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Extensive review of Model S 75D (Dec 2017), including comparison to Volt 2013 and other cars.

hroussel

Member
Aug 8, 2017
65
33
Montreal
Introduction

I just got my model S 75D a month ago, so I thought I would write a review now that I have accumulated already more than a 1,600 kms (1000 miles).

This review is aimed at people who consider getting a model S and who might already be driving a Volt / Leaf / other EV. In fact I’ll often make reference to my 2013 Volt, which I sold before getting the Tesla. I’m also making comparisons to cars I’ve owned in the past including a Chrysler 300C (340hp, 5-spd auto, RWD) and a Volvo S60R (300hp, 6spd manual, AWD).

Prices are in CAN dollars. Units are metric but with conversions to imperial (for my southern neighbors). Comments are welcome.

Delivery

Actually I want to divide this topic in two parts. There is the actual order and wait portion, and then the delivery process as such on the day you get your car.

The order and wait was quite painful given the lack of responsiveness of the delivery specialist. I wished they had been more communicative. If at least to let me know that there’s nothing new on delivery date, or to answer more directly some of my other questions.

On the other hand delivery was very good (aside from some quality issues, more on this in the next section). The staff was most helpful, responding to all my requests and eager to assist in any way possible. From what I read in these forums though it look like this process varies considerably from one SC to another. I can say that mine, in Montreal, was very good.

Fit and finish

There’s two aspects here, the little defects found at or right after delivery, and the overall fit and finish of the car.

The car issues are relatively limited. They are:
  • Misalignment of one chrome strip of the driver side passenger door. Quickly fixed on a visit one week after delivery.

  • Trunk latch not closing properly. Actually this one was discovered at delivery. A quick fix was done at that point but I have to get an appointment with Auto Bugatti in Montreal. Somehow this is not handled by the Tesla SC. I wonder if I’ll get a Veyron loaner :)

  • Vibration noise in headliner above front passenger. This one was handled by the Tesla SC.

  • Faint rattle noise under the car when going over bumpy roads (and there are quite a few of those in Montreal!). Seems to be an open (and known problem) with this batch of cars according to the guy at the SC. Waiting for a fix.
So overall things are falling back into place. The first 3 should have been caught during quality control. Such an expensive car (almost 100 grand) should not come with these quality issues. This is one of the few bad points I note in my summary at the end.

Now, for the overall fit and finish of the car. I’m extremely happy with it. The inside cabin looks neat. Materials for the front dashboard are soft and nicely put together. The chrome bits fitting well everywhere they appear. It definitely feels luxurious and is a huge step above my 2013 Volt.

Interior

Inside the cabin both information screens look great and hi def. The 17in main screen is not only presenting lots of useful information, it does so very well especially when making phone calls for example.

The glass roof is very nice and so far I have no issues with it. It’s true however we’re still in winter, so I can’t say whether in summer the sun will feel too bright or too warm over my head. For sure it doesn’t feel cold, even with the very low temperatures I’ve seen so far (as low as -20C, or -4F). I’m guessing most of the time the ventilation provides some warm air above my head.

The seats are also very nice despite being the base multi pattern black. They are cozy with multiple adjustments. And I’m talking electric adjustments unlike my 2013 Volt where all seat adjustments were manual. One observation here, the sitting position is actually fairly low compared to all my previous cars. It took some getting used to, especially when getting out of the car.

As other people have noted, trunk space is huge in the model S. And you have the added bonus of the frunk. On one trip to my parents place (for Christmas) the car was loaded with 5 people and all trunks maxed out. With my Volt a trailer would have been required! In fact that was one of my motivations for getting the model S. It’s the only full size electric car currently available.

Driving

The first thing I noticed when I started driving the car was that bumps in the road were slightly harsher than with my Volt. The higher performance rubber, at 245/45R19, no doubt explains this result. However it’s much better than my S60R with its 235/40R18 Pirelli tires. The whole body however feels very solid so it’s not too much of an issue.

The steering wheel, which I configured for sport mode as soon as I got the car, feels nice in the hands. Direction is also precise.

