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Tesla Model S P+ vs BMW M3 sedan (and everything else out there)

Discussion in 'Model S: Driving Dynamics' started by KOL2000, May 27, 2013.

  1. KOL2000

    KOL2000 Member

    Apr 30, 2013
    San Diego

    If a book is written in the year 2100 on the decisive moments of the 21st century my guess is that, in addition to Apple's contributions, Tesla will be up there as essentially changing the world as we knew it. I am convinced that what Tesla has done here is profound and after the dust settles and the pessimists and oil lobbyists disappear in a few years people will view the Tesla as a milestone equivalent to the transition from horse and buggy to ICE.

    That said, I write the following review as objectively as possible.


    I have been driving cars since age 12 and then legally since 15. It's my out of work obsession, I love cars, read all the magazines, and follow car stuff religiously. I've never been given anything and so I've babied all the cars I have earned (from a 84 toyota corolla to the M3) with blood, sweat, and tears. I've driven ferraris (most recently 458 at a track), audis, porsche (GT3 and carrera), and I've been to the track several times. So I feel fairly qualified to give what I think is an informed review of the type I wish I could have read when I was waiting for my MS to be delivered. I have 2 small kids and after seeing the Model S I put a deposit on the X. Then my friend (who owns an R8-V10, see below for more on that) convinced me to test drive the S for fun. That of course led me to switch my order to the S and around that time the P+ package was introduced (April 3).

    Lead up and Delivery

    Everyone at Tesla is kind and gracious (just like the employees I've met at Apple incidentally), from the person that took us on the test drive to my finance specialist (Thomas Chu) and Delivery Coordinator (Mike Beebe). I was inflicted with Tesla psychosis for about 6 weeks while waiting for the car and probably watched the intro video and read the manual 10 times. I had dreams every night about the car. Essentially it was a normal experience judging from similar stories from other owners. The day of delivery was amazing and the car was parked out in front of the SD service center. This, according to them, was the very first P+ delivery in San Diego. The person who gave me the walk through (also named Mike) was similarly incredible, kind, and informed as all Tesla employees seem to be. The whole experience was amazing and I left with a fully charged MS (vin 10837) and my kids happily in the trunk :)

    Initial impressions

    This car is incredibly well put together, and that is a gross understatement. The fit and finish are of the same level as my friend's audi R8. Flawless and perfect. Not one misaligned panel or rattle or uneven seam. PERFECT. Whatever growing pains they may have had, apparently they are resolved.

    P+ versus M3

    My M3 sedan is a 2008 model (but they are all the same from 2008 to 2012) that has been upgraded to the competition package with wheels and lowered suspension and spacers to give it the bull dog stance (pics can be found here: Daily Driver review: BG springs, spacers, and 359's - BMW M3 Forum (E90 E92)). It is a 6-speed manual and very very fun to drive. Since I go to work very early and leave late I usually have the whole road and freeway to myself and therefore drive like I'm on the autobahn. The comparison below is formulated after driving the identical route I drive everyday in addition to a road trip to LA. The MS is only about half a foot longer than the M3 so it doesn't feel like a large lumbering car (like a 7 series). I think a fair size comparison would be to the 5-series. Testament to the Tesla magic is that although it is Bigger and Heavier than the M3 is doesn't FEEL like that.

    Acceleration - Although the M3 has quoted times of anywhere from 4.4 to 4.8 seconds to 60, I've never gotten lower than 4.8 in my own timed runs. It's not even fair to compare the two here and I'm not sure it actually matters. You can probably put turbos and nitrous in a civic and beat everything on the road if thats all you care about. Regardless, as stated many times, the Model S CATAPULTS you to 60. It's exactly like a roller coaster (no noise, no engine revving, no warning of whats about to come) and if you are a passenger you will be forcefully pushed back (a near whiplash experience) and you will not be able to move your neck easily until the driver lets up from the accelerator. Incidentally the kids love the acceleration and keep chanting "Do it again papa do it again!". Be careful everyone!!!

    Handling - Here I divide it into different types of handling situations in the real world (not the track). All of the below was done without my kids in the back :)

    Lane changing on interstate - My friend said it best on this one - in the MS you just point and shoot. If you want to pass someone at high speed you can cut through traffic like a knife. The 75-95 mph transition is scarily effortless. In the M3 I would have to downshift to 3rd to get this kind of acceleration and make a whole lot of commotion. The MS feels as stable and nimble as the M3 when doing this.

    On/Off ramps - Car is unflappable and can be taken to extreme speeds as well as my lowered M3 without any body roll or feeling like you are losing grip. It is like a slot car and if it has a breaking point, I haven't found it yet. No floaty feeling at all and it feels like a car that weighs 3400 lbs not 4600.

