Comparison of a Tesla Model S Performance and Performance Plus One month ago today I took delivery of the first Tesla Model S Performance Plus in the Seattle area. I have made a couple of posts about it and posted a few pictures but thought I would take the time today to do a brief comparison review. The question I was most asked was: How did the improvements in the performance plus compare to the performance version of the Tesla? However, my only experience with a P85 was a single test drive months earlier and this did not really make a comparison possible. Today, thanks to my local Tesla store manager, after a month of driving the Performance Plus I had a chance to take a loaner P85 out for an hour or so. I drove the P85 on highway, on city streets, and on more rural hilly roads that I drive daily. I then drove the same route about 90 minutes later in my P85+. The Cars My Tesla is the P85+ version with 21" Michelin Pilot Sport tires with about 1700 miles and VIN # 10042. The test drive was a P85 with 19" tires (I am guessing Goodyear Eagles though I did not check) with about 7800 miles if I recall, and a VIN number of about 1247. The Route I drove in town, on Interstate highway, and up and down some steep hills with twisting roads that were not well traveled so I could push the car hard. I drove the route in the test P85 and then about 90 minutes later in my P85+ (and it is a route I drive frequently). Introduction First let me say the P85 drives amazingly well. It was a similar P85 test drive months earlier that convinced me to spend 3x more then I had ever spent on a car to buy my Tesla Model S. I do not need to sell anyone on the pure smooth acceleration of the Tesla. My favorite feature of the Tesla is the instant smooth power that is available at any time and at any speed, because of the lack of a transmission. When I first test drove the P85 I did not find the car lacking in any category. However, I had read magazine articles, dating back to last year, talking about Elon's personal upgraded car and when the chance to upgrade my Tesla order to the performance plus appeared I took it without a test drive. Prior to today's test drive I have spent a month driving my P85+ and loving every minute of it. The car drives like it is on rails. There are hills in my area that are steep with severe turns. I can throw the P85+ up the hills at maximum acceleration, slam in to a sharp turn and always feel in complete control. The steering is very stiff (in sport mode) and amazingly responsive. The acceleration, as any Tesla driver, knows is stunning. The only comparison I have is to the Linear Induction Motors that launch the top tier roller coasters, silently and instantly to high speed. I had read articles that described a "slight sway" when a Tesla changed lanes quickly, this did not apply to my P85+. While I wonder about the marketing on the Tesla Motors web site that claims that the performance plus package offers "super-car handling", I think it is amazing how much of a sport car feel can be transferred to the Tesla which is a very large and very heavy luxury sedan. I have no complaints about my car, its performance or handling, none. The Test Drive Based on memories of how much my initial Tesla test drive impressed me months ago, I was expecting that the P85 would show just minor differences with my P85+. I was wrong. Immediately I noticed a dramatic difference in the steering and handling, this was apparent in even slow driving in city streets. I was convinced that the P85 Tesla must not be in sport mode. I brought up the display and sure enough it was already in sport mode. So I drove some more. The P85+ steering in sport mode is very stiff but very precise, with great feedback and the ability to move the car quickly and exactly around corners, in turns and in lane changes. The performance plus has great handling. The P85 was fine but just not in the same class. As an example I actually began to wonder if test drive cars were maybe always locked in standard mode even if set to sport or comfort. I went so far as to shift steering modes several times between Sport, Standard and Comfort and sure enough it changed the steering feel and responsiveness. So back into sport mode it went. The precise steering is what I would miss most if I had to switch to a P85 full time from my performance plus. I have no idea how much of the steering differences were from the performance plus package, tires, or changes that were made to cars from when the 1247 VIN car was produced to my 10042 VIN which was built in May. I even hesitate to post this information at all because the last thing I want to do is make anyone have any concerns about the wonderful Tesla Model S they currently have or may soon buy. But for me the steering and handling was a big difference. A difference that anyone would notice immediately when driving the two cars. But like any difference some people may find the sport mode steering in the P85+ too stiff and too responsive. During the test drive I drove at highway speeds and purposely made hard and abrupt lane changes. The P85 had a very slight sway or over correction. It felt like when I quickly changed lanes the body went just a few inches further then "bounced back". My description here is more dramatic sounding them the actual feel in the car. I am just trying to give people an idea of what the differences were. This slight "sway" is not felt in my P85+ but in my opinion this is a minor difference. I am sure if I had not been used to the P85+ and looking for differences I would not have noticed it for a while. (i.e. this is a difference that I found by looking for a difference. Unlike the steering difference that I noticed immediately). The last major aspect of the test drive was driving at maximum acceleration up a hill and purposefully hitting the turns very hard. In this case the minor differences I notice in the side-to-side suspension while lane change became more pronounced. I am not sure the car had that much more sway then lane changing on the highway. But that small extra side to side movement going into a sharp turn at speed came back to me as a driver as a feeling of less control. It gave me the impression that there was movement that I did not want and thus I felt less in control. I don't think the car was any less safe or stable then the P85+ but just felt that way. The P85+ takes high speed turns as if it was on rails, in the P85+ I felt in complete control even when taking the corners