Unto the World a new Child is Delivered. Rejoice!
A brand new baby has arrived at Omega Towers in the form of the Tesla Model S in ruby, metallic red …please, don’t judge me – a middle aged gadgeteer driving a red sports car. I know that it’s sad, pathetic and predictable but at least it’s electric.
I went for the 85D with full tech pack plus all the winter options and four wheel drive. After a test drive in York at a road show, I was totally hooked. I’ve always been more of a 4wd type of gadgeteer, but I’m getting well into this electric vehicle stuff. Plus, as it’s four wheel drive, there’s at least a nod towards practicality for the harsh, Northumbrian winters.
So, here we are nearly nine months after order and my Model S has finally arrived. I had to take a one-way train journey to Birmingham along with Mrs Omegaman to collect it as, bizarrely, until next week there are no garages north of Brum – there’s one opening in Edinburgh soon. If I could have waited just seven days more, I could have done the 1 hour trip to Scotland instead of seven hours South. However, like all gadgeteers, a week is a long time when the new toy has been ordered. Admit it, in your heart of hearts, you’d have done the same.
Sadly, a couple of days after collecting Sparky2, I had to go into hospital to have a torn ab-muscle repaired, so I couldn’t drive for a few weeks (actually, I got sick of that after a week). Of course, that didn’t stop me sitting in it to play with all of the gadgets. You would expect no less, I’m sure.
The handover experience at the garage in Birmingham was excellent, full marks to them as they went through every aspect of the car in detail, taking about 2 hours. Mrs Omegaman was distinctly unimpressed of course…”are you done, yet? Can we go? I’m hungry!” Next time, I’m taking sandwiches.
The only down-side was that they hadn’t thought to look at my address and realise that I’d need a full charge to get home to Northumberland, a little trip of around 240 miles. Still, a small side trip into the motorists nightmare that is central Birmingham and 20 minutes on a super-charger station gave us around 150 miles range which was enough to get us to our coffee stop at Barnsley, just off the M1. Mrs O also managed a hit of gluwein and oysters, so another win there. Another 20 minutes and a quick comfort break and we were juiced up enough to get home with ease. Being unfamiliar with the Model S and more used to the limited electric range of the Sparky the Ampera kept the old rear sphincter plenty tight, I can tell you. Still, I needn’t have worried. Sparky2 delivered in spades.
I’m really impressed with the super-charger stations. Quite unobtrusive yet stylish and packing 125KW of juice through a fairly tiddly connector. I had a backup though, in that I’d paid an extra £340 for a CHADEMO adapter which allows me to the use the Nissan 50KW and 90KW charging stations. We have two of those in our local town, so I don’t really need to worry about charging problems. Still think the Tesla one looks way more cool though.
Streaming Google Earth onto a 17″ touch screen is very IT. However, if, as in my area, 4G is just a distant dream and 3G only pops up and rears it’s head on alternate Tuesdays then streaming satnav data is a slow and expensive waste of electrons. I haven’t yet figured out how to use the plain old vanilla, Garmin system that I’m sure is hiding in there so no signal means no satnav and you’re back using the TomTom on the iPad or that quaint old paper stuff with markings on it.
It doesn’t look like you can import interesting and useful POIs such as Nissan charge points where the Tesla ones don’t yet exist. Sure, you can log onto Charge-My-Car.org on the cars built-in web browser (signal permitting), but you then can’t integrate the charge points into your journey planning as you can with the Tesla Superchargers – initially, Sparky2 wanted us to route up the West Coast via the Gretna Green supercharger which would have added 90 miles to the trip. There’s only one Supercharger between Liverpool and Glasgow and it’s at Gretna. Does Tesla know something that I don’t?
Listen, I’m as romantic as the next gadgeteer (quiet at the back!) and maybe one day I’ll whisk Mrs O off to Gretna for a dirty weekend safe in the knowledge that our carnal exertions will at least have the benefit of not costing the odd rain forest or two. However, for the moment, putting in those all-important POI charge-points would be rather nice. Maybe a romantic restaurant or two as well would go down quite nicely.
When Mrs O got her first Range Rover, I figured out in about 30 seconds how to get a list of “road safety cameras” from pocket-gps.com and import them as POIs into her car. (BTW. Terry at Stratstone Newcastle, if I just happen to find a nice bottle of Dom on the back seat next time it’s in for service, you may receive an anonymous package with a few instructions and a usefully populated flash drive) . This is rather handy if your attention has wandered and the the old speedo has crept up just a mile or two above the recommended limit. A timely “bong” is a great reminder that maybe, just maybe, a little bit less right foot is in order just for the next few seconds…Officer.
