It’s been 3 years …
… and 43,000 miles since I purchased the Model S. And 5 years since I’ve been a Tesla customer. Many things have changed in 5 years, including aspects of the Model S itself. Among the long list of changes & features, two of them were the major reasons for the jump: AWD and autopilot hardware. Some of the smaller differences that helped: more range (90 kWh battery + higher efficiency), auto-folding mirrors, automatic high-beams, heated steering wheel, heated wiper landing zone, new seat design, and many more.
Let’s start with a comparison of how I optioned the two cars:
Here’s some explanation for the options I chose. I’ll leave out the boring / aesthetic ones.
When I first got my 2012 with the 85 kWh pack, I would get approximately 265 miles when fully charged. Since it’s not good to always charge to 100%, the car was generally left at 90% which gave me about 240 miles of range. That’s a lot. In a perfect world. When I made road trips deep in the New England winters, I’d rely on about 180 miles of range before I started needing to plan. Supercharging is most time-efficient from 0-80% so now you’re talking about 160 miles between charges unless you need the extra range — and I often do when road-tripping. That 160 miles or extra time spent at the superchargers can become inconvenient so, while I don’t often need it, I opted for the bigger battery. I now charge to 256 at 90% and 283 at 100%.
In 2012 with an 85 kWh battery, you’d either get a 5.7-second car or a 4.2-second car if you opted for the performance. 5.7 is no slouch but I’m a g-force junkie and was coming off the Tesla Roadster (and previously the Subaru WRX STi) so I naturally opted for the 4.2-second car. Today, you can get down to 2.8 seconds on the Model S but the price (+$30k) and the hit on the range (-17 miles) wasn’t worth it to me.
I drove the RWD Model S through 3 winters (using snow tires) and it did fine. Funny enough, the Tesla Roadster did better in this department (probably due to having 65% of the weight in the rear and I think the traction control in the Roadster is better under very slippery conditions). But, while it was fine, I live in New England and would prefer AWD. Secondarily, having AWD under dry, sandy, or wet conditions also makes a big difference — especially while pulling into traffic by taking a 90-degree turn. You can floor it while the steering wheel is significantly turned and it’ll nail it. Can’t say that about the previous Model S. I have yet to test it under winter conditions but given how quickly traction control reacts, I suspect it’ll be pretty awesome.
The 21″ wheels on my previous Model S became warped due to hitting the pot holes we get here from the harsh weather. I ended my time on that car with 19’s. While that made a difference in 0-30 acceleration and some cornering, it just wasn’t worth it. Given the AWD on the new car, the acceleration issue doesn’t exist and the cornering — well, it corners very well. The tires are cheaper, the ride quality is better, and it’s not as noisy. I’m quite happy with this decision.
I opted for the next-generation seats. They bolster your sides more and I desired this as I felt like I slid around in the seats too much during aggressive cornering. I was initially concerned they’d be uncomfortable when I sat in a demo car because you can feel it pressing into your back/sides but that concern was unwarranted. I don’t notice that feeling anymore. I do notice that I stick in my seat right where I’m supposed to!
I decided not to add $2500+tax to my bill for premium audio. While I notice a difference, it’s not a big enough difference overall and it’s especially not worth $2500 to me. I’d rather have a Reus Audio system installed for that price (they’re well-known for Model S installations; I personally know the guy and have heard the results). A side-effect is that because there’s no sub-woofer, I gain a little trunk space (the right corner).
In 2012, you could pre-configure your car with twin chargers (and the Signature edition I had came with it anyway). I installed the HPWC that’s required to take advantage of doubling your charging speed over the more common NEMA 14-50 solution that most people opt for. Today, this is not available as a factory option (hey Tesla — this is very annoying!) so I ordered it separately as an accessory that’ll be installed at the service center — whenever it arrives. I’m still waiting.
