It is impossible not to play a numbers game when talking Tesla.
The Model S P100D throws a numerical-based headline up in lights, claiming it can shift from zero to 100km/h in 2.7 seconds. The Model X P100D can do about the same while seating seven, and the electric vehicles (EVs) claim a 600km-plus range.
But where does that all leave this ‘base’ model 2018 Tesla Model S 75D?
It costs about $100K less than those top models, at $129,315 plus on-road costs, and is slower to 100km/h (4.4sec) yet quicker to deplete its battery (after 490km). So is the 75D just compromising that petrol-engine-beating equation of blending benchmark performance with a long range, or could this be a case of less is more?
In the four years since the Model S was released, Tesla has improved the value equation of its entire range. Previously, a buyer simply paid more to move from a 60 kiloWatt hour (60kWh or 60) battery package, to a 75kWh (75D) or 100kWh (100D).
On the one hand that step-up path remains unchanged, only the rear-wheel drive 60 formerly priced from $96,208 (plus orc) has long been dropped. But even last year’s rear-wheel drive 75 at $117,287 (plus orc) has been shown the door, so now this all-wheel drive 75D (‘D’ denoting dual-motor) becomes the $129,315 (plus orc) starter.
It then steps to $165,425 (plus orc) for the all-wheel drive 100D, which offers the same performance as this 75D but with longer battery life, and then the flagship $235,135 (plus orc) P100D with that aforementioned performance headline act.
While the entry-price has taken a hike, though, so too has standard equipment. A couple of years ago even the flagship Model S charged for the following features that all now become standard across the range (former prices in brackets): front and rear heated seats ($5300), Autopilot adaptive cruise control ($4500), air suspension ($3800), premium audio system ($3800), and a panoramic glass roof ($2300).
Most expensive extras are now standard, but full-leather interior trim with Alcantara rooflining, and extra cameras (from one to four) for the Autopilot system along with ‘summon’ remote-parking, plus red paint and carbonfibre trim, add $13,950 extra.
It is debatable whether from the outside the as-tested 75D looks like a $150K model grade, especially given its relatively small 19-inch alloy wheels, but inside this ‘base’ Model S essentially shares its furnishings with the flagship P100D.
The full-leather door trims and dash-top remains impressively upmarket, and likewise the Alcantara rooflining of the test car, complete with a well-tinted glass roof that doesn’t need a retractable shadecloth to block out full sunlight.
The panoramic glass roof even aids rear headroom, formerly a Tesla liftback sore point that becomes much less of an issue now, allowing the trio of individual rear seats to do their best work, along with plentiful legroom sans a transmission tunnel.
Before we move on to the dashboard itself, though, some negatives remain both up front and behind. Those leather door trims still don’t include any door pockets at all, and for rear riders that means the only storage available is a pair of cupholders. And although centre console storage is decent, there’s no actual console box under the armrest, and the finish of the bin lids and surrounding plastics are sub-premium.
Before we dwell too much on all that, there is quite literally an enormous upside to the above little downsides.
Quite simply, Tesla’s 17.0-inch tablet screen continues to be the benchmark in the new vehicle market for both graphics clarity and processor speed. The ability to use Google Maps, with satellite imagery and traffic, is an exact facsimile of that used on a smartphone app, while it integrates beautifully with calendar, trip computer, phone plus audio functions. And the now-standard premium sound system is simply superb.
It is the little intuition stuff that makes a greater whole with the Model S.
Keyless auto-entry doesn’t require you to press a button to start the car – because why, when you can just press the brake pedal and it switches on? Move your seat and it asks you if you want to save the setting. And hit reverse and it has scanned for parking spots, quickly asking you if you want to auto-park. It’s as seemingly simple as the bonus of having no petrol engine – you get a (small) front and (big) rear boot.
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 75kWh battery and 193kW electric motor Transmission: Single-speed automatic, AWD Suspension: Multi-link independent front and rear Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Flatten the throttle from a set of traffic lights in the Model S 75D and virtually nothing short of a sportsbike will leap from the line as quickly. The ‘little’ electric motor may not have the other-worldly thrust of the Model S P100D, but the way it jumps off-line will still have passengers dropping their jaw rather than actually laughing out loud.
