LOS ANGELES: The Tesla Model S has been equipped with new driver assistance hardware and software, allowing lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.
Gasoline-engine cars, with their complicated dance of fuel-air mixing and ignition to push pistons and turn a crankshaft, can’t achieve the kind of direct power response afforded by the Model S’ drivetrain. And it all comes down to simplicity. With fewer processes between stored power and putting rubber to the road, the electric drivetrain is naturally more efficient than the internal-combustion engine, about 90 percent versus 35 percent.
Beyond the merely theoretical, you can actually feel that superior power conversion at the accelerator. The fact that the Model S needs only a single ratio reduction gearbox, as opposed to a transmission with multiple gears, demonstrates the more direct conversion of energy afforded by the electric drivetrain.
The difference between electric and internal combustion engine wasn’t lost on Tesla’s engineers. They used the drivetrain’s unique characteristics to rethink the whole concept of the automobile for the Model S, significantly changing how you interact with the car.
As one example, there is no key for the Model S. Neither is there a start button or a parking brake. All these things are legacies from the last century of motoring, made unnecessary by today’s technology. Walk up to the car with its Model S-shaped fob in your pocket, and it unlocks, the door handles automatically extending.
Getting into the Model S makes the instrument panel and the massive, 17-inch center touchscreen light up. Set the steering column-mounted drive selector to D, push the accelerator, and you’re off. Similarly, putting the car in Park and getting out effectively turns it off. Walk away or push a button on the fob, and the doors lock. It takes a little getting used to, but the Tesla Model demonstrates 21st century driving.
Tesla notes that the Model S, in Performance Plus trim, hits 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, a time even more impressive when you consider the car’s 4,647-pound (2,108kg) curb weight.
The Performance Plus package includes heavy duty dampers and sway bars, which you can enjoy as much as possible on twisty back roads. Instead, the car held its own extremely well, its 48/52-percent weight balance between front and rear wheels taming understeer while the big, Michelin PS2s on 21-inch wheels gripped the asphalt. The Model S could not so defy physics as to rule out load shift in the turns.
The Performance Plus trim adds more to the Model S than suspensions upgrades, not the least of which is price. The fully loaded Tesla Model S came in at above $120,000, almost twice that of the base Model S with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack.
Tesla upgrades the electric motor in Performance Plus to 310 kilowatts, producing 443 pound-feet of torque, from the base model’s 225-kilowatt motor and the 270-kilowatt motor in the middle-ground 85 kilowatt-hour Model S.