Upgrading my Model S?

In the middle of last month I got an unsolicited email from Tesla headquarters asking me if I wanted to upgrade my Model S.  I have not seen much chatter about this on the web and the email was addressed directly to me.  I have a VIN less than 5,000, so hand soliciting owners with less than 5,000 miles is not surprising.  A Bloomberg reports states that Tesla is strongly pushing to show positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The bulk of the email stated the following:

This is X with Tesla Motors Headquarters. Today, I am writing to you to explore upgrading your Model S! 

Our newest release of Autopilot hardware and software will revolutionize your commute and we’d like to offer you an easy path to upgrade your Model S to a vehicle with these new features.  Model S also features new options such as improved seating, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, Ludicrous speed, range of over 280 miles, new colors, new fascia and much more.  Above all, we have made the upgrading process simple and convenient.   

We are also excited to share that we have reintroduced the Tesla Referral Program! From now until October 15th you will receive a $1,000 credit towards the purchase price of either a Model S/X.

I had not really looked into upgrading, as I tend to hold onto cars for at least ten years unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade.  But I thought I’d look into how much it would cost to upgrade my Model S.  I had no interest in the Model X.

Possible Configuration

Base Model

There are currently four battery sizes available:  60, 75, 90 or 100 kWh.  The 100kWh only comes configured as a P100D with dual drive.  The 90 is also only available with the dual drive but the 60 and 75 can be configured with rear wheel drive.  My main interest is battery range as I like to take long trips and have the most flexibility on when and where to charge.  The following table shows the four battery options, the EPA mileage estimates, the amount of upfront cash required before sales tax, and the cost per mile.  The 60 and 75 rear wheel drive version and the 90D are in the same ballpark; if you have any interest in a longer range vehicle, you are paying the same proportion in cost for more battery cells up to the 90D.

dollarpermile.jpg

The P100D is a $42,500 jump from the 90D.  The 90D goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, the P100D goes from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.  If I were to upgrade, I would definitely go with the 90D.  The P100D’s range is not that much more for the extra cost. I live in an area with increasing congestion where it is increasingly difficult to enjoy fast 0 to 60 acceleration.

Options

Autopilot

I’d pay the $3,000 for Autopilot 2.0 hardware.  The primary feature I would be interested in is intelligent cruise control.  I’ve always found traditional cruise control generally more frustrating than anything else because there are always too many cars on the highway to maintain a constant speed.  The rest of the autopilot features don’t interest me all that much.

Smart Air Suspension

I bought the smart air suspension on my Model S in order to improve the efficiency while driving on the freeway.  Unfortunately I have found very little efficiency improvements using the smart air suspension.  For $2,500 and more maintenance issues, I would definitely pass on this option.

Panoramic Roof

I’d definitely configure the car with the Panoramic Roof for $1,500.  I don’t think I have ever bought a car without some sort of sunroof.

Wheels

After so much hassle with my 21” tires, I definitely would choose 19” wheels.  Low profile tires are just too much of a hassle on a wide vehicle.  I am tired of tight parking spaces, curb rash, and the increased vulnerability and wear of low profile tires.

Ultra High Fidelity Sound

For $2,500, I am a sucker for better sounding music in the car even though I don’t listen to it all that much.  I know there are after market options, but that to me is just a hassle.

Premium Upgrade Package

This $3,000 package includes a lot of miscellaneous things.  I would like to have the filtration system to some agricultural smells, and I like having a power liftgate.

Other options

I don’t have any needs for the Sub Zero Weather Package, Rear Facing Seats or the High Amperage Charger.

Aesthetics

Deciding the exact color seat combination would probably be a last minute decision.  I’d probably wait for the grey second generation seats in Mid 2017 that are a $2,500 upgrade.  I’m happy with my black interior, but I’ve always liked grey interiors the best.

Pricing

Tax Credits

I would be unlikely to get my federal tax credit of $7,500.  I did not get the credit on the Roadster, and I did not get all the credit on my Model S.  I am very fortunate to have retired very early in life, and my investments are tuned to only generate enough interest and dividend income to offset property tax and mortgage interest.  Adjusting this even in one tax year is not that simplistic, and definitely hard to do in the last quarter of a year.

The California state tax credit is a bit more complex and caught up in politics.  Right now if you try to apply you will be put on a waitlist.

waitlist.jpg

For both my Roadster and Model S, the rebate arrived very quickly and the process was painless.  Recently though the California government stopped this incentive for high income earners and increased the incentives for those with low income.  California uses gross annual incomes to determine whether or not you are eligible for the income.

income.jpgI would not count on the $2,500 California rebate if I bought a new Tesla both for political reasons and my personal widely fluctuating income.

Trade In

I have to admit the number one thing I was curious about in this process was the value of my current Model S with 59,000 miles on it.  The process to get a quote took a while but in the end, I would receive $41,000 plus a $1,000 loyalty credit contingent upon an inspection.  I don’t have any scratches on the car but they would likely deduct some curb rash repair fees.

