I hate cars that make me want to be rich. Even if I love them.
The ones that drive me mad with covetousness are not the kind of cars that the tasteless rich deploy to make sure the world can see that they have got more money than sense.
The cars that get to me, however, are the ones that can truly be considered cheap at the price – even though the price may be equivalent to the annual salary of a government minister. These are the ones that are so good; you try to persuade your wife that it would be a sound investment to remortgage the house in order to get one in your garage. The original Honda NS-X always made me feel that way as does McLaren’s 650S Spider. BMW’s i8 did it to me in an instant. And I got the very same feelings from the £100,030 Tesla P85D I drove at a recent launch event. Curse it.
“What is that car?” I could see people mouthing as I drove past. This may have been because I was going past at close to the speed of sound.One of the qualities that makes this car extra-special is that it doesn’t look outstanding. Tesla advertise the all-electric S model with the slogan “Zero emissions. Zero compromises” but the outward design might have been composed by a committee for maximum aerodynamic performance and minimal public impact. You couldn’t pull the i8 out of your garage without attracting constant notice, but the only way the P85D draws attention to itself is by being naggingly elusive to identify. As a very large four-door saloon, it might be one of those luxobarges that Japanese manufacturers like Toyota make solely for their own domestic market and which never get seen in Europe. Or it could be a big Jaguar. Or even a Vauxhall. “What is that car?” I could see people mouthing as I drove past. This may have been because I was going past at close to the speed of sound. And silently.
The speed of the P85D is some kind of celestial joke. It is self-evidently not of this world. On a motorway and moving into an outer lane to overtake, I gently nudged the throttle pedal. Looking down at the digital display, I saw that the car had shifted from 70 mph to 87 in less time than it took you to read those figures. Lifting off in alarm, I saw the figure immediately drop to 74 mph as inertia braking took hold. I didn’t touch the brake pedal.
That’s the kind of performance you expect from a superbike or a McLaren. It is simply not available on this planet from a full five-seater (which can be specced to a seven-seater with two rear-facing child seat) that weighs 2195 kg, is nearly five metres long and more than two metres wide. As a matter of cold fact, the 691 bhp P85D is faster than any car on the road except monstrosities of vulgar display such as Bugatti’s Veyron. Its 687 lb-ft of torque is in the same bracket as a Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche 911 GT3 and McLaren F1.
The speed comes from the P85D’s twin electric motors – the standard P85 470bhp motor being supplemented with a 221bhp front motor in the “frunk” (front trunk). That’s why it’s got the D in its name – for dual motors.
utterly astounding road performance with handling and ride on the far side of believabilityThe colossal, laptop size central touchscreen on the P85D offers three driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Insane. If you touch Insane, you get 50% more torque than on the standard P85 Tesla. Keep in mind that all that power is delivered in a seamless straight line, with no gear shifts and is managed through a four-wheel drive system that Tesla claims is the most sophisticated in the world at supplying torque to the most appropriate wheel and the best balance.
The result is an utterly astounding road performance with handling and ride on the far side of believability. Not even a Mercedes C63 AMG or a BMW M5 comes close.
Beyond the six-figure purchase price, there is also a price to be paid in exercising the P85D to anything close to its capabilities. During my hour’s drive (much of it at restrained speeds on motorways) the nominal range of the batteries dropped from 220 to 167 miles. I had actually driven about 35 miles. That limitation makes no difference to my overall feelings about the P85D.