Tesla Model S P90D: A normal person drives the ‘best car’ ever made

Tesla Model S P90D: A normal person drives the ‘best car’ ever made

The first thing I Googled from the driver’s seat of this $142,000 Tesla Model S P90D was a plea: “turn off tesla.”

A representative of Elon Musk’s heavily hyped automaker had just patiently explained everything I would need to know about the all-electric sedan, including how to enjoy its 300 miles of battery-powered range and how to turn on the absurdly fast “Ludicrous” mode.

But as I pulled in front of my home inside one of the nation’s most celebrated machines — a car that Consumer Reports gave its highest rating in history, 103 out of 100 — I realized I had forgotten one tiny detail: I didn’t know how to turn the thing off.

The answer is, well, you park it and walk away: A simple but uncomfortably alien gesture for anyone who has ever driven a car. And over a few confusing, exhilarating days with the Model S P90D, I realized just how much the future of driving will force us to relearn what we know about cars.

Tesla Motors, the United States’ youngest car company, had agreed to let me keep its newest model for a long weekend, and I was intent on driving and thinking about the car as a normal American driver might: caring for its place in the actual family routine, not just how it would look in a showroom.

There was one big obstacle to that: The price. The car starts at $70,000, although this one was fully loaded — with perks such as a $35,000 90-kilowatt dual-motor upgrade — and cost about $142,200, which seemed more appropriate attached to a charming central Florida bungalow.

Why should anyone care about a car that expensive? Because no other machine better represents how much the American driving experience is poised to change. In the 18 years since the Toyota Prius was introduced, virtually all of the big automakers’ electric and hybrid offerings, such as the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, have been suburban dweeb mobiles, demanding sacrifices of style and still selling for far more than the traditional gas guzzler. The Model S is the best attempt at making an eco-friendly car that people get excited about.

Musk has long called the Model S the first step toward making electric cars ubiquitous. “Step one: expensive car, low volume. Step two: medium price, medium volume. Step three: low price, high volume,” he said last month. The carmaker’s next model, after its just-released Model X SUV, is the Model 3, a mass-market electric car set to sell for about $35,000 and start production in 2017.

Perhaps more important, other automakers are beginning to follow Tesla’s lead. General Motors says it will start turning out its 200-plus-mile-range Chevy Bolt next year. It will cost about $30,000 after tax credits. Kelley Blue Book just celebrated the new Chevy Volt, Volkswagen e-Golf and even Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai as the best and most affordable of the eco-friendly fleet.

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