Car And Driver just named the entry-level 70kWh Tesla Model S 70D as one of its 10 best cars of 2015, and one of the factors in that decision was the fact that, almost uniquely in the automotive industry, the Model S evolves for owners. Cars get software updates over their (free) 4G mobile data connections or over Wi-Fi, and new features like autopilot have been released alongside fixes for customer complaints.
Gizmodo's Luke Hopewell tried out the most important software update that Model S has received -- autopilot -- and came away with mixed feelings, but even autopilot itself has massively improved since launch as customer data and owner input is continuously used to refine how the system works. This is what you can do when you have constantly-connected, entirely-computer-controlled vehicles; it's a glimpse of the future.
The cars themselves are backed up by a quickly-expanding network of fast charging stations, and every owner can install a charger at home -- even in apartment blocks. Tesla has just completed the final parts of its Sydney to Melbourne Supercharger chain, letting drivers travel for free between Australia's two most populous cities, stopping in Goulburn, Gundagai, Wodonga and/or Euroa to recharge.
The entire article is worth a read, even if just for the well-regarded car mag's preferred spec of Model S -- a $US85,700 all-wheel-drive 70D with autopilot, air suspension, Tesla's improved next-generation seats, the sub-zero weather package, and Midnight Silver metallic paint. Here's Car And Driver's quick guide to how the Model S has improved since launch:
June 2012: First Model S deliveries.
October 9, 2012: The Model S now creeps forward when the driver lifts off the brake. A mobile app allows owners to remotely monitor charging, vent windows, lock and unlock doors, and precool or preheat the cabin.
November 30, 2012: Tesla adds voice commands. The door handles now automatically extend as the driver approaches the vehicle with the key fob. A new “range” driving mode reduces the amount of energy consumed by the climate control.
June 18, 2013: The navigation system now displays Supercharger locations and previously visited chargers. When directed to preheat or precool the cabin, the car will use energy from the charger rather than the battery.
March 24, 2014: Tesla adds hill-start assist.
September 11, 2014: The air-suspension system now remembers locations where the driver previously raised the car and increases the ride height automatically on approach. Owners can use voice commands to report bugs to Tesla, sending a snapshot of their car’s status and screens to the home office. Navigation directions now take traffic into consideration, and a new in-car calendar syncs with a phone to display upcoming appointments.
December 7, 2014: Holding the trunk button on the key fob opens the charge port.
January 8, 2015: Adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, and forward-collision warning activated on cars fitted with Tesla’s Autopilot hardware.
March 28, 2015: Blind-spot warning and automatic emergency braking enabled on Autopilot-equipped cars. A valet mode limits the car to 107 horses and 70 mph when active. A new route planner suggests charging stops on long trips and warns when the car is out of range of chargers.
April 10, 2015: Top speed of 85D models rises to 155 mph while the zero-to-60 drops from 5.2 seconds to 4.4.
October 14, 2015: Tesla activates additional Autopilot features, including a self-steering function and automated parallel parking. Tesla redesigns the interfaces for the gauge cluster and touch screen and adds a brake-hold system.
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