Tesla Model S Performance Plus: The Only Way Is Electric

The Tesla Model S Performance Plus is available to buy in the UK now for £100,503. A standard Model S starts at £49,900.

Key Features:

  • 0-62mph in 4.2secs
  • 312-mile range
  • 130mph top speed
  • 310kW (416 hp)
  • 17-inch touchscreen display
  • Keyless entry
  • Charging Time: 13-hours

The Pitch:

Introducing a car so advanced it sets the new standard for premium performance. At the heart of the vehicle is the proven Tesla powertrain, delivering both unprecedented range and a thrilling drive experience.

With a rigid body structure, nearly 50/50 weight distribution and a remarkably low centre of gravity, Model S offers the responsiveness and agility expected from the world’s best sports cars while providing the ride quality of a sedan.

The Verdict:

The Tesla Model S is a very bright, very expensive electric car. Tonight Liam and I are sat in the front seat of this car in the middle of Tollgate Retail Park Colchester. It's nearly 10pm. For some reason I am drinking a milkshake, which I regret, partially because it's horrible but also because it doesn't really match the raison d'etre of the car.

We're here to show off the Tesla to a very particular group of car enthusiasts.

Not the kind of car enthusiast that has a garage full of cars and wears gloves while driving. The kind of car enthusiast who spends thousands of pounds turning what would at first glance appear to be nothing more than a Volkswagen Golf into a high-speed fortress of chrome, racing leather and sound.

This type of car enthusiast has had a bad rep, and I can see why. They’re found after dark in industrial estates, retail parks or supermarket car parks, and live to show off rightly coloured Astras with huge 32-inch TVs in the back and Polos with sound systems that stretch from the brake lights to the front seats.

I may not share their desire for doing it but I will always respect someone for doing something whole-heartedly and with passion.

I think they'll like the Tesla Model S.

These are people who already spend £1000s every single year on exactly the kind of tech that goes into the Tesla: giant touchscreen displays, automated air-suspension, Dolby Digital surround sound speakers. They’re the people who realise how slow the car industry is to catch up with in-car technology. The Model S seems to me like the perfect car to prove that (a) not only is there a company that’s caught up, but (b) there's a car that can do all that from a plug socket.

I wanted to show off, essentially. But it isn't going well. After an original invite - to what turned out to be a 'German cars only' event - fell through, I have been left with the only alternative of driving the Tesla around Colchester late at night until I find a group that fits the description and just ask them what they think. Which is why I'm sat in a £100k electric car, in Tollgate’s retail park, half-heartedly slurping a milkshake that honestly, I will probably regret for the rest of my life.

There is a group of cars just up ahead.

I start the engine, noiselessly, and make my move.

I decide that the best thing to do is to subtly get the car gang's attention so I drive past them at a snails pace. It works, but not in the way I had hoped. Instead of open-jawed looks of wonderment the group look stone-faced in our direction. It’s almost as if the silence of the car (it's electric, the future is awesome... and quiet) is grating on the noise that they’re creating. I mention to Liam that I think that went really well and that they'll almost certainly now come over. They don’t. Instead they continue talking and occasionally glare over at the Tesla’s futuristic LED headlights.

We decide at this point that we should give up and get a non-milk-based drink. It's only 11pm and Colchester is just gearing up for a typical Friday night. We return to the car and settle on a plan of action: how can you explain a car to someone if you don’t know about it yourself? With this in mind we go over the car’s every feature with a fine tooth comb.

It turns out that for a £100k electric car you get quite a lot.

The car is a Tesla Model S Performance Plus. That last point is very important, it makes the car go from 0-60mph in 4.2 secs and gives it an increased range of 312mph. This also means you get larger, more daunting wheels and anything that could be made of a fine wood is replaced with carbon fibre.

