I admit it: I love electric cars. Just a year or two ago I’d have burnt myself at the stake for even thinking, let alone writing those words.
Back then, I wondered how cars could possibly remain as intoxicating as so many of them are without a bit of suck, squeeze, bang and blow generating such ravishing sounds. No V8 warble or V12 howl, and no flat sixes. Heavens above, I fear change so much that I’m only just accepting that 911s are no longer air cooled.
However, all that changed when I drove the Tesla Model S P85D this year. What a truly fabulous thing. I used it over the May bank holiday weekend, and immediately fell head over heels in love with it. I'd never been more popular, either, and not just with people who love their cars. Even my elderly parents wanted a go although, sadly, it did bad things to them.
I put it in the infamous Insane mode and treated them to a blast of instantly delivered torque – all 713lb ft of it. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell them to brace their heads against the headrests.
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When the P85D leapt off the line, in its uniquely ferocious way, they both whacked their heads so hard my mum ended up with a ringing in her ears, while my dad was genuinely convinced he had whiplash. That didn’t stop them raving about the experience, though, and dragging their friends around, who were queuing up like it was pension day at the Post Office to be similarly brutalised by the magic Tesla.
My mates were no less enthusiastic. One excitedly complained of experiencing funny vision, while another wanted me to keep repeating the launch process so he could video the stupidly excited look on his face. Another just giggled inanely every time the car accelerated. Even my friend Lou was fascinated, and she’s the kind of person who would see a LaFerrari and ask what it was, then say it looked silly in red.
Meanwhile, the P85D has done the business whenever we’ve put it up against some seriously tricky stuff in drag races this year. Check out Matt Prior’s video when he ran it alongside the Caterham 620R as proof of how accelerative it is, against what must be one of the most accelerative road cars in history.
However, for me, its greatness lies beyond its performance. I love the fact that it’s a four-door car with acres of interior space, and that it offers nearly as much luggage capacity as a Mercedes E-Class Estate that has its rear seats laid flat. I also love the slick iPad-style screen that means you can surf the internet while you’re waiting for your better half to empty the contents of Westfield shopping centre.
And I love how it drives: the direct steering and the firm but compliant ride, plus the regenerative braking that means you spend most of the time needing to use only one pedal.
Let’s also remind ourselves that this isn’t the product of some automotive behemoth with the R&D budget of a small country. This is a start-up – albeit one with an extremely savvy CEO at the helm - that’s been building cars only since 2008.
While most manufacturers are still congratulating themselves for creating electric cars that’ll do about 70 miles much less briskly before expiring, the P85D has a credible range. I also admire Elon Musk’s decision to go electric only, believing that it is the only way to make genuine progress with battery technology.
He’s also been building a supercharging network that’s able to fire amps at a rate that would incinerate the batteries of any other electric car, but in a Model S provides an 80% charge in the time it takes to have a cuppa - all for free. It’s the equivalent of Henry Ford launching the Model T, building all the fuel stations, and then giving you the petrol gratis.
Yes, there have been some alleged reliability issues, and not all the technology has performed perfectly. For instance, the autopilot can go a bit doolally in bright sunlight, although in my experience it’s still a far more effective system than the BMW or Mercedes equivalents. It’s not really an autopilot, either. Instead, it's more of a driving assistant, so if you’re not paying attention to the road you’ve only yourself to blame if it takes you on a detour through a hedge.
I think, within reason, we have to cut Tesla some slack. All it needs is some time to consolidate and get things right; although with the new Model X just around the corner, the question is, is the company prepared to cut itself a little slack?
Can I admit to having a bit of a man-crush on Elon Musk, too? His old Twitter avatar portrayed him as James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld stroking a white cat, and it does feel like he’s on the brink of taking over the world.
Think about it: here’s a prolifically successful dot-com billionaire involved in key industries such as transport, energy supply, financial services and what was the other one: oh yes - spaceships.
Still, look at it this way: if Tesla and the Model S P85D are anything to go by, I rather like the idea of Elon Musk World Inc, so if it does turn out his Twitter profile was an example of hiding in plain sight, don’t come and ask me to join the resistance.