With this option I benefit from being able to charge at 58 MPH instead of 29 at home. There are a couple of ways to look at this:
- I can charge from 0 to full in about 4.5 hours (instead of 9)
- I can add about 30 miles of range in about 1/2 an hour — enough to quickly deal with that “oh @#!$” moment when you arrive home nearly empty from a road trip and need to run some errands
What I’ve Noticed
- There’s a distinct motor noise (reminiscent of the Tesla Roadster) due to the front motor. It’s not like any of the annoying noises (“droning” or “electrical cicada”) some of the older Model S’ (including my P85) developed. It’s a more “hey this sounds like the electric cars you hear in futuristic movies” sort of noise. And I kind of like it. I’d prefer complete silence but this noise isn’t irritating to me. I do not have the “balloon squeal” (a sound that pretty closely resembles slowly deflating a balloon through its neck) under any circumstances. At least not yet.
- The ride is far more solid. It’s hard to quantify — but the car is tighter and feels sturdier. It’s especially noticeable while driving.
- I’m getting better energy efficiency — according to the in-car energy app. In 70-degree weather I’m frequently under 300 Wh/m. I almost never saw that in the 2012 P85.
- Due to the front motor, the front trunk space is significantly smaller. That’s unfortunate but not a big deal. I still got all my charging gear, tire inflator, and winter sweaters & coats in there.
- The cover for the lower rear trunk area has been slightly re-designed — it’s stronger and sturdier.
- The front trunk (frunk) has a single latch (instead of two). I find it easier to close (you still can’t slam it shut of course but I find it easier to close without worrying about damaging it).
- The seat belts are a heck of a lot easier to pull out and latch.
- The charge port door (which is now motorized) works better. I sometimes had issues with the old design sticking closed (due to moisture or freezing) — I suspect that will no longer be an issue.
- The cup holders no longer have pincers to securely hold the cup in place. These were removed a long time ago allegedly because they ruptured a styrofoam cup with hot liquid in it. What’s there now is just a basic hole and while it doesn’t hold things as securely, it’s not presented a problem.
- The center console area comes standard with the yacht floor. I initially liked my old carpeted area but this is growing on me. It’ll be easier to keep clean, too.
- The glove compartment is a little smaller; there used to be a small cubby area that could be used to hold the J1772 adapter in place. I don’t really miss it.
- The alcantara material on the dash looks and feels nice. I think the jury’s still out on this for me. But that’s because I don’t really notice it much.
- The covers for the roof rack mounts are sturdier. There have been reports of the older style popping/breaking off too easily.
- The battery contactors sound quite different. They’re much quieter and sound much sturdier (which is a very scientific observation).
- The location of the brake pedal is better — you’re not as likely to brush the accelerator while pressing the brake pedal.
- The front defrost was redesigned as it wasn’t adequately spreading air across all areas of the windshield that need it. I’ll look forward to that change in the winter (which is when it most often presented a problem).
- The scroll wheels on the steering wheel are much more solid and easy to control. Previously I’d over- or under- shoot the item I was trying to scroll to. A small but annoying trait has been removed!
- Mercedes steering controls (which Tesla uses in their cars) swapped the directional and cruise control stalks from their former “backwards” layout to the more widely-adopted layout. That’s a good thing but it’s taking some getting used to. I still sometimes hit the directional instead of cruise. But everyone else who’s new to the car or is driving it as their secondary car will welcome that change.
The Smaller New Features
The new features are, of course, welcome. I’ve already enjoyed using the heated steering wheel and I love that the mirrors fold themselves in. The parking sensors are helpful. I’ll leave auto-pilot for another post but the hardware includes better mechanisms for hill hold (now “vehicle hold”) and transitioning from reverse movement to forward movement. My passengers have enjoyed the rear heated seats. I’ve used the automatic high beams without issue — though I’m so used to manual mode that I’m not really taking advantage of this. I haven’t come to trust it yet.
The Ordering Process
This is significantly different than it was 3 years ago. Not only do I have a service center (two, in fact) and a sales center in Massachusetts (all within 30 minutes of me), everything was done online with very little work from me needed. They sent a company to value my trade-in (the 2012 P85) while it was parked at my home. I paid the balance (new car – trade-in) via ACH online (I didn’t have to visit the bank for a cashier’s check). When I picked up the car, I signed a couple things and that was it. It was far easier and smoother than it ever was. Kudos to Tesla on streamlining this.
Oh, and the new-car-smell is awesome (and bad for me)!