What’s left is a massive five-door sports saloon that moves faster than most sports cars. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure about the look of it to begin with, it felt too quiet for a car that was supposed to be saving the planet. On reflection I’ve realised this was stupid, it’s an enormous car, it's bright Ferrari red and had door handles that popped out when you walked up to it. It's a vibrant and imposing visual indicator of just how much I love the planet and just how much I’m willing to spend on letting you all know that.

It’s fast as well. The first time I put my foot flat on the ground Liam hysterically laughed with joy. I was shaking and covered in sweat. It was like a rollercoaster of speed, because there are no gears it just goes. We hit 60 in what feels like a blink, I braked hard and normality -- much like an improbability drive -- was resumed.

As well as being fast it’s intelligent. The dashboard feels practically space-age. It’s a giant 17-inch touchscreen display that gives you instant access to all of the car’s functions via smartphone-style menus. Want to open the roof? Simply slide a picture of the roof back and forth to within a percentage and the car obliges. Key functions like the Sat Nav, Media and rear-camera take up half of the screen, sharing the space with another. You can maximise them to fill up the whole of the display.

The Sat Nav is a combination of Google Maps and Tesla’s own sat-nav. It’s a hybrid that uses the car’s own 3G-connectivity to pull through images. Put it in full-screen and you’ll spend more time planning the route then you will driving it. The screen’s addictive. Oddly it was the screen that drew people to the car as much as the fact it made no sound. People in traffic would see this TV-sized display and start taking pictures. The last time I experienced this level of celebrity status was when I turned up on the red carpet of the ‘Wolverine’ premiere at precisely the same time as the photographers had expected someone famous. For a brief millisecond as I stepped out of that car the world thought I was Hugh Jackman. I wasn’t. It was horrible.

Behind the wheel there’s another digital display that shows the speed, the amount of electricity you’re using and also how much you’re putting back into the battery when you have regenerative braking engaged.

This becomes a battle of wills as you find yourself both wanting to push how much you can use while also getting the smug satisfaction of knowing that at that particular moment, your car is carbon neutral. It changes how you drive, and ultimately I think, for the better. In an electric car you know that the power’s there but you never use it unless you have to, instead you can have a lighter touch on the pedal and the car responds wonderfully. In fact it was recently revealed that in terms of efficiency per mile, the Tesla Model S was the highest. So yes, the base model may cost £40k but it’s still better than a Nissan Leaf. Take that logic.

We finish going over the car's details and Liam has moved on to explaining what it’s like to fire an AK-47 assault rifle. He sounds both giddy yet scared, enthusing that unless you put every ounce of your weight behind it, it’ll shoot wildly into the sky.

We’re interrupted as a dark, menacing Peugeot 207 pulls up in front of us, the occupants both wearing baseball caps. Perhaps these were the guys that can tell me what I want to know? I decide that we should probably get out of the car and speak to them. I move to turn the car ‘off’. I don’t, instead I’ve hit the wrong dial and given the two men a full blast of the Tesla’s headlights. They are not amused. I panic, fumbling around for the right control and start pulling away. This was a terrible idea.

We decide to try out two more car parks and then, if we fail, to give up. We drive to the first and find it empty except for a few cars belonging to presumably supermarket employees. We try the second and find it equally as empty aside from a couple of glowing green lights. They’re charging points, for electric cars.

It’s at this point that a realisation hits me, those cars that were parked in a circle back in Tollgate, they weren’t covered in neon and powered by Nitrous Oxide. They were just normal cars, with normal people standing around them. There's no point showing these people an electric car, let alone a £100,000 status symbol because ultimately, they're already sold. They've sold their Corsas and bought super-economical diesels. Instead they're just waiting for bright red electric cars to stop being silent social trophies and start becoming useful.

Which leads me to my next point which is that they were wrong to frown at it, because as showy and crass as the Model S Performance Plus is, it isn’t about all the glaring gadgets and gizmos -- as incredible as they are -- it’s more about the fact that it is an electric car that exists, which can drive 300 miles, carry up to seven people and still move faster than a Porsche 911. And that's something to be excited about, even if you'll never own this particular vehicle.

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