First drive: 2015 Tesla Model S 85D

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There’s a reason why every test drive review of the Tesla Model S is agush with superlatives. Today we found out why driving for the first time the 2015 Tesla Model S 85D.

With D meaning dual motor, we drove the 422 horsepower all-wheel drive version, just one step down from the entirely bonkers P85D which hums out some 691 horsepower.

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Only 422 horsepower? Well, that gets us from 0-60 in about 4.4 seconds. It happens in a snap, an instant. All this power, and not a puff of smoke from an exhaust pipe nor the tires. No drama mama.

Stepping back a few breaths, the Tesla Model S has earned its place in automotive history already. The creation of a start-up company nobody thought would survive, it has managed to do so and become the darling of the press, investors and owners alike.

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That start-up company borrowed lots of government seed money, but paid it back and moved on. Today they are ready to launch a second model based on the same technology, the Model X crossover SUV. That model you can reserve now and have sometime in 2016.

We began our test drive of the Model S for the first time climbing behind the wheel and realizing how different this car is in every conceivable way from the expected automotive norms.

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Some of the stuff you expect is here. There’s a steering wheel, power seat controls on the side of them, a center armrest and a seat belt. On the door are controls for the power mirrors and windows, check.

From that point on, it bucks tradition. They skipped right past the Start Button. You power up the Tesla by stepping on the brake pedal, at which point it comes to life.

As you reach around to find the center stack controls, you find they are all and I mean all mastered into a massive 17-inch touchscreen that manages to work remarkably well at presenting and serving up various menus for everything from audio and navigation to suspension and steering settings to sunroof controls.

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The interior itself is fashioned with high quality trimmings and a contemporary design theme that reminds on the outlying end a Copenhagen furniture gallery and on the mainstream side of things, a Volvo cabin.

15-tesla-S-85D-6There are a few deficiencies here to mention, that being the lack of storage cubbies we tend to like with our luxury and a standard center console that has a traditional shape and configuration. We are told you can option this if you must be old-fashioned.

Setting the Model S into motion is much like that of a top-end German sedan, using a steering column mounted paddle switch. It creeps forward just like a traditional car when you lift off the brake and head to the tarmac.

Being an electric car, it is of course whisper quiet and smooth in its power delivery not just here, and not just there, but always. And when you summon both motors and throw down your right foot, you get an instantaneous burst of madness coupled with a pleasant whir.

15-tesla-S-85D-8Before you have much a chance to savor it, you’re breaking the law. You lift off, let the strong regenerative braking slow you back to legality, and then repeat. Oh what a joy. Now you know why you see these damn things literally everywhere. Stop lights and freeway on-ramps become launch pads for your delightful silent revenge. The carbon footprint stomping bastards will never know what hit them.

As tested with the largess of its optional 21-inch wheels, handling was quite remarkably tight for a car weighing 4,700 lbs and perhaps a few extra with its dual-motor powertrain. Steering is adjustable for effort and seems quite happy regardless of how you dial it.

When it comes to range, the 85D has the longest of them all with some 270 miles of go there between charges according to the EPA. If you sink your toes into the tripple-shot of espresso P85D you lose a few miles down to 253.

15-tesla-S-85D-5If you can afford it, there must be some joy in contemplating the idea of giving up 17 miles of range to achieve a shudder and guilt free sprint to 60 mph in only 3.1 seconds as you head to the next Tesla Supercharger station for another dose of free electricity.

And that kids is where the Tesla Model S really begins to make a lot of sense. Yes, our tester tipped the scales at just over $106,000 with options, and you can spend even more. But the base entry level Model S 70D is a rather reasonable $57,500.

That pits it against all the usual suspects in its luxury and driving experience class like the BMW 5 and 7-Series, Mercedes E and S-Class, and so many others. And honestly if you order up the Germans with their top horsepower options, your driving range with them isn’t that much more.

15-tesla-S-85D-2The thing is, when you plunk down $60, $80, or even $100,000 for a BMW or Mercedes you don’t get free gasoline from them, at least not after your first full tank from the dealership. The Tesla Model S ownership experience includes unlimited free access to their Supercharger network and destination chargers located increasingly everywhere. The juice is free!

So not only are you saving at home when charging up with electricity that is far cheaper than gasoline per mile, you can sip free kilowatts on a real live road trip. On the interstates now, you will find Tesla Superchargers located such you can take a coast to coast trip so long as you don’t mind stopping for about 30 minutes every 3-4 hours for a latte and some free Wifi.

Are we sold? Hell yes. Isn’t everyone? We drank the Kool-aid, we got the tattoo and so should you. This thing is that good.

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