Immaculately smooth, seamless, immediate, instant performance simply makes any comparably priced petrol (or diesel) engine feel hesitant and breathless, owing to the fact electric motors make power and torque instantly, rather than needing to ‘rev up’.
Because of that trait, motors are also happy with only a single-speed transmission, whereas any four-cylinder, V6 or V8 will need a gearbox to help alter engine speed as the car moves faster, swapping multiple ratios to keep it in its power sweet spot.
None of that is unique to 75D, or any Tesla – it is just an EV trait amped up here.
Consumption is an interesting one, meanwhile. Combined-cycle ‘fuel consumption’ of 186 Watt-hours per kilometre claims to equal a maximum 490km range, and over an initial 100km of mostly freeway running we beat that with 165Wh/km. Indeed, even after adding another 100km of urban running with a more aggressive driving style, it pushed to between 207Wh/km and 266Wh/km, for a 182Wh/km overall average.
Yet even ducking below the claim, two-thirds of the battery had been depleted after 214km, making for a 321km range on-test. Hmmm.
At least the first 400kWh (or five full batteries) worth of recharging is free at Tesla’s broad Supercharger network annually, while a home charging kit comes as standard and the 75D can cost between 10 and 50 cents per kWh (off-peak v on-peak) to ‘fill’.
One of the most pleasing parts of the Tesla, too, is its ability to just be a sweetly engineered premium large car beyond the unique bits of its drivetrain. Push the whole EV thing to one side, and its Autopilot adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance system also still happens to be the benchmark for precision and intuition. It keeps the vehicle lane-centred even on curves, plus it can even auto-lane change.
And yet its steering is also sweetly responsive and linear, its air suspension is soothing yet immaculately controlled, and its point-and-shoot handling will thrill many.
No, the Model S doesn’t feel as beautifully agile and balanced between its axles as a cheaper turbo four-cylinder BMW 5 Series, for example, which weighs about 500kg less than the 75D’s chubby 2081kg tare mass.
But with those heavy batteries positioned nice and low, the Tesla keeps its body amazingly flat through corners, and its more approachable limits will gel with any driver – turn into a corner, quickly find grip and then plant the accelerator and let the all-wheel drive system turn the electric motor’s energy into a mighty leap of forward progress. It’s addictive, certainly…
ANCAP rating: The Tesla Model S has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP rating.
Safety Features: Dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with surround-view camera, collision warning alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor and active lane-keep assistance with lane-departure assistance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Eight years/160,000km.
Servicing: Annual or 20,000km intervals with prepaid three-year ($2100) cover.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s still nothing quite like the Model S 75D. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 530e presents a great efficiency case (for a petrol), its cabin is lush and dynamics superb.
Conversely the E43 will offer the sheer performance to go hand-in-hand with genuine driver connection, while fellow PHEV S90 T8 R-Design best mixes performance with efficiency plus Tesla-beating interior finish.
All are different, and great, depending on where the above priorities lie.
- BMW 530e
- Mercedes-AMG E43
- Volvo S90 T8 R-Design
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Even beyond its electric motor and batteries, and superb infotainment, the ‘base’ Model S 75D is also one of the most enjoyable large cars to drive for this price.
In some ways it is actually more impressive than the Model S P100D, relative to its price. For $250K-plus, assessing that flagship model grade ultimately means communicating that what gains are made with astonishing performance, they’re lost in driver connection and ultimate cornering dynamics that others deliver at that cost.
Conversely, for $150K, the Model S 75D presents a greater fight to the aforementioned competitor set. At this sticker, its dynamic performance is comparable to others, while its performance remains (if only slightly) ahead.
Given that it now includes the same features and superb Autopilot system as the flagship model grades, this model grade proves to be a hidden gem within a range otherwise obsessed with headline numbers.
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