Given that temps are low and road icy I haven’t pushed the car too much other than in straight line. But on highway trips it felt again solid and stable. Better than my 300C (which lacked precision in direction), and probably comparable to my Volvo S60R which was an excellent highway car (but terrible in town due to low profile tires and immense turbo lag).

Of course the combination of electric torque, AWD, and regen, makes the car a pure joy to drive in and around town. You always feel in control.

At lower speeds, under 100km/h (62mph), it’s really silent in the cabin. The only noise you hear is the whine of the motors, which almost sounds turbine like. I actually love it! Even on the highway the sounds are quite muted, and wind noise is fairly well controlled, probably due to the excellent aerodynamics of the car.

Performance

In one word, fantastic! I had enjoyed the benefit of instant torque in my Volt, but it was nothing compared to the violence you can unleash in the model S! So much so that you have to be careful. You feel like you always have some power available no matter how hard you push it. Speeds builds up very quickly especially under 100km/h (62mph).

Energy consumption / Autonomy / costs

So far my experience has been limited to cold winter temps, so obviously the numbers don’t look so good. But then with a 75khw battery you still get decent range, provided you plan carefully.

In town driving, on my typical path to dropping both kids to school then going to closest subway station, I’ll do no better than 2.5 km/kwh, or 400 wh/km (645 wh/mi). And this is despite pre-heating the car often half an hour before leaving home. I’ll often consume between 10 and 14 kwh in a day doing like 25 to 30km (15 to 18 mi). Even with higher temps, like a 8 to 10C I got on one day (just before posting this review) and keeping heating off, I was barely doing 300 wh/km (480 wh/mi).

One thing I must explain here is that my commute is fairly short, and I have an insane number of stops when going to park near the subway station. I’m talking here about 22 stop signs and 19 traffic lights to do like 8 miles! (this explain the huge gas consumption in ICE cars as I mention further down).

It’s hard to make a comparison with my 2013 Volt, as the gas generator was turning on as soon as temps were below -10C (14F). But I can say that at around -9C, running purely on electricity, the Volt was no better. Often getting a maximum of 25km out of the 10kwh available in the battery pack. And below -10C the gas consumption was huge, considering it was supposed to only help with heating. I remember in the cold winters of 2014 and 2015 here in Montreal going through a full tank of gas in 5 weeks (with my short commutes).

Doing some maths here, assuming 1 liter of gas (at 1.50$ / liter) + 5 kwh of electricity, I’m coming to well over 2$ of daily cost (probably like 2.25$, given the relatively inefficient charging at 1kw in the Volt). With the Tesla, counting the extra energy for pre heating, it’s coming down to 1.50-2$ roughly. So overall it will cost around 50$ per month during a cold winter month.

Doing the comparison with ICE car is hilarious! In my wife’s Odyssey minivan I’m doing 20l/100km (11.7mpg). I assume a powerful car like a 550xi or S7 would do slightly worse even, especially with so much power under the right foot (and I remember doing 22l/100km, or 10.7mpg, with my 300C in winter). But even at that consumption, in the two months I waited for delivery of my model S, the minivan (which I was using daily for my commute), was costing easily 200$ per month. This was on ordinary gas. With the high octane required by luxury cars like the 550xi you can assume easily 220$ per month, at least 4 times more expensive than the model S. And this gap will widen considerably when warmer temps come in the spring.

On the highway things are better. During one 200km (125mi) trip at temps around -10C (14F), driving at 115km/h (72mph) on cruise control, I consumed 46kwh. That works out to 4.3km/kwh, or 230wh/km (374wh/mi). I consider that reasonable at least compared to my Volt which would have done no better on the electricity portion (although I have not done trips at, let’s say -9C that would have allowed me a direct comparison; I’ll have better data in the summer, where I did most of my long range trips in the Volt).

Given the current price of electricity here, the above 200km trip turned out to cost roughly a very reasonable 5$. With an equivalent vehicule (like a 550xi, or an S7), assuming I can do like 8 l/100km (29mpg), the trip would have cost around 22$. My best trip in the Volt, in the summer (with a good tailwind), on the same road cost me roughly 10$ of gas + electricity.