Is it just me or do all electric car designers have the same tech blindness when it comes to satnavs? I mean the Ampera version was also useless! Is the Leaf version also a steaming heap of dingos’ kidneyst? Guys, these are not just fancy add-ons any more. People . Use. Satnav. Paper bad, electrons good.
Other than Google Earth, the satnav looks fairly pointless until, of course, they remotely update the software. Apparently, Tesla really listen to their customers comments, so I’ll be sending them a copy of this blog once I’ve had a few weeks worth of experience and managed to break a few things in true gadgeteer tradition….
STOP PRESS. I did manage to break it! The screen touch sensor packed in, the display was still working, but there was a message telling me to contact Tesla, which I did immediately as, without the touch screen, you can’t even control the screen demister. New car – M1 – rainstorm – nightmare.
I got a call back from the wonderful, Austrian manageress of the Birmingham garage, who explained how to reboot the main CPU. In fact, taking the call on the bluetooth interface cleared the fault somehow. It might have been the damp as it was the wettest drive home I’ve had in ages – thank goodness for the traffic radar though.
Blue Screen Of Death
Out of interest, reboot by pressing on the brake pedal and then holding down both left and right roll selector switches on the steering wheel until it resets. Well, there’s another first, having to reboot my car. Please, no BSOD at 70 MPH, Mr Musk! That’s the electric steering gone.
Car and Climate settings
There are simply no buttons in this car. Everything is done through the touch screen. So, for example, opening the sunroof is very intuitive. Just pull up the car controls display, tap sunroof and drag the image to the position you want and the sunroof follows.
Climate settings are just the same. Oh sure, you can change the temperature tapping the main screen controls which is useful. If you want to change the temperature of the seats, just pull up the climate menu screen and then individually tap each of the 5 seats to change the heat settings. Lovely and toasty.
So, I tried the autopilot as well. Brilliant! You get into the lane in which you want to drive and then double pull the cruise control stalk. You can see what the car thinks it can see at all times as the lane markings and traffic ahead are shown. Once it’s taken over, you get a warning to keep your hand on the wheel, just in case. In fact, you get about 10 seconds after removing your hand before it starts bleeting at you. Indicate to overtake and, if it’s clear behind, it pulls out and overtakes. Indicate to move back in and it does. I think that on a long journey, or just if you want change the media player or plan a route diversion, this could be an amazing facility. There’s also speech recognition which I haven’t really tinkered with yet, but once I can climb in the back after a heavy session and slur “take me home, Sparky”, they’ll really have something useful.
In my ignorance and misogyny, I have nick-named this the “Girly Parking Option” – sorry, girls – Mrs O is a far better driver than me in general (get me off-road, however…). I haven’t had a chance to try this in town yet due to injuries. However, the little Omegamen at the Towers convinced me to set up a scenario and give it a try. So, we duly parked a few cars at the front of the house, leaving the required 6m gap. We drove the car slowly along the line, past the 6m gap and as soon as the backend of Sparky2 passed the last car, a little “P” appeared in the display. At the same time, new options appeared on the display. Pressing ‘”AutoPark” kicked off the action. Sparky2 reversed himself into the spot, backed and forthed a bit and then with a smug little ping, declared satisfaction with his performance and handed back control to me. I have to admit that I had my foot over the brake pedal the whole time! This will take a bit of getting used to but I guess, like all new fangled doohickeys, at some point I’ll wonder how I ever did without it. Having had man-surgery meant that I couldn’t swing myself around to look over my shoulder, so I’m not sure whether I could have done the manoeuvre myself even with the mirrors and rear view camera. So, bit of a winner that. I’m sure that in normal circumstance, I could have gotten into a smaller space, but then it’s early days with the software.
So, you’ve got a car with permanent internet access and fully digital control over every one of its’ functions. What’s the obvious thing to do? Well, write a remote control app, clearly. This Tesla have done. I can check the internal temperature of the car and heat it up if it looks a bit frosty so that I’m good to go as soon as I walk (well, hobble at the moment) out of the door. If it’s a bit hot, I can crack open the sunroof to let out a bit of hot air, which is handy if you’ve left the dog or baby in the car…surely not! Now, it’s claimed that the Model S will open the garage doors and drive itself around to the front of the house, but I haven’t yet seen that appear on the remote control app. It will, however, memorise garage door and electric gate radio codes. A bit unfortunate if you’ve designed your own electric gate system with non-standard codes, however!