Numbers

The most likely configuration I came up with was a 90D with about half the options for $102,000.    I would need to add in 9% sales tax and then subtract out my $42,000 trade in. I do still have $800 left in credit for an earlier referral but that might be used up to clean up the curb rash on my wheels.  In the end to upgrade my car would cost me around $70,000!

Conclusion

I have no interest in changing my under warranty 59,000 mile Model S for the a very similar car with a small increase in range for $70,000.   In the unlikely occurrence that my Model S was totaled, I might be interested in leasing and switching the cars around till I found the perfect body size for me – even driving an X for a few years then switching to a Model 3.  Upgrading a car to essentially the same car is just not all that interesting.

Tesla Referrals

For the over six years I’ve owned two Tesla vehicles, I have taken many friends and acquaintances on rides and a few on test drives.  Most people are quite reluctant to actually drive someone else’s car, so by far most were test rides not test drives.

I thought it would be interesting to report on the actual referrals I made before Tesla’s current referral program existed for the Model S.

The first friend who bought a Model S was a former close work colleague. We drove around in my Roadster many years ago.  He knew about my blog and told other people that I was driving a Roadster.  He bought one of the first 10,000 Model Ss and now his wife also has a Model S.  He is a complete gadget junkie, so he would have likely eventually bought a Tesla but I’m sure my reference accelerated his purchase.

Another couple I know well leased a Model S.  Jason is a car fanatic and I took him on the factory tour when I picked up my Model S in early 2013.  Two and a half years later he and his husband leased a demo model with 1,300 miles on it.  Since they are serial leasers, the exact options were not of concern.  With irony they replaced a BMW convertible for a 70D Model S without a pano roof.

Travis and Jason's New Tesla

Travis and Jason’s New Tesla

They own three homes:  one on the peninsula, a condo in San Francisco, and home in wine country.  For only $180 an electrician wired their peninsula home with a convenient 40 Amp dryer outlet. In San Francisco Jason can use a company charger.  In the wine country they already had a 220 Volt plug already in their garage. From their home in wine country, they also have easy access to the Petaluma supercharger on their way back to their homes near their jobs.

During the summer of 2014, I visited a friend in her second residence in Oregon.  We took a long day trip including visiting The Dalles supercharger.  The town name “The Dalles” always confuses me, very few places have the word “the” in the name.  The word is from the French world “dalle”, which means flagstone.  Near the supercharger, water flows through the Columbia river over a series of rocks.

This summer, my friend and her husband called me to discuss various options on the Model S.  I suggested and they agreed that unless your in love with the look of the 21” wheels or live somewhere where you can take advantage of the grip, the 19” wheels are a better choice.   He is a doctor in Arkansas and plans to primary drive from home to his two offices. I also suggested that the air suspension is not necessary unless you live somewhere that it is required to park the car.  In my experiments with trying to test the air suspension on freeways, I have yet to see that lowering the suspension in real world conditions made any truly significant drop in energy use.  But those test were very hard to do accurately and I could never obtain reliable data to report.  A third question was the battery size.  I recommended the largest battery possible, and I would recommend this to anyone with the budget.

Arkansas is a Supercharger Desert

Arkansas is a Supercharger Desert

Their primary residence is in Arkansas and they will be likely one of the few in that state.  Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii are the only states left without any superchargers.  Arkansas has some icy winter driving conditions, so they chose to buy the D option but felt no need to purchase a P version. Unfortunately, their order had been processed far enough in the three days between the phone call and the announcement of the referral program that the $2,000 stayed with Tesla.

At this point, I have only one $1,000 credit (Thank you!).  Feel free to use my link till the end of October.  I will be very soon buying the extended warranty at a cost of $4,000 as I am very close to 50,000 miles.

Road Trip Testing the New Trip Planner

Last week I went from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon and back in my Tesla with software version 6.2.4.153.  I do this trip twice a year as I really enjoy the plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — where 2/3 are not Shakespeare plays — along with the wonderful food and ambiance in the town itself.

On the way up, I drove a circuitous route through the Petaluma supercharger and experimented with the new trip planning feature, and on the way back I explicitly tested the feature.  The trip planner technically is still in Beta and was added to help us plan our trips and reduce range anxiety.  Unfortunately, the software still has quite a few problems that inadvertently caused me some minor range anxiety.

Tesla divides the software into three different features:  trip planner, range assurance, and navigation.  The trip planner helps you determine how much time to charge at each supercharger.  The range assurance software lets you know that you potentially may be running out of energy while driving.  The navigation software has been part of the software since the Model S began shipping.  To the end user, all three of these pieces of software have high degrees of interaction.  This review of the trip planner software inevitably discusses all the software in totality.

