An electrifying car story—part two

This is Half Two of a five-part collection on our Tesla Model S. In Half One, I coated why we selected the Model S, the price of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In immediately’s Half Two, I’ll talk about a few of the issues I really like concerning the car; Part Three may have more of the loves, in addition to the not-so-loves. Half Four will talk about what it’s like dwelling with an electric car, and my thoughts on the way forward for auto electrification. Lastly, Part 5 will present an sudden ending (of types) to the collection.

What I really like concerning the car

The whole lot. OK, that’s not true. But there’s a large listing of stuff that—even after almost three years—helps make any drive within the Tesla an gratifying experience. The listing is usually ranked by order of significance to me, although a variety of these can be ties if I had to completely rank them. Most of this stuff are specific to Tesla’s automobiles (and a few to the Model S particularly), although a couple are usually true of any electrical car.

The efficiency

Once I purchased my car, it was the middle of the Model S vary—there was a smaller battery model obtainable, in addition to a excessive performance model with the identical battery. (Shortly after we purchased this car, Tesla launched a fair larger end car, the Mannequin S P100D, which is wicked fast and really really expensive. Three years on, they’ve now actually simplified the choices to only two: The standard car and the high efficiency car, both with 100kWh batteries.)

My car will reach 60mph in 4.2 seconds, which is fairly fast. Nevertheless it’s the best way it accelerates that’s so addictive: The electric motors present on the spot and steady torque, and the Model S has just one ahead gear. So whenever you press the go pedal, the car simply goes. Whooosh, and you’re off.

The place I actually recognize the torque and performance isn’t across the metropolis (properly, OK, it’s plenty of fun to blast off from purple visitors lights once you’re first in line), it’s out in rural areas, whenever you come across a very sluggish car and need to move. The torque and responsiveness take all of the drama out of a passing maneuver—it takes a minimal period of time and area to cross somebody, which makes it safer for all concerned.

I mentioned this in Part One, however the handling is surprisingly good for a very giant car—putting the battery pack close to the bottom provides the Model S a very low middle of gravity, which helps it keep degree while cornering. You’ll never confuse its dealing with with that of a Miata, nevertheless it’s not annoying to drive on twisty roads, in contrast to our truck.

Visitors-aware cruise control

That is simply Tesla’s identify for radar cruise control, that’s, a cruise control that can monitor the car’s distance from the car in entrance, and regulate velocity as crucial to take care of that distance. Many automobiles have this function, although few function full cease and start control, which is what makes it so good within the Mannequin S. As soon as enabled, the car can come to a whole stop, after which routinely begin going again once visitors begins shifting.

I exploit traffic-aware cruise on a regular basis, even in the city. Why? It’s one of the simplest ways I’ve discovered to ensure I don’t start rushing—the Model S is so quiet that you will discover yourself going a lot quicker than you thought you have been.

On longer drives, it’s a most-welcome assistant, particularly on state highways that can be crowded and that route via the occasional velocity lure small town: As an alternative of having to vary my velocity, assuming I’m following visitors, I simply depart the cruise set at the highway restrict. Then, as the visitors moves into a town and slows down, so does my car. Once we depart town and the bounds decide up, the Mannequin S accelerates back up to highway speeds.

In my almost three years with the cruise function, I’ve never had it fail to stop when visitors slows—even in conditions the place someone minimize me off in visitors, for example. The cruise is even GPS-aware—for those who’re on a twisty street, it’s going to sluggish the car if it thinks it mandatory for a sharp nook. (I want there was a non-radar cruise choice that didn’t do that, as a result of the car is actually conservative about cornering, but there’s not: It’s radar cruise or no cruise.)


Autopilot is Tesla’s identify for his or her driver help know-how that may control steering and velocity in many conditions. Truthfully, I really feel Tesla misnamed this function, as a result of it’s really not an autopilot within the aviation sense: It won’t control the car with out intervention. It can also’t comply with a GPS route. (Newer automobiles, if full self driving is ever accredited, will have the ability to do this. Mine gained’t, as it lacks the required hardware.)

Autopilot is controlled by a stalk on the left aspect of the wheel—pull it in the direction of you twice, and you activate Autopilot. (A single pull engages cruise management). The dial on the end of the stalk sets the next distance for the cruise control system.

