Words by Carl S. Cunanan Photos by Ardie O. Lopez
As you will see elsewhere in this issue, a funny thing happened at the International Engine of the Year Awards. The Newbie won. The Tesla Model S won the Green Engine of the Year Award. This is the first time ever a full-electric motor won anything. The much acclaimed Nissan Leaf couldn’t do it before. The much acclaimed BMW i didn’t make it this year either. The little company (with admittedly huge amounts of money and passion behind it) did something the big boys with their heritage and reach and massive bases couldn’t.
We at the C! Group have loved our electrics. We fell hard the first time we got our hands on a good, fast one. The Venturi Fetish we tested on the streets of Monte Carlo was an enthusiast eye-opener. Power delivery was phenomenal, almost on-off acceleration. Since then though, most full electrics have been more mainstream, more everyday, more “corporation-developed.” They ticked off more boxes for more people.
The Tesla S 85 Plus, as we tested it, ticks off all the right boxes for those of us that thought we had fuel running through our veins. Well, most of the boxes anyway. Power. Quality. Passion. Technology. Sheer fun. All good. From the outside, the car looks sleek, clean and fast just standing still. No protrusions to mess with air flow, the door handles are flush with the body work and only come out to greet you as you near the car with your key. Plus, the door handles feel great, like good solid pieces of quality architecture rather than the more flimsy plastic pieces we see too often in modern cars.
Entering the car gives a feeling more like a modern home than a luxury car. It seems like normal design parameters didn’t necessarily apply. For one, in the center is what looks like a very large, very clear iPad. This controls just about everything in the car, including but not limited to how you want to ride, drive, steer, charge and roll. Plus the usual things like entertainment, communication, air conditioning, and an amazingly clear rear camera. Given what you would think would take up a lot of space, the car is actually rather airy inside. There isn’t really a center console that imposes presence, so that helps with a feeling of space.
Starting off, the car is, of course, extremely quiet. The air conditioning will be the sound you hear most. The car feels solid at 5,000 to 8,600 rpm and a wonderful 443 lb ft of torque from 0 to 5,100 rpm. Now you see why we like electrics so much. This is the top of the Tesla heap, two other variants (Model S and S 85) produce less power.
What is important with Tesla is that they took the best of the electric technology and skewed it upwards, for the premium and performance market. The car looks, feels and handles pretty much as you would expect from a garage with nothing but high performance European rides. The owner of this Tesla called it the best car in his stable, and his stable is full of thoroughbreds.
The car brings a whole new attitude to everything, and it is both refreshing and fun. What they are good at is stellar. Power delivery is great, technological interface is wonderful. There are places to improve, though, areas that manufacturers more long in the tooth would have more experience. Certain pieces you don’t see may not have the solid look and heft you might expect, but that of course remains to be seen. The truth is, this car is just the start. It can be, for example, a seven seater if you choose an option for two rear-facing child seats after the second row. It has a crumple zone that can be optimized for safety like no other because it has no massive engine to contend with. The powertrain is actually tucked in between the rear wheels. It has no tailpipe, because it has no exhaust.
Given that there is no real electric car infrastructure in the Philippines, this car is a serious commitment by the owner. While it can be charged by a basic and tight, it has a weight distribution of almost 50-50 front and rear, and that weight is skewed close to the ground as that’s where all the batteries are. As speeds increase, the car still feels planted and solid, not too much roll or yaw for something that does an excellent job of isolating you from the harshness of the outside world. The most track-oriented users may wish for a stiffer suspension, but that really won’t be what most people want or need. The Smart Air Suspension does a good enough job of allowing you to tune the car as you wish.
Power is produced by an engine that, according to Tesla, has only one moving piece. The rotor. That lump of modern magic propels the 85 Plus to 60 miles an hour in 4.2 seconds with a stated 416hp household electrical system using the cords you can bring with you, resupply of power is best handled by Tesla’s wall charger, which can put in a stated 58 miles (93 kilometers) of range per hour of charging. This car’s owner rewired his garage for the Tesla, which for the foreseeable future would be the only way to go.
So what do you get with this car? You get one of the most unique vehicles around, one that makes a statement if that is what you want but also one that can put a smile on your face if that is what you really need that day. It reminds you that peace and quiet are true luxuries in the modern world, but lets you kick a good amount of dinosaur-burning butt when you feel like it.
Motor: Three-phase AC induction motor, Rear-Wheel Drive
Max Power: 416 bhp @ 5,000 – 8,600 rpm
Max Torque: 443 lb ft @ 5,000 – 8,600 rpm
Drag Coefficient: 0.24 cd
Transmission: 1-speed fixed gear (9.73:1)
Suspension: (Front) Double wishbone with stabilizer bar, (Rear) Multi-link rear suspension with stabilizer bar
L x W x H: 4,976 mm x 1,963 mm x 1,435 mm
Wheelbase: 2,959 mm
Brakes: (Front) 13.98” ventilated discs, (Rear) 14.37” ventilated discs
Wheels: 19” Alloy wheels
Weight: 2,108 kg (4647 lbs.)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 4.3 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 209 km/h (130 mph)
Electric Range (km): 480 Km/l
+: It’s an EV with the performance of a regular sports car. Nothing is compromised with regard to build quality, comfort and amenities- most especially, design. Its range per full charge is exceptional, as with the time it needs to achieve it. It virtually revolutionized the modern electric vehicle
-: Its cost is prohibitive, and though personal charging equipment is included, using it outside of the USA where EV infrastructure is limited or absent will significantly impact its use