With a theoretical driving range of 834 kilometres on a single charge and accelerative performance that only a handful of hypercars can keep up with, the updated all-electric Tesla Model S P100D is a saloon like no other.
In the metal
The Tesla Model S is a distinctive shape, with its body styled to minimise aerodynamic drag. Neat features include the door handles that become flush with the bodywork when locked. The updated front styling that all but removes any semblance of a traditional grille adds to the highly futuristic appearance. There's an extra luggage compartment in the front, where an engine would typically be in a combustion engined car, while the rear hatch is operated electrically.
Inside, it is a remarkably minimalist affair. A fully digital instrument display gives you all you need to see when driving in a clear and easy to read way. What is more impressive is the 17-inch touchscreen that is used to control almost every aspect of the car. All of the climate controls, entertainment, communication and satnav are accessed here. It reacts as quickly as a modern smartphone and is great to use, but when driving is harder to navigate your way around without taking your eyes off the road, until you become more familiar with it. Elsewhere, the cabin features carbon fibre inserts and swathes of dark grey Alcantara along the top of the dashboard. It feels sporty rather than luxurious inside and ultimately the materials used throughout the cabin, while good, don't match what you would expect to find in other similarly priced cars.
Few cars today will leave a pair of cynical motoring journalists hysterically giggling like small children in the way that the P100D does. We are, of course, talking about the Tesla's much-hyped 'Ludicrous' mode. A simple swipe across on the settings page of that huge screen unlocks performance that must simply be experienced to be believed. From a standstill, the car near-silently launches forward without so much as a chirp from the tyres. Beyond the first 30 metres, the accelerative force is phenomenal, to the point that it disrupts your senses and will almost have you feeling nauseous.
But the Model S is no one-trick pony. Once the novelty of those Ludicrous starts wears off you still have one of the best electric vehicles on sale today. While you may not be quite able to achieve the theoretical range of 834 kilometres you do still have a considerably longer driving range than any other EV that is on sale today in Ireland. You will comfortably be able to reach any major destination in the country without the need to stop and recharge along the way, and if you decide to top up there is now the added benefit of a Supercharger station between Cork and Dublin (junction three of the M8 - with more to come).
On motorways, the Model S cruises comfortably, though if you want to have a little less road noise, choosing the smaller alloy wheel option might be a good idea. It's not that the car suffers greatly from road or wind noise, but with no combustion engine to drown out some of the background sounds you do become a bit more aware of noise in the cabin.
When you show the Tesla a more winding ribbon of tarmac the car's handling truly gets to shine. Drivers can choose from three different steering modes, though like many other cars that offer a similar system, you're unlikely to notice enough of a jump between modes to change them frequently. It is on a par with many of the now common electrically assisted power steering setups.
With so much of the car's weight placed low in the car, it demonstrates great levels of grip and stability through corners. This surefootedness is helped further by the P100D's all-wheel-drive transmission, which, even when you're more deliberate with throttle inputs, never seems to break traction.
What you get for your money
One thing the Model S isn't, in P100D guise, is cheap. The starting price of €168,850 makes it considerably more expensive than either a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class that have been generously box ticked with options. Granted, if you're going for this range-topping version there is a lot of standard equipment included as standard that you may have otherwise wanted to add were you ordering a lower power model. But when you do start ticking some Tesla options boxes the cost soon climbs further. Fancy those nice 21-inch 'Grey Turbine' wheels? That'll €5,300, please. That sliver of carbon fibre that acts as a spoiler on the boot lid? Another €1,150, please. Would you like an opening sunroof rather than the now-standard glass panoramic roof? That'll be €2,300 thank you very much. And before long you're now past the €200,000 mark.
These are, of course, merely optional. But, leaving the technology, speed and range aside, the Model S never feels like a €200,000 car inside. Little over half of that amount will comfortably get you into a BMW 7 Series that is so luxurious inside that you will not want to get out of. This is where the chasm dividing American and European cabin qualities is most apparent.
The P100 D truly is the halo car of the Tesla Model S range, and few will need the power that's on offer. But this car is about more than mere necessity. Its performance is just staggering, and with many of the usually optional items included as standard, justifying the purchase of this range-topping version gets easier. Of all the Model S range, this is the car that is the most desirable.