Aug. 17, 2015
This is the first in a series of alternative vehicle reviews.
By Rita Cook
To many EV junkies, the 2015 Tesla S is the epitome of a desirable electric car. It offers super luxury and power, climbing from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, all with an impressive battery range. Currently, Tesla sells the only electric car that can go for more than 200 miles without a charge. The high-end 2015 Tesla S trim has a range of up to 275 miles.
Ultimately, without the gasoline/engine parts required in most cars these days, the Tesla has an electric powertrain with just one moving part: the rotor, which propels the vehicle into an EV market always searching for the next big thing.
However, all that luxury and power comes with a steep price tag – the 2015 Tesla S starts at $75,000.
Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk recently announced that thecompany will offer $1,000 to Model S owners and buyers who take advantage of word-of-mouth referrals of the electric car through Oct. 31. Explaining in a conference call with reporters, Musk said this move was basically a “guerilla tactic against car dealers in certain states" because Tesla is not allowed to sell its electric cars directly to customers in certain states, including Texas, due to a dealer-backed law on the books that prohibits manufacturers from direct sales.
The car company does not own stores or have franchised dealers. According to Musk, due to these restrictions, this is costing Tesla about $2,000 more to sell a Tesla Model S than other EV companies face.
"If we can amplify word of mouth, then we don't need to open as many new stores in the future," he said in a letter to Tesla owners announcing the referral plan.
Despite this hurdle, Texas is one of Tesla’s top three or four markets, with at least 2,000 owners, most of them in Dallas, Houston and Austin.
GOING THE DISTANCE
The 2015 Tesla S can hold up to seven passengers, granted several need to be small adults or children. However, size has not proven to be the main reason folks choose an EV. Instead it all comes down to the range of the battery and how long it takes to charge said battery. Fortunately Tesla shines in both categories. As a rule, most electronic vehicles can get up to 100 miles (forget the long road trips without a backup plan), however, the Tesla exceeds that number with even the least expensive S trim option offering more than 200 miles before needing a recharge.
Then take into consideration that Tesla has introduced a supercharger charging station infrastructure around the country on major highways, meaning that these supercharging stations recharge fast, to the tune of about half the charge time or as little as 20 minutes. In order to tap into the supercharger stations, Tesla owners pay a fee to access the supercharger network and then the charge itself is free. The supercharger Tesla feature comes as part of a technology add-on package and there is also an "autopilot" function on this same package that includes hands-free driving, which includes lane changes, steering and hands-free parallel parking.
As for the battery charging, there are lots options depending on how much time you have. You can recharge by a standard 110- or 240-volt household outlet and the number of public charging stations around the city can be accessed for a charge, using a Universal Mobile Connector and adapter.
The 110-volt will give you about three miles per hour or the 240-volt with a 50-amp circuit will give you a recharge of about 30 miles of charge per hour. If you use the optional wall connector, this decreases the recharge time to about 60 miles of range per hour so a full recharge on the base S would be roughly three and a half hours.
Overall, the 2015 Tesla S has four trim levels – Model S, 60, 85, 85D and P85D. The number in the trim is simply how you know the kilowatt-hour (kWh) capacity and the "D" indicates if it is a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model. All the standard luxury features can be found inside the interior of this vehicle as well as a classy body style on the outside.
Under the hood in the 60 and 85 trim or dual motors in the 85D and P85D, the 2015 Tesla Model S functions with the use of a water-cooled electric motor. The 60 trim is 380 horsepower using an EPA estimate of 35 kWh energy consumption per 100 miles while the Model S 85 comes with a choice of two motors. However, on the single it is at an impressive 380 horsepower using rear-wheel-drive with an energy consumption of 38 kWh per 100 miles. On the 85D there is a front motor with a horsepower that will only get you 376 with an energy consumption rate of 34 kWh per 100 miles, but the top-of-the-line P85D has 691 horsepower with 221 of that horsepower from the front wheels and 470 horsepower in the back.
Inside the Tesla, expect perfection with a touchscreen tablet – forget about the days of dials and knobs since on the Tesla it is a 17-inch screen that controls everything by touch. There is also plenty of leg room in the front and back seat, headroom is a little more limited in the back and there are also the optional rear-facing jump seats to increase the passenger space in order to haul children. The cargo space is 26.3 with the third-row folded and if you fold the middle row it has 58 cubic feet of space.
Behind the wheel of the 2015 Tesla Model S, it drives like a luxury sedan. And while many electric cars feel exactly like an “electric car,” the Tesla reigns supreme in this area from excellent acceleration to a soft, quiet ride. On the highway, the cabin is a little less quiet with some wind noise, but no more than the other competitively sized vehicles.
Don't overlook the many tax credits and fuel savings to be had with the 2015 Tesla Model S. Even with the hefty price tag, this option could easily fit this car into a price range compatible with any fuel-powered luxury sedan.
HOW TO TEST DRIVE A TESLA
In order to test drive the cars, you have to schedule the test drive with the headquarters by going online to TeslaMotors.com. There is a gallery at NorthPark — Tesla’s third in Texas, joining facilities in Houston and Austin. They schedule the time and let the Northpark people know when you are coming in to test drive.
HOW TO ORDER A TESLA
To order one, you do it online and wire the money to the main office in California. They build the car and ship it to the Tesla service center in Farmer’s Branch where you pick it up for delivery with temporary California registration tags that you replace.
For more info, see the Tesla website.
Rita Cook is an Arlington-based award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at [email protected].