Updated on August 17, 2016
The Green Monster From Hell
When Doc Brown got all ‘Fluxed’ trying to get the DeLorean to reach 88 mph, the speed necessary for it to time travel, he should have turned to electric instead of steam! As quiet as Fred Flintstone’s foot power without even a Yabba Daba Doo, we are looking insanity straight in the face. And by insanity we are talking Broadmoor, not your local NHS care unit.
Over the last 100 years, the combustion engine has developed from a fragile steel clad piece of iron age engineering into a reliable almost 60% efficient fossil fuel burning work of art. But as we know, unlike Doc Browns adventures with Marty, time does not stand still and you just can’t go back. So enter Elon with a strong Musk attraction. Even his sperm is sacred! This latter day Alexander Fleming, has harnessed his versions of the enzyme lysozyme into 8000 double A’s and has enough power left over to recharge the Jeffries Tube that would make Scotty change his saying from “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain” to “What the f**k happened then” You see Sci-fi just met reality in one almighty Big Bang.
Insane? That’s what it says on the tin and you have to admit that a 0‐60 time of just over 3 seconds in an electric car is a bit bonkers. Even Shane Lynch muttered “that’s mad” as we catapulted away from a standing start.
We didn’t hit top speed – limited to 155mph – because we were running out of runway and the Tesla Model S P85D doesn’t really go round corners like a supercar shoulda oughta with that acceleration and an £80K price tag, it’s kind of in the supercar bracket but the Tesla’s no Ferrari, Lambo or Aston. Not even close.
And yep, there really is a setting which you can toggle between ‘sport’ and ‘insane’. The latest P90D actually has a ‘ludicrous’ mode but there’s no substance in the rumour that the next version will have an ‘absolutely effing stupid’ level.
She is no looker either – “reminds me of a Vauxhall Vectra”, observed one of the team. A bit harsh, though it makes you re‐think the whole car thing. If the power source is so SpaceX why did they hire the retired Vauxhall design team from Luton from the mid 90’s to fashion the shape. I expect it’s that Time Travel Effect again (blame the Doc).
It’s fully electric, powered not by a single electric motor driving the rear wheels as with the original Model S, but one on each axle to run in four‐wheel drive. Add all these together and you get a monster 682bhp and 687lb ft. Now in any language (even Klingon) that’s power.
Awesome in a straight line, like a dragster should be. Shame it doesn’t go round bends so well (just like a dragster). This is partly because of the weight of almost half a ton of batteries and partly because the Tesie comes from California where a bend in the road is sign posted 10 miles in advance and has marshals standing by it to ensure you are gently guided around it. In fact, if you check out the glove box each Tesie comes with a scopolamine patch in it to help assist against the on-set of sea sickness if you drive as it should be driven on an average British road. This is not unusual for a Yank Muscle car (and this is one) as they have little concept of donkey tracks which we call roads. Much to Shane’s disappointment, you can’t even get into a decent drift or get very far out of shape – the electronics just won’t let you. This car is disappointingly safe and civilised, but with a Hannibal Lecter attitude that could well eat you alive and wash you down with a fine Chianti.
One thing all battery cars have going for them is acceleration, the throttle pedal is basically an on‐off switch ‐ instant torque and the Tesie shouts louder than all its peers. The upside of having well over 1,000lbs of batteries is that you also get up to 240 miles from a full charge, more on occasions, but this comes down quickly when playing on a disused runway with the 0‐60 time and the settings switched from ‘sport’ to ‘insane’ mode and max power dialled into the battery setting. It can be fully charged over a few hours at home, just plug it in and watch the neighbourhood house lights dim, or better still use the free superchargers Tesla has set up at various points around the country – the car will tell you where the nearest one is. Then smirk as you charge up at no cost whilst other Iron Age users spend £80 plus in their Chariots of Fire.
Inside it just seems wrong: Apart from the steering wheel, nothing is remotely familiar. The interior is dominated by a giant 17‐inch touch screen, a Steve Jobs special which you can swipe, prod and poke to scroll through various functions and it includes the biggest satnav screen you will ever see. Virtual Reality meets Actuality. As well as vehicle settings, the display will also allow you to stream music and surf the net. The wifi also automatically downloads vehicle updates – just got to hope it doesn’t crash. Doh!
There is no gear shift (coz there are no gears Dr.Dumbass) hand brake or even ignition switch. Everything just ‘happens’ when you get in the car. The lights come on automatically when it gets dark as do the wipers when it starts to rain. For god’s sake you don’t even have to drive the thing. In fact you pass control to god as you select autopilot and the car stays in lane, reads the speed limit signs and keeps its distance from the vehicle in front. If you actually want to do something like change lanes, just flick the indicator and the car does the rest. So as a driver you are demoted to co-pilot or cabin crew only trusted with serving the coffee. Autonomous driving something for the future? We’re already there. Ask Google, and their cars haven’t left the campus yet, this one is already on the M1.
With all this cleverness something must be missing, and it is – noise. Back to Fred’s feet. Any 3.2 second supercar should make a decent noise surely. Nope, the Tesie just swooshes along like the opening scene of Star Trek (Original series of course). You can’t even rev the motor at the traffic lights – but what you will be able to do is hack off any Beemer, Mercedes, Ferrari, Bugatti, Aston and Audi owners when the lights go from amber to green. And green is the colour those drivers will turn, not because of Tesie’s great looks or dynamic colour range, but because dollar for dollar the electric motor has delivered in 5 years what the combustion engine has taken 120 years. My God what will Messrs Musk & Co do in the next five? Perhaps hire Pininfarina as style council. We do not have that long to wait, the new Tesie 3 at £30,000 is currently in a time capsule coming this way. A car at half the price of a M3 that no doubt will also have an acceleration package not just to match the Beemer but destroy it. So will the handling get sorted for us Brits? We hope so, as then we will all be driving derivatives of Doc Browns and Alexandra’s Fleming’s love child with more than a touch of Musk in the next decade. Genius is never always recognised in its own time and none us will ever think we are at Armageddon.
But I think I just witnessed the comet that killed the dinosaurs.