    Sharp turns at high speed - There is a deserted intersection that is clear of people and cars and in the M3 I can take it at around 40-45 before the traction control kicks in. In the MS I could take the turn at 48 without any issues. I probably could have gone faster. It's basically riding on rails.

    Steering is really tight and taut, it feels phenomenal. Road feel is just a tad more numb than the M3 but I can feel all of the imperfections and crevices of the road just like the M3. Braking is just as good as M3 if not better. The regen feels just like a manual tran when you let off the accelerator - so if you are a lifelong manual driver like me don't worry you won't miss your slush box.

    High speed on deserted road - In principle, not that I have or have not done this, one can easily get to 120 mph and it feels as stable and planted as the autobahn-bred M3 (hypothetically of course, wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

    BONUS P+ versus R8 V10

    One of my best friends owns an R8 with V10 and I let him drive my MS like Andretti for 30 miles. The result - He is now selling his R8 and picking out the color of his MS. He had the Tesla grin from ear to ear and he told me the MS has about 70% of the handling capabilities of the R8 which I think is pretty good given that his car is a $190k dedicated race car. He needs the extra versatility of being able to seat 7 and go to costco.

    Road trip and everyday driving experience (after 500 miles)

    Everyday driving in the MS is filled with melancholy because you don't ever want to get to your destination. You just want to drive forever. The Tesla is a bit of a sleeper and I love that I can go to Kmart with it and not be as noticed as if I was driving a red ferrari. The people that know what the MS is are incredibly excited and will stop and take pics and ask you about it but if you want to go to a shady part of town you don't need to worry about getting bludgeoned with onlookers as if you are riding in an R8 (or even an M3). On the freeway it's kind of funny to watch cars go out of their way to get alongside and snap picks.

    We did the costco run with kids and the car fit all the groceries in the frunk without any problem. We could have fit 5 adults and our kids and it would be no problem. I loved skipping the Costco gas station - usually a 20 minute wait.

    Driving to LA was a no-compromise experience. Drove 80ish the whole way with AC blasting to keep kids cool and no attempt whatsoever to conserve energy. Did a range charge to 275 miles and arrived with 122 (after 111 miles) rated. Then went for 30+ miles with another best friend (average 590 wh/m!!!) who drove like crazy till we got to Hawthorne Supercharger where we went from 77 rated to 250 in about 40 mins (289 mph charging!!!! see pic below). During that period we wandered the Space X and Tesla parking lots freely. It was a surreal experience. Pieces of rockets all over the place, engines, old model S frames, a wind tunnel (pics below). I hope they keep it like that and don't cover it up more than it already is. The security didn't even mind us wandering around. For me this was better than visiting any museum. Then we walked back and a nice man let us into the Tesla facility (on Sunday!) so we could see the Model X prototype up close (pics below). This was no ordinary man, it was one of the lead designers (designed the turbine wheels on the S and the entire Model X!!). JACKPOT! He requested that we not release his name or show his pic but let me tell you, he was an INCREDIBLE AMBASSADOR for Tesla and told us some stories of the early days (he worked till midnight every day for the first year bringing the MS to market). He said Elon was, not surprisingly, very particular about who they hire. It was a real honor to speak with him (super brilliant and down to earth, apparently a prerequisite to work at Tesla) and reinforced my view of what a miraculous product Tesla has created. I wish I had a sharpie pen with me and I would have asked him to sign the inside of the frunk :(


    I have none really. My M3 didn't have the iDrive because I couldn't stand the iDrive (I had it in a previous BMW) and even in it's updated form I find it to be the most clumsy and non-intuitive attempt at a driver-car relationship ever to be executed. Audi and Mercedes aren't much better. A crappy "me-too" lame and incrementally engineered junk interface is the way I view those cars now.

    Ok maybe one suggestion for future Model S - A vent to the back seats would be good for the kids (but I'll get it tinted tomorrow and that should fix the heat issue). I don't find the car to be noisy at all (just as quiet or more so than our Buick SUV with 100 pounds of insulation) or have any rattles or fit and finish issues.


    If you are patriotic person you will appreciate that driving a Tesla is like carrying a 50 foot american flag with you everywhere. I've always loved German cars but that was only because there were no American ones that could truly compete. Tesla has now flipped the table on them and if I was at BMW I'd be as worried as Blackberry or Nokia should have been in 2007 when iPhone was released.

    I love the feeling of driving off of the sun (we have solar panels that generate 35 kw per day). I love giving the big middle finger to OPEC. I love that if Captain Picard were sent to the year 2013 he would feel at home in an MS. If you enjoyed Knight Rider and Star Trek as a kid, the MS is a big orgasm on wheels.

    Seriously folks, the MS has just rendered all other cars on the road obsolete.


