Enter the Tesla Model S

Electrifying Electromotion

The automotive lexicon has words that carry no meaning here whatsoever. Cranking, idling, combustion, emissions, gearbox. Tesla’s vehicular experience uses none of these. For us, it begins with the serene whirr of a motor from a beautiful red liftback coupe as it glides gracefully into view.

This simplicity of the exterior aesthetic is mirrored within the cabin. On the centre console one finds a 17-inch screen through which almost everything — from the audio and climate controls to the various charging and driveline settings — is accessed. There is a cleanliness to the execution, and while electric vehicles concepts have largely been exhibited sporting futuristic Tron-esque interiors complete with holographic controls, the pragmatic approach works with great effect in here.

Rotating around the various seats in the cabin will tell you, in short order, that the best place to be is behind the wheel. Self-driving in the S communicates a vastly difference sensory story to the pilot, most notably in the aural department. As the numbers climb, they are matched by a crescendo recalling a turbine. Perhaps even a muted, road-going version of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.

Handling is commendable, the mid-mounted battery pack under the floor keeping the weight central and low while the steering can be adjusted from docile to sporty as desired. As far as the suspension is concerned, intelligent mapping stores geographic settings; entering an area where the driver has previously raised the suspension due to poor road surfaces, for example, will lead the Model S to do this automatically on its next visit.

And then, there’s the grunt. There is no power band; just impressive, constant peak pull with numbers comfortably within sports car territory at 417hp and 658Nm. That latter figure is just 2Nm shy of the torque of a Porsche 911 Turbo, bestowing the S 90 D with a respectable century sprint time of 4.4 seconds. Translated simply this into the language of your inputs and the Tesla’s reaction: put your foot down and receive a shunt into the seat. At any speed.

The wheels — all four of them, in the case of this all-wheel drive D designated variant — are directly driven by motors. In the absence of a gearbox, the familiar feeling of revs building and dropping as the gears shift is gone, but not missed. With the Tesla’s competitors finding increasingly ingenious ways of shortening shift times and dulling the torque drop-off that comes with them, this is as silky smooth as forward progress gets. A little surreal at first, but perhaps not as alien as the switchable regenerative braking which mimics the effect of depressing the brakes upon simply releasing the throttle. This takes some adapting but aids in adding precious mileage to the Tesla’s range.

Where the Tesla excels is in the daily grind that automotive manufacturers devote a bulk of their resources into improving. The work commute is generally a fixed one with the inherent predictability of planned journeys and as such there should be no cause for concern in terms of range anxiety. Driven carefully, the S 90 D will easily travel upwards of 450km between full charges. With the increasing proliferation of public charging points — over 120 at last count, including Petronas stations and shopping malls — even long distance journeys are now possible.

Additionally, the full plunge of ownership is not even necessary for those who wish to first test the water. Lease and lease-to-own programs are available starting at RM12,000 per month from GreenTech Malaysia, covering insurance, road tax, free charging at public charge points and perhaps most crucially, software updates to keep the Model S running optimally.

The brilliance of the package is that it does not try to reinvent more than it should about the automobile. Besides the propulsion, areas such as the infotainment and autonomous driving features are evolutionary steps of existing technology. Elsewhere, this is an alternative to executive motoring familiar in all the right places but with something special to be found under the bonnet. Nothing.


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