at speeds much faster then posted. The one area I did not get to test much was straight ahead acceleration. (What is more sad then being first in a lane at a red light, on a road with a 55 MPH speed limit and no traffic ahead, where a 4.5 second 0-60 stares you right in the face, and in the lane next to you ..... A POLICE CAR). I will say that a P85+ floored at a light with no traction control activation and maximum acceleration is completely smooth, no dips, no side motion, nothing except smooth instant acceleration. Acceleration that HYPOTHETICALLY could keep you right on the tail of a Porsche sports car trying its best to pull away from you as the light goes to green and it can't gain an inch. Or (also hypothetically) chasing down another Porsche from on ramp to empty highway so smooth that a glance to the speedometer somehow shows 95 when it felt like 55. Not that I know any of this first hand Driving Same Route in a P85+ About 90 minutes after the P85 test drive I drove the same route in my P85+. This basically just confirmed my memories of P85+ handling that I describe above. Steering and handling in a P85+ is tight and near perfect in sport mode. The P85+ had rock solid lane changes, and gave another drive up a sharply turning hill road as if on rails. The Tesla web site says of the Performance Plus: Performance Plus takes one of the world's best sedans into supercar handling territory, while also improving ride quality and range I certainly agree the Tesla Model S is one of the world's best sedans. I am less sure if it is into the supercar handling territory, but it handles extremely well. I can definitively say that the VIN 10000, P85+ I drive is a very significant upgrade to VIN 1250 era P85 I drove today. A bigger improvement then I expected. I can not say how much of that is because of the performance plus package, the improved tires or changes in Model S production in about 5 months between the builds. I would guess a lot of it is the performance plus package and improved tires. Advice for People Who have not yet Ordered If you are planning on ordering a P85 with 21" wheels: Buy the Performance Plus. Its incremental $6500 price above what you have already ordered is well worth it IMHO. Have fun, take a test drive if you can find a P85+, but I do not think you need to, order with confidence. If you are ordering a P85 with 19" wheels, then the incremental cost rises to $10000. In addition you have to figure in some of the down sides to 21" tires. The low profile tires provide a somewhat rougher ride (though still quite smooth), are much more expensive to replace, you have to replace them more frequently, and they are more susceptible to road hazards. At this point I would suggest you try and find a P85+ to test drive if you think you can afford the difference. If you are ordering a 60 or regular 85 then the incremental price becomes quite large ($25,000 or more). It is really difficult to suggest a change just for the performance plus. (and you may be better off not knowing what you are missing so be careful of a test drive ) Thoughts for existing Model S Performance Owners Based on the P85 test drive and a month of driving my performance plus I can say that the difference between the two cars I is significant. This I am sure is a combination of the improved suspension and handling that comes with the performance plus package, the 21" performance tires, and probably the differences of my car being built 8500 cars later in the production cycle. I am not sure how much each of these contribute. So it is a good news/ bad news story I am afraid. The good news is the best car out there just got better, the bad news is we do not know how effective the proposed upgrade package will be. If they can get close to the improved handling and steering and tighten up the feel of the slight sway by even 50% of the factory performance plus version I think the upgrade could be a very good improvement. Tesla has said they think they can get roughly 80% of the plus package benefits in an upgrade. Though unfortunately at a fairly high upgrade cost of $13,500, if I recall. I really hope an upgrade package is available soon so people can test it and find out. If you have the resources and a strong desire to have the best possible Tesla Model S you will not be disappointed in the P85+. I think you will find it worthwhile to try and find a P85+ you can test drive in your area. Unsolicited advice for Tesla Motors I believe Tesla Motors should keep at least one Performance Plus test drive demo car available in its key regions (SF bay area, So Cal, Seattle, NY, etc.) Not only can this demo car help make new sales, but I believe it can also save possible lost sales as well. Most drivers will be amazingly impressed by a P85 test drive. A P85 drives better then other top luxury sedans. But I believe Tesla will find some drivers who will not step up to buy unless they have a car with a "sportier, tighter" feel. In those cases Tesla can break out a test drive in the regional P85+ test car. Tesla should as quickly as possible do a sample upgrade or two of existing P85s to performance plus using the upgrade package. They should focus on what they can do to improve the steering and handling in addition to the work on the suspension. Then let current P85 drivers have test drives and post the results. I am optimistic that if done with care the upgrade can give existing owners a chance to get a significant percentage of the improved performance plus experience. But this will only be known when the upgrade is done and tested. Final Thoughts Procrastination is usually a bad thing, but in my case waiting to place my order for a Tesla Model S worked out really well. At first delaying my order seemed to only have a down side since I waited until the price hikes were in place. But the delay allowed my to order the color I wanted (multi-coat red). Then the delays in getting the multi-coat red Teslas produced allowed me to pick up the performance plus package when it was announced. I was probably only a couple of days from having my car in production at the factory when the Performance Plus Package was announced. Luckily I decided to order it and Tesla allowed me to change my order at the last minute. I am very glad I did, never more so then today. Driving my Tesla is crazy fun each and every day. I am looking forward to being in the BC2BC EV Rally in July and driving the Tesla from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and back.