    I love the product that Tesla has created. It is a game changer. I never want to leave the driver seat. I can see the blood and sweat that went into making this car and I am grateful. This car is worth every penny. It's moments like this that you can really be proud of our beautiful country and the innovative spirit that led to this. Congratulations to my new superhero Elon Musk and the people behind the scenes that are working tirelessly to change the world. If there are cars in heaven, I bet Steve Jobs is driving yours...

    Attached Files:

  2. Alan

    Alan Member

    Sep 18, 2010
    Thanks so much for this - it put a grin on the face of at least one person waiting for their model S to be delivered!
  3. Ames

    Ames Member

    May 27, 2013
    Abu Dhabi, UAE

    That review was so good I registered after 18 months of lurking...JUST TO THANK YOU :biggrin:

    I would sell my kidney to have that car. Seriously. I have called Tesla several times to try and convince them to sell me a car from the USA so that I can export it to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. To hell with the tax rebate. I even told them I would pay for the rangers to travel here, pay their hotel. ship the car back to the USA if necessary for repairs. No deal :-(...anyway thanks for sharing that awesome review.

  4. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Voltage makes me tingle.

    Nov 3, 2009
    Smithfield, VA
    Awesome write-up!
  5. DCWitt

    DCWitt Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Watseka, IL
    Excellent review! I am sending your post to a couple of my friends that are "on the fence" about ready to place their order. I bet your story will push them over the edge.
  6. Electric Machete

    Jul 5, 2012
    Weston, FL
    "Orgasm on wheels"

    That should be their new slogan. You've done a great job of expressing exactly how I, too, feel about Tesla and the Model S.

    Is there an Elon Musk mutual fund yet? Tesla, Space X, and Solar City are all going to be big winners.
  7. pme

    pme Member

    Jun 17, 2012
    Zug, Switzerland
    Wohooo... thanks so much, KOL2000! Can't wait to take delivery of my Signature Performance Plus #268 in Switzerland. July? August?
  8. AlMc

    AlMc 'Senior Moments' member

    Apr 23, 2013
    KOL2000.....Thanks. Tesla should definitely put this on their site as a 'testimonial'. I have two long days before my P+ arrives.:smile:
  9. Grendal

    Grendal SpaceX Moderator

    Jan 31, 2012
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    I parrot everyone else. Excellent write up. Your comparisons are clear and to even someone like me, that has never driven anything with performance, I got a clear understanding of the advantages of the Model S.

    Thank you.
  10. jeff_adams

    jeff_adams Member

    Mar 18, 2013
    I think Tesla's slogan should be "Tesla can"

    All car makers want to build beautiful cars. Tesla can

    They want to build fast cars. Tesla can.

    They want to build safe cars. Tesla can.

    They want to build cars that can constantly be improved. Tesla can.

    The list goes on and on......
  11. celter

    celter Member

    Dec 17, 2012
    Oslo, Norway
    Thank you. The problem is that your review made my summer even longer. I am expecting to take delivery of my fully loaded P85+ in September. Can´t wait.
  12. callmesam

    callmesam Member

    Jan 22, 2013
    Santa Monica
    Great description of the experience. I've been wondering what the 0-60 time is for the P+. Maybe closer to Elon's personal car?
  13. EMDoc

    EMDoc Member

    Mar 28, 2013
    San Diego
    Kol2000, thanks for the review. I also came from a 2011 M3 comp pack sedan. I have a P85, and now need to retrofit! Wish the plus had been available. Enjoy the car and agree with all your sentiments about opec and the analogy to apple's iphone!
  14. Oreo

    Oreo Member

    Sep 17, 2012
    Trondheim, Norway
    Kol2000, your review and sharing of your experience is very much appreciated across the Atlantic, but I guess also in the US & Canada. I'm so glad I did go for the P+, now I'm almost worried that it's too much for me to handle?
  15. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

    May 17, 2009
    It will drive just like the standard P85 or even any version of the Model S if you drive slow. But that's not why you bought the P85+ is it?:smile:

    I agree. Excellent review by Kol2000. Thanks!
  16. zeron

    zeron Member

    Dec 30, 2012
    Milky Way
    Awesome pictures. Thank you a lot for sharing with us!
  17. Jeroens

    Jeroens Member

    Feb 14, 2013
    Regio Utrecht
    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this great write-up, very much appreciated!
  18. CapitalistOppressor

    CapitalistOppressor Active Member

    Jun 18, 2012
    Amazing write up.
  19. caddieo

    caddieo Member

    Mar 21, 2013
    Palm Coast, FL
    Aaaaarggghhhhh!!!! I should have given the build order last month. Now the next 6 weeks will seem like an eternity.
  20. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    I wonder what his wife thinks about it. (I'd love to read a Tales From The Partner with the Rolling Eyes thread.)

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