Look at the picture of the app here and you can see a button marked “Start”. So, this could be the real life saver when you lose your car keys. Click on START, then re-enter your Tesla password and the car unlocks and switches on. How good is that! Talking about car keys, the key is a little Model S with various concealed buttons to unlock, open the roof or open either the front or rear boots (trunks, technically as it’s an American car, I suppose).
I love the way in which the door handles sink into the door when it’s locked or just when you pull away. A bit disconcerting is the fact that you neither lock nor unlock the car manually. Just walk up to it with the key in your pocket and as you approach it unlocks. It starts with a press on the brake pedal. When you walk away, after about 30 seconds the car deactivates and locks itself. I know that there are other cars like this, but it’s new to me and yet another bit of tech to get used to.
I still have to watch it until I see it lock as I haven’t yet learned to trust it, but then when electricity was first invented, people used to go around at night putting all the plugs in so that that the electrons wouldn’t run out over night, so no change there.
There are also “honk the horn” and “flash the lights” commands if you lose the car. On the other hand, pressing the “Location” button brings up the vehicle location on Google Earth, so you’d have to be going some to actually mislay your Model S. Which is handy if someone comes along and actually manages to steal it, of course. I have no idea how anyone would be able to steal one, but I’m sure that some enterprising soul will figure it out. Maybe a virus?
Rear View Camera
One of the main screen menu options is to pop up the rear view camera image. This triggers automagically when you select reverse as you’d expect. However, it’s also possible to select this view manually. So, in your next high speed chase with the 5-0 on your tail, you can see just how far behind you they actually are. Oh, that and the traffic sensors. Really useful. Possibly handy for overtaking to be fair.
So, where are the rocket launchers, Mr Musk? What’s the point of a rear view camera without targeting options?
I suppose that I’d better mention the actual performance of the actual car bit rather than only gushing about its’ gadget capabilities. However, this is a bit like asking how far you can fling an iPad as a frisby. Sure, an iPad will skim through the air if you really want it to. That’s not really the point of the iPad or the car, is it it? I mean, come on, it’s the bastard offspring of a milk float and the iPad, right? Really?
…oh, all right then. Two words. “Holy” and “shit”, as in “Holy Shit!”. Ooooh, mother, you never told me about stuff like this.
I have never – and I really mean that as in not in my entire existence – ever, ever, everrrrr driven a car as quick and as nimble. Even Mrs Os’ Porsche was laggardly in comparison. Bearing in mind that the weather has been abysmal, if it’s not snowing, it’s raining. If it’s not raining then it’s sleeting and between times it’s icy. Still, from a standing start, you are hitting warp 9.9 before you can say “make it so” and you can’t even tell because your eyeballs have flattened and everything is out of focus.
They are going to have to invent a new category of excuse on Police Speeding forms for this car. “Acceleration induced blindness, your honour”. I didn’t even get the fastest one on the market. The new P90D has an extra 5KW of battery power, uprated power cables and bigger electric motors. Mine clocks in at around 600BHP equivalent and such a small fraction of a second over 4 seconds in the 0-60 test that it makes no damn difference whatsoever.
The P90D Insane Version will shave over a second off that time and a similar proportion from your life expectancy and will, in the process, increase your underpants usage factor hugely. Still, it’s only £600 a year to insure – please, please, please don’t let some random insurance salesman do the maths and realise that a mid-range BMW costs no less on finance after you factor in the plug-in grant and the tax savings (pretty much exempt). If just one of those buggers gets even a sniff of what these cars are capable of doing to the hormone and adrenaline levels of the average, red-blooded gadgeteer, then insurance will go through the roof.
I kid you not. It’s that fast.
So, where does it sit on the “best thing since sliced bread” scale?
Well, if the Ampera rates up there with beer and pizza, then the Model S is Oysters and Champagne in a Parisian bistro. Probably with a German Super Model on your arm.
It’s not brash and loud as you’d normally expect from an American sports car. It actually has what we Europeans like to call “handling” in that when you turn the steering wheel in a bend, it follows and sticks to the road like a nymphet to a Russian oligarch; unlike my previously favourite American muscle car, the Mustang, which doesn’t steer worth a damn but will tear the skin of your face in a straight line. Especially the version with an engine size north of 5 litres. The Mustang is Kim Kardashian, the S is Heidi Klum.
The S, will easily hammer a Mustang into its’ dust, clearly. However, it’s when your buddies tell you that it looks like an Aston or a Jag that you just know if you turn up to a shoot or the golf club, the only comments to your face are going to be admiring one. The comments behind your back are going to be along the lines of “that jammy bastard”!
I’m in love with my car.