As of late, Tesla has taken the automotive world by storm, and has finally received the recognition it deserves in Singapore. Some may still insist that electric vehicles (EVs) are nowhere near their prime, or ready for mass-market adoption. Hate it or love it, I do believe that Tesla is a representation of the inevitable shift towards software-driven life, and it will make a better world for future generations. Ultimately, it just boils down to how receptive you are to change.
Earlier this February, Tesla Singapore announced that the Model 3 is now available for pre-order on the electric carmaker’s sales portal. Prior to that launch, Tesla has actually made another 5-door fastback.
And this is it, the Tesla Model S.
While many EVs of the time were derived from internal combustion engine cars that have been retrofitted to fit EV drivetrains, the Model S was designed from the beginning to be full-on battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Hence, Tesla’s designers were able to package the entire drivetrain more efficiently.
The final result is a car that looks like an ordinary fastback sedan, all while retaining the practicality of a proper five-seater car. And it does all that while looking good too. It’s a sleek-looking vehicle, with enough road presence to dominate Singapore’s roads. The 85kWh battery pack has been integrated into the car’s floor pan, which lowers the car’s profile and centre of gravity.
Being a BEV, it obviously has no engine. And, because the batteries are built into the floor pan, you have an additional front trunk under the hood. Or a frunk. It is an impressive size, coming in at 150-litres. Combined with the cavernous rear trunk, the Tesla Model S has a rated boot capacity of 894 litres. Fold down the rear seats and the space expands further to 1,795 litres, giving it an edge over other cars in its class. No complaints here, I shop excessively so this boot capacity is a massive bonus to me.
Loading my shopping bags into the Model S is an easy affair too, with the uniquely shaped key fob. Shaped to resemble a miniature version of the Model S, this key fob corresponds to different parts of the vehicle. In essence, the front button opens the hood, the middle section unlocks the doors and windows, and the rear button opens the boot. Press and hold the back of the key fob, and the charging port pops open. You get the gist of it. While it is a better alternative to the basic keycard option, nothing ever beats the simplicity of just using your phone to access a Tesla.
With the Tesla app, users are able to have direct communication with their vehicle anywhere, anytime. Well, until their phone dies. With the app, Tesla owners have all functions of the key fob on their phone. You can also unlock your vehicle remotely, turn on the air conditioning to pre-cool your car on a hot day, beep your horn or flash your lights. In the newer Tesla models, you can even monitor your car via the 360° camera “sentry” system.
On top of that, you could even turn on the valet mode with the app. This limits the car’s power output and reduces its top speed to 80km/h, on the off chance you opt for valet parking or if you are loaning the car to someone else. The glove box can be locked and unlocked with a pin too. When promoted, any authorised user could just enter the prerequisite pin to gain access to the glove box’s contents. Much like a safe.
But to be frank, I was quite taken aback by the Model S’s minimalist interior design, and I reckon anyone would be a little bit sceptical about entering a cabin with little-to-no physical controls. The majority of the vehicle’s functions are controlled through an expansive 17” inch touchscreen display embedded on the centre console, just think of it as an iPad, except much bigger. At first glance, it does look futuristic and sophisticated, but I still feel that certain controls should always be mechanical and operable by touch. Even the glovebox is electronically operated by a button on the left of the screen.
In addition to the infotainment screen, there is also a digital instrument cluster just ahead of the driver, a useful feature that is missing in the newer Tesla Model 3. I won’t lie, it was visually confusing at the start, the only way I learnt to navigate around the system effectively was by memorizing everything and getting some hands-on experience.
However, I am not particularly fond of the gratuitous piece of wood trim smacked across the dashboard. It sticks out like a sore thumb and I would much rather have it finished in cream-coloured leather, or black to match the rest of the interior. An unpopular opinion, but just my two cents.
There is generous passenger space at the back for 3 adults to lounge in comfort. There are ISOFIX mountings nestled within the seams of the backrest, and there is a flat floor in the back, thanks to the lack of a transmission or drive shaft tunnel. You also get a full-length panoramic glass roof, which is a great addition as it brightens up your cabin, and it produces less wind noise compared to rolling down your car’s windows.
In America, the Model S is offered with rear-facing jump seats for children as an option. However, here in Singapore, putting your child in the boot with our harsh summer climate would probably be considered child abuse. In which case, just get an SUV, like the Model X perhaps.
I must say, the lack of internal storage compartments annoys me a little, and presumably other Tesla owners as well. Sure, there are aftermarket products available but I would have appreciated it if Tesla integrated a few more cup holders for my usual Starbucks order (Even one that would fit a grande-sized cup). However, what the Model S lacks in interior storage, it makes up for with its massive boot and the plethora of other features in this car. Especially the power this car puts out.
This Model S P85 produces 469 horsepower and 601Nm of torque. Zero to a hundred takes just 4.2 seconds. But these are just numbers. The only way you will understand how quick this car is, is to be in it. The drive was a rather surreal experience, though, admittedly, I wasn’t behind the wheel. The silence and the responsiveness of the EV drivetrain beggar’s belief, and the way a Tesla gets up to speed is unlike anything I have ever experienced in a production car.
When you floor the pedal, the car surges forward with a shocking amount of force, throwing you back in your seat. There are no gears in an EV, so the acceleration remains linear with no interruptions. Frankly, it doesn’t feel like acceleration. It feels like thrust, almost as forceful as an aeroplane taking off down a runway.
All in all, the Tesla Model S is an amazing vehicle. A real leap forward for BEVs as a whole, and proof that electric drive is the future of the automotive industry. But now that you’ve seen it in all its glory, I bet most readers would be wondering what living with a Tesla is like. So stay tuned for our next article, where we delve more into the ins and outs of Tesla ownership with the very first owner of the Tesla Model S in Singapore, Joe Nguyen.
WORDS BY EN LI TAN
VISUALS BY LAWRENCE LOY