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As we get settled into our four-week loan with the 2016 Tesla Model S P90D, we wanted to see just how versatile this car is.
To experience the genuine Tesla ownership experience we installed a wall-mounted charging station, did an extensive long drive under the steed of AutoPilot and even hit the country to see how it would fare in country Victoria.
The wall-mounted charging station was supplied to us free of charge by Tesla, but we did have to cover the cost of installation. The installation was more expensive due to the age of our switchboard, coming out to $780 plus GST for installation, testing and a five-year warranty.
The Type 2 (EC 62196-2) charger is capable of three phase charging and uses a "European" connector that's also shared with Renault. There are also adaptors available that allow Type 1 to Type 2 conversion, which allows the Model S and other Tesla vehicles to be charged at non-Tesla public charging stations.
It looks nice installed on the wall and now sits proudly next to the enormous BMW electric vehicle charger — we're not sure why it's so big in comparison.
Using the wall mounted charger, the car can charge at a rate of around 83km per hour. It's considerably quicker than using a standard 10A plug, but not quite as quick as a supercharger which we witnessed charging at 142km per hour, which is a whopping 179A at 362V. Like most electric vehicles, charging to the first 80 per cent occurs very quickly, it's the last 20 per cent that takes the longest.
With a full charge on board my aim was to travel from Melbourne to Geelong via the country route and then from Geelong to Ballarat on the freeway and finally from Ballarat to Melbourne over two days.
It's a journey distance of around 400km in total and included a number of Ludicrous Mode standing starts to mix things up. The idea was to have the car on its occasional use charger whenever we stopped, which supplies around 12km per hour of charging range.
Shortly after leaving home we left the highway for some country roads. The mix of terrain included poor quality country roads, a 5km gravel section and stretches of country highway.
Where the air suspension deals well with urban areas and pot holes around the city, it wasn't as impressive on country roads. Constant bumps and variations in road quality could cause the car to crash over sudden bumps and linger over continuous undulations.
It manages to find its way though eventually settling as the roads smoothed out. The part that surprised me most was the car's performance on gravel. The added assurance of the torque vectoring dual motor all-wheel-drive system meant that even getting on the throttle out of corners on gravel would give you a level of excitement you don't normally get from luxury cars this size.
This type of driving and the air conditioning set at 22 degrees on a warm day meant that range was depleting at a rate beyond what was listed as available. This is mainly due to the higher speeds achieved on country roads in comparison to the city where the car has an opportunity to regenerate power more often.
It certainly achieved some strange looks as we cruised quietly through some of the small country towns along the way — I suspect we would have had a similar reaction if we were driving a space ship. People were pointing and there was even a couple that came up to us as we stopped for some photos to have a look at the car.
As we cruised into Geelong we plugged the car into a powerpoint for the afternoon and evening. The following day we jumped in for the drive to Ballarat.
Given its much higher elevation it was interesting to watch the range deplete quite quickly as we travelled predominantly uphill at highway speeds. It's a total elevation change of around 500m, which means the car is working harder to gradually climb over the 100km or so between the two cities.
During this drive we experimented with AutoPilot, but I wasn't comfortable using it on a two lane road (one lane each way) that was poor quality and with areas of degraded line markings. Knowing the drive from Ballarat to Melbourne was on a four-lane road with a centre median, we decided to hold off for the proper test until then.
Arriving into Ballarat, it was time to show the car to some of my friends. This of course meant getting them to experience the car's acceleration. Given the fact they're petrol heads and don't like the sound of a car with no sound, they were gobsmacked with its straight line performance. But, the same couldn't be said for their impression of the price tag. They felt it didn't feel as premium as its price tag would suggest.
It was then on to the charger for around five hours before we hit the road again for Melbourne. As soon as we jumped on the highway we engaged AutoPilot. In fact, I used AutoPilot for around 85km in total — it completely blew me away. The system was so accurate that it remained dead centre in its lane at all times, keeping a safe distance between us and the vehicle in front.
On downhill stretches it used its regenerative braking mode to slow the vehicle, speeding up again as soon as the road levelled out. The lane change featured worked flawlessly, allowing the vehicle to change lanes unassisted with a flick of the indicator stalk.
At no time did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe with how the vehicle operated in its semi-autonomous mode. It's on large freeways like this where it makes sense – especially given how prolific the state is with revenue generation through speed enforcement.
We've got to say that the Model S has really impressed. The range anxiety that people speak of really is a thing of the past. The amount of range on offer here is ample even for a long winded drive like the one we did.
Driving this car predominantly in the city would effectively eliminate any concerns about range.
We are in love with the Tesla application that allows you to check the charge rate of the car remotely, even allowing you to stop or start charging, lock and unlock the car and even turn on climate controls remotely.
What about the downsides? So far there has been few, but we are noticing some quality issues. During our comparison with the 7 Series it became obvious the bonnet wasn't finished correctly and we are having intermittent issues with the driver's door handle.
Keep your eye on the site in the next two weeks for a final long term update. You'll hear from some of our other staff on what they thought of this cutting edge electric car.