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CAR REVIEW: Tesla Model S with Autopilot

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 10:54 am    Post subject: CAR REVIEW: Tesla Model S with Autopilot Reply with quote

CAR REVIEW: Tesla Model S with Autopilot

We recently completed a full day of testing in the top of the range Tesla Model S P90D sedan with a return drive from Sydney to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley near Newcastle, NSW.

The Tesla Model S in P90D guise is their all-wheel drive version with electric motors at the front and rear wheels of the sedan.

As with all Model S sedans the P90D has plenty of interior space for 5 adults with ample legroom and headroom in the rear of the car. The flat floor of the Tesla also allows a 5th passenger to feel comfortable in the middle of the rear seat.

First Impressions of the Tesla P90D:

- the Model S is a quiet car via a combination of no intrusive petrol or diesel motor sounds coming into the cabin;

- it is a big car..................it gives the impression of being as big as a 7 series BMW or a fully-loaded Lexus sedan.

- the P90D is such a 'grounded car' courtesy of the massive lithium battery pack that sits low under the passengers compartment. All that weight of the battery pack just makes the P90D drive so flat on the road, especially if you select the lowest height setting for the suspension.

- The large screen in the centre of the console is a little surprising for both the driver and the front seat passenger when you first sit in the car. But after driving the car for just a short period of time you think to yourself.....why don't all passenger cars has screens this big !!!!

- there is a sense of style and uniqueness with this car that is really nice..................it does make you feel 'special' when you drive this car which is further enhanced when you realise there are no ugly polluting car fumes pouring out the back of the Tesla.

Having driven a Tesla P85 last August I knew just how quick and effortless the Model S can be.

LINK to our previous story on the Model 85 Sedan:


The Tesla P90D model really does take speed and agility on the road to a new level especially when you engage the Ludicrous Mode. In this mode the Tesla P90D is faster to 100 Klm/hour than a McLaren F1. Leaving the Tesla showroom in Sydney I was unaware the Ludicrous Mode was switched-on our test car and with just a slight dab of the accelerator the P90D suddenly lifted the car into "get-up and go mode" so it was a lesson quickly learned in ensuring this setting is used correctly.

Put your foot to the floor in Ludicrous Mode and the P90D is capable of accelerating at a force of 1.1g.


On the freeway or a suitable dual carriage-way the Autopilot feature on the Tesla Model S allows the driver to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road. Active sensors combined with GPS and high resolution digital maps comprise a mutually reinforcing system that pilots Model S along the highway, staying within your lane, even in stop and go traffic. Real time feedback from the Tesla fleet ensures the system is continually learning and improving upon itself.

The first time you activate the Autopilot is pretty close to a leap of faith because you simply do not know what is going to happen or when.

But the car just calmly reacts to your instruction to change lanes and will comfortably sit in your selected lane on the highway and follow the footprint of that lane.

We turned-on the Autopilot for the first time on a straight section of dual freeway on the road nroth to Newcastle and then just waited to see what would happen................basically nothing.......the car was just following the pathway of the left lane. After a short while a sweeping left-hander was approaching and there was a little anxiety among the passengers and the driver in the car. But with my hands gently resting on the wheel the Tesla just smoothly steered a little to the left and then straightened-up the car as we continued north............our verdict.......Autopilot is a very cool feature of the P90D .

Model S can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command.

Autopilot features are progressively enabled over time with software updates.

The Tesla P90D sedan we tested had both front and rear motors that developed an impressive 568 kW of power and the car rides really well on the road, the steering is accurate and it has plenty of grip.

The 17" touch screen centre console works seamlessly to control music, navigation, climate and the battery usage. Your have both a front and rear camera on the car which is a nice featureThe Model S now features a medical grade HEPA air filtration system, which removes at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from cabin air. A bio-weapon defense mode on the Tesla also creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants.

Range Anxiety:

One of the main issues with electric cars at this time is range. The current battery technology in these cars will allow you to do around 500 Klm on a full charge. The Tesla Model S obtains its electrical energy from a 18650 cell, a format that also powers laptops and medical devices. The 18650 cell in the Tesla measures 18mm in diameter and is 65mm long and there are over 7,000 of them connected in series and parallel in the battery pack for the Tesla.

Another benefit of having the battery pack under the passenger compartment is the weight distribution is lower and more centred in the car than other conventoinal motor vehicles and this one of the reasons why this car handles so well.

When you think about it we usually travel between 10-50 Klm in a typical trip in our cars, so the range anxiety issue with electric is a real one but only when we want to go on a long trip.

As you can see from the graph below the Tesla will take you 500 Klm but drive more aggressively or a faster average speed and these numbers will go down. That said, drive on the freeway at a gentle average speed of 90 Klm and you should get to your destination that is 573 Klm away.

Chris Goodsell from the Road Ramblings Radio program joined me in the Hunter for his test of the Tesla P90D and we both agreed the Tesla is worthy of the immense international praise and the many car industry awards it has received.

Link to the review of this P90D model by Chris Goodsell:


Our Verdict on the Tesla P90D:

At $231,084 on the road our test car was far from cheap but if you like the idea of driving something that is genuinely different the Tesla P90D is certainly worthy of your consideration. It is a great car that handles superbly, is whisper quiet and has all of the luxury features that you would expect from a car in this price range.

Best of all the Tesla is a car that you will want to show to your friends, take them for a ride and sometimes give them a demonstration of the Ludicrous Mode setting on the P90D............for that regular "smile moment" with your friends and family you would buy one !!!!

JEff - Editor

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