Arts + Culture

What a Charge: Test Driving the Tesla P100D

And calculating miles from Naples to South Beach.

BY May 8, 2017


Math. I’m not much of a fan—because at the moment, I’m driving across Alligator Alley and sweating it out over subtraction. I know I began the day with 316 miles worth of range on this brand-new Tesla P100D that I’ve been given by the kind folks at Tesla. The high-gloss blue bullet you see on these pages is beautifully built from top to bottom—a stunning work of art and science. But don’t ask me how it works (I was an English major). Suffice it to say that the floor of the car is made up of batteries, which power two electric motors (one in the front, one in the rear) that make this thing go.

And when I say “go”: This particular car (optioned to the tune of $150,420—though the base model starts at just $68,000) is capable of doing 0 to 60 in an eye-watering 2.6 seconds. All the while seating seven comfortably. Seven! Even more shocking, the reason this car is that slow is because it hasn’t yet received an over-the-air software update, which makes the car even faster. Motor Trend just clocked the newly updated Model S at 2.28 seconds, making it the fastest production car to that speed it’s ever tested.

FYI, I may have tested the aforementioned acceleration a few times already today—you know, for the story. You just tap the infamous “Ludicrous” mode and then pray. I should note that I attempted to video each of these launches, but my passenger/camera person shrieked like a wounded loon and dropped the camera each and every time. So while the car may be deadly silent, passengers won’t be. Of course, all that speed meant nothing to me when I was trying to find parking at Whole Foods.

Nevertheless, as mentioned, right now I’m staring out into the abyss that is I-75, and nervously glancing down at the mammoth 17-inch touch-screen command center that is displaying: the route to my destination (The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach); how much juice I currently have left in miles; and how much I can expect to have left over when I get there. The problem is they’re not adding up. It’s now saying I should have 40 miles of power left when I pull in and hand my Model S-shaped fob to the valet, but about 15 minutes ago it was telling me I could expect to pull in with 50 miles of juice left. And every minute I keep driving, I’m losing part of my planned reserve. Hence my constantly doing the math—and sweating. At this rate, I’m starting to stress I might not actually make it.

That’s the fear people like me have when they put thought into buying a Tesla. It’s called “range anxiety.” And for people who like to drive distances, it’s a real thing. Gas stations are easy to find—strangers willing to let you plug into their wall outlets, not so much.

Luckily, there is a Tesla supercharger station a few miles ahead in Plantation where I could plug in and add a few watts (up to 170 miles worth for 30 minutes of charging), but for the sake of this story, I think I’ll chance it. Nothing makes good editorial copy like disaster. (By the way, locally, the only public supercharger station is at Gulf Coast Town Center.)

Oh wait, now the car is telling me that if I slow to less than 70 mph, I should make it to The Ritz with 5 percent remaining on the batteries. That’s comforting. But who does less than 70 mph on the Alley?

I should probably say that when I picked the car up from the new Tesla store in Waterside Shops, the very helpful staff walked me through every bit of what makes this car awesome: the automatic keyless entry, the front trunk (no engine!), the smart air suspension that learns where speed bumps and driveway dips are in your neighborhood and adjusts automatically before getting to them, the split-screen feature that allows you to control various aspects of the vehicle and still surf the Web, etc. (Videos cannot be played on the screen for safety reasons.)

They were thorough. In fact, it took two hours. (Conversely, when I pick up a car at some other places they don’t even show me where it’s located in the parking lot.) And I needed every minute of that time because now I don’t even remember how to get The Ides of March off of the radio station. Seriously, how many times can someone listen to Vehicle without feeling like Child Protective Services are working up a file on you?

Regardless, there is a wonderful feeling of superiority that washes over you when you drive past gas station after gas station. They look so dirty to me now. Like a hobo. They’re hardcore reminders of the 20th century, but this car feels like the future. And the valet at The Ritz is fully prepared. He’s taking my gleaming ride straight to the hotel’s Tesla chargers inside the parking garage, which have been decked out in potted palm trees. In the meantime, I think I’ll just head up to the hotel’s Club Lounge and check on my car with my iPhone app.

And, in case you’re wondering, I got all the way here with 35 miles of range remaining. I was worried for nothing. I just might need to buy this car.


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