2015 Tesla Model S P85D Review

Rating: 9.5
$157,000 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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The manic Tesla Model S P85D sets a new benchmark. Our necks still hurt after experiencing its mind-blowing acceleration.
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It’s a word that shouldn’t necessarily be associated with cars. It means something is “in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill”.

If cars had minds – we can’t confirm or deny that they don’t! – all of that would ring true for the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D and its Insane drive mode … apart from that last bit about mental illness, because that’s a bit insensitive.

With that in mind, we wanted to break the car down using that definition of insanity, seeing how the most, er, mental electric car on the market stacks up.

And as that description suggests, this is a car that renders its driver in a state that prevents normal perception, such is the bewildering acceleration on offer from the all-electric, all-wheel drive sedan.

Plant your right foot and your eyes struggle to keep up with what’s happening around you.

Your face – if only for the first second of acceleration – feels like it’s melting.

Your neck strains as you try and keep your skull forwards. Seriously, my neck is still sore.

And you are shoved into your seat in a way that is reminiscent of a bonkers rollercoaster ride – one that’s almost silent.

There’s just a whirr from the dual electric motors, a sound that evokes memories of battery-powered remote control cars, as you rocket towards the horizon. Oh, and if you have passengers, you may hear squeals, chuckles, giggles or "ohmygawwwdd".

It also changes your behaviour, as the definition of the word suggests.

No-one ever needs to repeatedly run from 0-100km/h in 3.3 seconds in their car, only to try it again.

And again.

And again, just to replicate the same feeling. What’s that they say about the first sign of madness…? Yeah.

The best bit was that a smartphone app that uses GPS to measure speed couldn't keep up with the acceleration of the Model S P85D, such is the ferocity of its sprint (or maybe it shows how poo the app was – our proper technical measuring device was out of the office when we had the Model S).

To the betterment of the car, the all-wheel drive system – which uses a 193kW front motor and 375kW motor at the rear – is tremendous in its ability to transfer the craziness to the road surface.

The traction on offer in dry conditions is incredible. The rubber – in this instance, 35-profile, 245mm-wide Continental tyres wrapped around 21-inch rims – instantly purchases the road surface, with barely any (noticeable) intervention from the traction control system.

That’s not so much the case in the damp – and we spent the vast majority of our time in the wet in and around the Sydney area – with the traction control system (thankfully!) intervening, albeit somewhat unobtrusively, to ensure the grunt got to the ground.

Cornering in the Model S P85D is a very different experience than in the regular rear-drive models we’ve sampled in the past.

There’s a tremendous balance to the car, which sits level and comfortable even through sharp bends, and there is enormous cornering grip on offer for a vehicle that tips the scales at 2240 kilograms. It can seriously hustle, though you can feel some of that heft when you're pushing hard. Still, this isn’t just a straight-line specialist.

The steering – while lacking a little in terms of ultimate feel – is trusty and nicely weighted, particularly in Normal mode (there are Sport and Comfort modes for the steering, too).

The ride, too, is superb. The Model S P85D cruises over country back roads better than any car with 21s should have the right to, and around town there’s little to complain about, either. Just watch smacking those stunning rims into kerbs or sharp-edged bumps.

Forget worrying about litres per 100 kilometres, too, as this thing talks in Watt-hours per kilometre. We saw an average of 238Wh/km or a total usage of 54.3kWh of power to travel 230km.

For these less tech-headed, the predicted range when we left the CarAdvice offices was 390km, and when we returned it was reading 120km to empty. So, over 230km of mixed driving – including numerous stop-start acceleration runs – it used about 270km of claimed range. Not bad when you consider some performance models claim 9.9L/100km and use more like 16L/100km in mixed driving.

Tesla claims the Model S P85D can run up to 491km on a fill, but buyers can increase that range by six per cent (to about 520km) by opting for the P90D model. It adds $4300, and you need to option that to also option the even more insane mode, dubbed Ludicrous mode.

Yes. It gets more insane.

The cost of that upgrade is $14,300, and it decreases the 0-100km/h by 10 per cent, to 3.0sec. It is claimed to run the quarter mile in 10.9sec. Sounds properly, stupidly insane to us.

In terms of social interaction, the Tesla Model S P85D is not for wallflowers.

People will stop you on the street, wind down their windows and ask you what the car is, and even ask if they can sit in it. In the case of co-workers, there weren’t many who didn’t want to go for a quick spin in the car.

But all of that craziness comes at a price.

Following a recent price hike, the Model S P85D kicks off from $157,000 plus on-road costs and luxury car tax (plan on being stung at least $25,000) before you add options, and there were plenty on our test car.

The boxes ticked include: Titanium metallic paint ($1450); glass panoramic roof ($2100); 21-inch wheels in grey ($6400); black leather-trimmed “Next Generation seats” ($3600); carbonfibre interior trim ($1450) and a carbonfibre boot-lid spoiler ($1450). All up, our car cost $233,887 on the road with New South Wales registration (the on-road cost component changes between states).

Then there’s the $3200 array of high-tech Autopilot goodies, including radar-based cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high-beam lights. Soon Tesla will add a self-parking function, too, which the car’s computer will download over Wi-Fi for buyers who have purchased the Autopilot option.

As with the previous Model S variants we’ve tested, the P85D is a high-tech cockpit environment that is dominated by the all-encapsulating 17.0-inch touchscreen.

It controls basically everything in the car that the stalks on the steering column don’t, including the optional ($3600) air suspension height control that can remember where you’ve been and raise the car for driveway entry, and you can adjust the steering response by having it in Normal, Comfort (lighter) or Sport (heavier) modes.

Those “Next Generation” seats offer much better side bolstering than the standard, flat-sided ones in the regular model that we’ve criticised in the past.

A few shortcomings remain, including the lack of door storage pockets, but the practical nature of the Model S can’t be denied – it retains its massive boot with hidden underfloor section, and the frunk (front trunk) is still usable even though the front motor eats in to a bit of space. The back seat is tight for tall occupants, too, with the sunroof eating in to head space.

Some potential EV buyers may be put off by the prospect of taking a bath when it comes to trading their car in or selling after three years, but Tesla offers a guaranteed resale program that is worth considering. There’s also an eight-year, “infinite mile” battery and drive unit warranty.

The 2015 Tesla Model S P85D is, like it says on the box, insane. But it’s also potentially peerless as a premium performance sedan - you'd have to look at an Audi RS7 or Mercedes CLS 63 AMG S as petrol alternatives (both of which cost considerably more!), which says a lot for the Tesla.

It is supremely fast, tremendously grippy, stupendously fun and all the while it manages to blend a sense of luxury with a truly unique drive experience. If you’ve got the cash and you’ve been thinking of buying one, you’d be insane not to.

Click the Photos tab above for more images by Mitchell Oke.