When you understand Autopilot’s limitations and work inside them, it’s an incredibly useful gizmo. Autopilot might be set for any velocity (as much as 90mph, I feel) on a divided freeway, and to the velocity restrict plus 5mph on non-divided highways and roadways. How do I exploit Autopilot? Principally never round town, although as famous, I do use the traffic-aware cruise in the metropolis. However for street trips, or when driving into Portland from the suburbs at rush hour, I find Autopilot invaluable.

On lengthy freeway drives, it will probably take the tedium out of managing the car in average visitors that’s continuously changing speeds and weaving from lane to lane looking for a quicker path. I allow Autopilot, and just keep in my lane. It speeds and slows as crucial, and tracks the freeway lanes with unimaginable accuracy. This leaves me free to observe the other drivers around me, making an attempt to predict who is going to do something that makes me react in a rush.

On non-divided highways, I discover Autopilot actually reduces the stress degree, as I don’t want to fret concerning the car wandering throughout the center line if I sneeze on the incorrect time, or do something silly like pouring my drink throughout myself when I attempt to decide it up.

For those who’re interested in how Autopilot works, Tesla’s YouTube channel has a pleasant overview video:

And where Autopilot really excels is navigating heavy visitors; I call my new strategy to such conditions “zen and the art of Autopilot.” As an alternative of stressing out concerning the visitors, looking for the quickest lane, and continuously on the lookout for the subsequent hole to reap the benefits of, I just allow Autopilot and keep in my lane.

The car does all of the work, and I can simply sit back and chill out (whereas watching visitors and the street, clearly). As speeds in heavy visitors are seldom above 25mph, I’ve very little worry of any Autopilot-related incidents. (And I’m all the time able to take over, if it appears prefer it’s messing up.)

I don’t use Autopilot to learn books, or to make use of my telephone, or to do something that takes my eyes away from the street for any size of time. I exploit it to scale back the stress degree associated with driving in visitors and to scale back the boredom that comes with miles of dead-straight freeway roads. And in that position, it excels.

The car readies itself for you

As you strategy the car, the doorways unlock, the mirrors unfold, and the handles come out. No have to find a key fob, contact something on the car, and so on. Just get in and go.

Once you park and get out of the car, the method repeats: As you stroll away, the car locks itself, the mirrors fold, and the door handles retract.

In case you don’t like this conduct, you’ll be able to disable the door handle magic (in addition to the folding mirrors and auto-unlocking) within the car’s settings.

Straightforward departures and arrivals

In contrast to a car with an inner combustion engine, there’s no warm-up time (or calm down time, as sure turbo engines may have). You simply get in and go—there’s not even a stop/start button within the car: When you have your key fob (or have approved keyless driving), you actually just get in, press the brake pedal to wake the car, then go. Mixed with the previously-mentioned auto-unlocking doorways, the drive-away experience is incredibly straightforward.

And if you get to where you’re going, issues are just as straightforward: There’s nothing to show off, and also you don’t even have to lock the car—as mentioned above, the car locks (and the mirrors fold and the door handles retract) as soon as the car loses contact together with your key. In the event you open the driving force’s door with out placing the car in Park after stopping, it can mechanically change to Park.

It’s really quiet

Like extremely quiet. There’s a variety of sound deadening materials within the Model S, because and not using a motor, you’d in any other case hear every thing. And I need to say, it works. Even at freeway speeds, the car is amazingly quiet. I’ve driven the Model X, and the S is notably quieter—I feel because there’s less inside quantity within the S, and perhaps less sound deadening material within the X to attempt to save some weight.

Over-the-air software program updates

My car will get regular software program updates, identical to my telephone and pc. These updates can fix bugs, but can even add solely new features. For example, they’ve added the power to have driver profiles assigned to keys; a “chill mode” choice for slower acceleration, automated cabin overheat safety (to stop the cabin from getting deathly scorching); and lots of more. In addition, the nav system’s maps have been up to date a few occasions, and nav itself has gained some new options.

I’m informed when there’s an update out there, and may schedule it at a time that works for me—sometimes in a single day, or any time I gained’t need the car for a few hours. After that, the updates “just happen.” And in my time with the car, I’ve by no means seen a software program replace fail.

With a standard car, any change to the software program would require scheduling a service visit at the vendor, dropping the car off for a day (and arranging alternate transportation)…and doubtless paying for whatever new function they’d determined to release.

The downside to these modifications, in fact, is that typically you could get an replace that takes away one thing you want, or modifications the UI in a approach that you simply don’t agree with. This has occurred a couple of occasions, most notably with version 9 of the OS, which was not universally nicely appreciated by Mannequin S house owners.