Still on the topic of highway range, when I came back from the above trip, temps were closer to -14C (7F) with strong head wind. I kept the cruise at 110 km/h (69mph). I still managed to do the distance with 49kwh, working out to roughly 4km/kwh, or 250wh/km (400wh/mi).

On another round trip to my parents place, for New Year’s day, the temps were much lower, like -20 to -25C (-4 to -13F). I consumed 48kwh to go there, and 52kwh to come back! That worst case consumption amounts to 3.8km/kwh, or 260wh/km (418wh/mi).

At that level of consumption, a Quebec-Montreal trip would have been on the limit, leaving me maybe a few kms of range once at destination. So in harsh winter conditions you have to plan carefully.

BTW anybody knows if it’s possible in the model S to get the detailed motors consumption versus accessories and heating/air-conditioning?

Charging

It’s nice to be able to charge the car without needing to spend money on a dedicated charging station. Just install a NEMA14-50 plug in your garage (cost me 100$ for breaker, cable and the plug), and you’re good for 7 to 8kw of charging power, enough to fill the battery in 8 to 10 hours if the battery was completely depleted. But in general on a daily basis it’s more a matter of 1 to 2 hours for my commute.

But the real star of the show here is supercharging. I’ve had only one experience so far, and what an impressive one! It was on a return trip from a ski station. I didn’t really need to charge, as I was at 24% SOC when I reached Brossard (where a 12 stall supercharger station is), and I had only 30km (18mi) more to go to reach home, but I wanted to give it a try while wife got coffee and me and kids got some sweets (at a nearby Tim Hortons).

There were only two other cars at the superchargers when we got there. My first observation was that the charging cable is really short, so you need to get real close to the station before pluging in. Shortly after charging started I saw 84kw. Not sure how high it went, as we just left and walked to the TH, 5 mins away. Once we got inside, we ordered a few items, sat down, and then I check the charge level with the app on my phone. 58% ! OMG and other 3 and 4 letters acronyms came to mind as I realized how quickly it went up.

After finishing our little break we walked back to the car. It had reached 81% SOC !

For someone like me, used to L2 charging with my Volt, at a paltry 3kw, this level of charging is just amazing.

Misc observations

The distance estimates (in cm), when you come close to objects like walls or other cars is a very nice touch. I’ll have to make some experiments at home to judge how precise it is.

The nose of the car is longer than what I am used to. This will require practice as I fear scraping the front over a higher than usual sidewalk.

Ground clearance (in normal mode) is good. I no longer scrape the asphalt when parking home (something that used to happen all the time with the Volt).

The charge port opens and closes nicely so far, despite the cold and snow. Such a relief after the Volt where it had to be replaced twice, and even after that I was fighting to open it in cold weather.

Although the stalk for cruise control shows a picture of distance between car, it’s not functional unless you fork several grands on autopilot. It’s a shame, considering on a 550xi the option cost 1500$. And it includes extras like lane keeping, etc. Same with an S7, where the option is 1900$ and also includes extra in addition to adaptive cruise control. I would have been willing to put easily 1,000$ to get TACC. But to bundle it with the 6,600 (yes, six thousand and six hundred) dollars autopilot option is, in my opinion, nonsense. I’ll stick with traditional cruise control.

Navigation is a joy to use, and so much better than all the other embedded systems I’ve seen. The large screen helps a lot, but even on the display right in front, some very useful indications are given.

Defrost of the rear window takes forever in cold temps, just like defrost of side windows at the front (so you can see in the mirrors). I have a feeling that being conceived in California, the designers of this car had not idea what cold meant.

Conclusion

This vehicle is, without a doubt, the best and most enjoyable I’ve driven. It has all the requirements I wanted in a car, luxury, spacious, powerful, silent, AWD, etc. I don’t think I’ll want to change anytime soon.

OK, I think I’ve written enough about it. Time to go and drive it again!

The good

Amazing performance
Silent cabin
Lots of space
Decent autonomy
Excellent nav system
Impressive charging speed with superchargers

The bad

Build quality should be better at this price
Limited autonomy in cold temps
Slow rear window defrost in cold temps

The ugly

6,600$ for TACC (adaptive cruise control)!
Insane and ludicrous prices for option packages
 
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