:

              "It does a great many things, and it does them so well that it will redefine your expectations of what a car should be. As for me, I reckon it’s the best car I’ve driven. Ever."

              Yes they got under 300km but they mentioned in the article that it included a drive up a steep mountain and at least 40% of the drive was flat out and that had they driven it in a civilised manner they have no doubt they would have got an extra 150km out of it. If you look at the forums online you will find that real world owners can get 250 miles (400km) from the 85kWh version.

              The longest trip I do with any regularity is around 180km each way so 360km return but that is 95% highway driving so the Tesla would have no trouble with that at all (assuming road legal speeds) - by 2016 there should be a couple of superchargers along that route anyway if I did need a top up. As I said earlier - for me it would be perfect but I need to get my house completely paid off before I would consider spending that much on a car!

              As I said I respect that the car is not suited to everyone but when reviewers who have driven just about everything on 4 wheels say that it is the BEST car they have ever driven then maybe, just maybe, they know something you don't.

              Last edited 23/12/14 6:02 pm

      Wait so the 500km range on the Model S (+ 20 min/250km) is totally and laughably inadequate, but the 600km range of the Volt (+ 10hr/charge) is just right?

    Totally against big displays in front. Driver should have no more than what is required directly in front of them. Speedo, fuel, temp gauges, warning lights. Anything else is an unnecessary distraction. Controls should be tactile knobs that can be used by feel without needing to take eyes off the road. Should be able to find and use controls at night in a dark interior without added illumination.

      I agree 100%. I think touchscreens should be banned from vehicles, they are too big a distraction.

    To get an idea of efficiency of the Model S and electric cars in general. The 85+ carries the energy equivalent of 9.5 litres of regular petrol. And it quotes around 500kms range....amazing.

    I can't afford one.....dammit. But this is like the first plasma TV's in the country.

    Expensive......but the price will go down. Range will go up. That's a given

    Petrol bowsers use electricity to run also....!

    Well, I'm not going to complain about any car that I'm going to receive if it comes in the form of a lottery win! Why not put the car up for auction to get sales moving?

    I'm sorry but the first paragraph is so overblown with hyperbole, I couldn't read any further. The Model S is a technological "meh" next to BMW's new i3. The i3 isn't just doing the electric motor thing, it is pushing all manner of boundaries in material science and mass production. Before these cars we had the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Nissan Leaf, both reasonably practical and far more affordable pure EVs.

    For me, the best thing about the Model S is its styling. It is a gorgeous car, ruined by it's drivetrain and the hysteria surrounding it.

    Of course the price will go down, even running costs, because the current government likes the idea of renewable ener... ohhhhh yeah they don't >_

    "No emissions "

    Yes, electricity comes from unicorns !

    Why are you so anti-science ?

    I dislike the tesla only charging stations. Why not a generic setup? I dont go to a Ford only petrol station. I know tesla is out laying the money but it monopolizes the market. Other electric car makers will need their own charging stations.
    Welcome to the apple car.

    Last edited 11/02/15 6:23 pm

      trust me charging at home is better / do not have the time to hang around charging station - also fast charge can degrade the battery

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