Correct parking distance sensors

Many automobiles have parking distance sensors that beep, and perhaps display a light-weight on a small picture of the car indicating the place the impediment is. On the Tesla, the dash exhibits the space in inches, and a graphic displays the relationship of the obstacles to the car.

This makes it incredibly straightforward to park in tight areas, resembling my storage where the front finish needs to return within a couple inches of some cabinetry.

“Refueling” at house

I despise Oregon’s legal guidelines that forestall us from fueling our own automobiles. With an electrical car, not only can I bypass the sluggish and crowded fuel stations, but I begin each day with a full tank of electrons. Once I get house, I just plug the car in, and it’s charged and ready to go within the morning. It doesn’t get a lot simpler than that. (We installed a 240 volt / 50 amp outlet, which permits us to cost at about 30 miles per plugged-in hour; I’ll have more to say on house charging partially four.)

The charging port on the Model S is generally hidden. There’s no button on the port’s door, or obvious control inside the car to open the door. So how do you open it? Strategy with the charge twine, press the “ready to connect” button on the cost cable, and the charge port’s door pops open. Remove the twine, and the door closes after a number of seconds.

Auto-open/shut storage doorways

Many new automobiles include HomeLink, which helps you to program up to three buttons within the car to regulate stuff in your home, sometimes your storage door opener(s). The Tesla has HomeLink, nevertheless it takes it one step additional: You possibly can optionally have the door routinely open whenever you arrive, and shut if you depart.

This works rather well, and once I attempted it, I questioned why different automobiles which have HomeLink and GPS don’t implement it. The reply, I feel, is that the GPS may be offered by a third-party, as is HomeLink, and the car corporations don’t do any work to integrate the two. Tesla has completed that work, and it’s actually handy.

Regenerative braking

I discussed this in Half One, but I actually love regenerative braking. It takes a little bit of getting used to, as a result of it’s so aggressive (there’s a setting to scale back its effectiveness, in case you choose).

But when you’re adjusted to regen braking, it means little to no brake wear. I imagine the brake pads on my car will final almost perpetually, as I’m only using them to sluggish from very sluggish speeds to a full cease. (The Chevrolet Bolt can come to a full stop with out touching the brakes; I’d love to see this added to the Model S sooner or later.) Aside from that, though, I let the car sluggish itself down by simply releasing the go pedal, and infrequently touch the brake pedal.

Boring stuff has been automated

Coping with wipers, lights, and excessive beams is not something I think about. The Model S has rain-sensing wipers, automated headlights, and even brightness-sensing high beams that dim when a car approaches. I exploit the primary two options on a regular basis, but not often the third—not as a result of it doesn’t work, however because there’s seldom not a car approaching in our suburban/urban area, and there’s not a lot to be gained from utilizing the excessive beams.

These options aren’t distinctive to the Tesla; many automobiles have some or all of them. And once you’ve pushed a car that has this stuff automated, it looks like such a waste of time to be messing with wipers and lights.

Customizable dashboard shows

The dash within the Mannequin S consists of three areas: A center display together with your velocity and a depiction of the street and deteced visitors, and an space to each aspect of middle. The non-center shows may be custom-made, and people settings are remembered for every driver profile (of which you’ll be able to retailer 10 within the car). I’ve created three totally different driver profiles for myself, so I can easily change between three totally different layouts, relying on my temper.

The left and proper areas can display GPS info, electrical energy consumption figures, media info, and more. Should you want a minimalist look, you possibly can even disable the panels solely, leaving simply the essentials—the car’s velocity and a show of how the car sees the street and visitors round you.

In fact, I was parked in the garage at the time that photograph was taken, so the velocity was zero, and there was (thankfully) no visitors round me.

Customization of the dash is completed by means of steering-wheel mounted control wheel/buttons, one on both sides of the wheel. Press and hold one in, and a menu pops up letting you choose which knowledge you’d wish to see. You can even use these wheel/buttons (and the encompassing buttons) to skip songs, management audio quantity, and concern voice commands to the car.

A fast apart: Tesla has never supported Apple Car Play or Android Auto, and doubtless never will. You’ll be able to play music out of your telephone by way of Bluetooth, or by way of a plugged-in USB stick. I exploit a program referred to as TeslaTunes to convert my iTunes library to a Tesla-usable format, written to a USB stick.

Use the wheels to scroll by means of the listing, then click on again to pick the one you’d like to make use of. (Right here’s a quick video, when you’d wish to see how the listing selector works.)