Informal Testing

On the way to Oregon, I stopped in at the newer Petaluma supercharger and decided to drive up through Calistoga and avoid some of the very boring Interstate 5 (I-5) driving.  Prior to the trip, I planned the journey in some detail using evtripplanner.com.  The total miles between the Petaluma supercharger and the Corning supercharger on I-5 is 165 miles, which should use up 52.6kWh on my 85 with 21” wheels in typical nice California weather.

In Petaluma when I selected the Corning supercharger, the navigation system really wanted me to go to the Vacaville supercharger first.  I could not overwrite the path as the software does not allow any waypoints on your drive.  Waypoints are intermediate points that you can select to choose between alternative routes.  The Tesla navigation system has a very strong preference for freeways.  By the time I got to Calistoga, the software finally gave up and routed me directly to the Corning supercharger showing I would have a 28% battery upon arrival.

Software Weakness #1  – Navigation System really needs waypoints to allow the user to select alternative routes.

I went for a very nice hike in Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park which is at the summit of a small mountain range.  When I got back, the software was completely confused and reported that it would only have 5% of battery when I got to Corning and that I needed to drive slowly.

Tesla Range Assurance Warning

Tesla Range Assurance Warning

Since I was paying close attention to this new software and have driven cross country in the Tesla, I was not alarmed and realized my problem was likely that the car could not connect to the internet. After driving downhill about 10 miles, the 3G connection finally kicked in and the number shot back up to about 28% battery remaining.

Software Weakness #2  – The trip planner needs to store more information so that in period without internet access, the software does not report incorrect data.

The next day I headed towards Ashland after charging that morning at the Mt. Shasta supercharger.  I was only going to drive to Ashland and stay there and return to the same supercharger.  Because I have done this route a few times in the Tesla, I did not pre-plan my trip to and from the Shasta supercharger beforehand.  I charged the car at Mt. Shasta to what I suspected was “full enough” and not a range charge; I unfortunately did not note the exact amount of charge.

The driving distance between Mt. Shasta and Ashland is only 75 miles and there are a few slower chargers in town.  But I would have dearly loved to have a round trip feature on the trip planner, so I would have known how much I needed to charge in Mt. Shasta.  The elevation change is 1,653 feet so using the number of miles is not sufficient to estimate charging needs.  I did not remember how much I had charged on previous trips.

Software Weakness #3  – The Trip Planner needs a roundtrip feature.  

Ashland

Blink Charger With Almost Unreadable Screen

Blink Charger With Almost Unreadable Screen

Ashland has a few chargers in town, so I decided to stop and try to top off the Tesla at one of  them.  Even if the Tesla software is far from perfect, I do not particularly enjoy dealing with external charging stations.  The stations in Ashland are no exception.  I have charged there once before.  But Ashland is very strict with their parking rules;  I have gotten a ticket in the past for staying about 15 minutes past my four hour allowed time in the same parking lot.

I was a little nervous with the ubiquitous signs stating “Head In Parking Only” when the cord would not reach while parking head in.  The second problem was that I simply could not read the cracked and dirty screen in the direct sunlight.   The third problem was that when I pulled out my Blink charging card, I got the error “Access Denied”.  I incorrectly figured I had enough juice and gave up.

Pavement Where Tesla Suspension Needs to be Raised

Pavement Where Tesla Suspension Needs to be Raised

The hotel I like to stay in Ashland has a terrible entrance to their parking lot.  Under the small outbuilding is a eight car parking garage with a short but steep entrance.  On the pavement are scratch marks from the many cars that scrape the pavement.

I have earlier raised the car in this exact same location, but I figured the car would automatically raise itself.  Unfortunately, the Tesla seemed to have a bad memory and I scraped the car a tiny bit.  I manually raised the suspension, and the screen said “Auto-raising location” after the fact.  As a test, I drove away, lowered the suspension, and re-entered the parking lot but the car did not want to raise itself automatically.

Software Weakness #4  – The auto-raising location detection  or activation does not seem to always take affect where needed.

Tesla Auto Raising Feature Report on the Screen But Not in Reality

Tesla Auto Raising Feature Report on the Screen But Not in Reality

The morning when I was leaving Ashland, I selected the Mt. Shasta supercharger on the map, I realized I did not have enough energy to get to Mt. Shasta and the car wanted to go to the next supercharger to the North.  I decided to top off at the Blink charger.  I backed in and called Blink, who said that particular card was not activated.  I must have used the iphone app the other time I used their system.  The nice feature about superchargers is that they are significantly less complicated.  There are several charging networks with various maps, cards, smartphone apps, cable lengths, charging rates and connector types.  With infrequent use of general charging, these relatively easy differences can feel complicated.  The superchargers are always free and always have the same cable.

The Real “Test”

List of Upcoming Superchargers and Time Needed at Each Stop

List of Upcoming Superchargers and Time Needed at Each Stop

After an unexpected lovely morning charging in Ashland enjoying a late breakfast, I decided to embark on the real test of the Tesla trip planner.  I was going to drive straight home and follow the instructions given by the Trip Planner.  I was not going to take any significant detours other than a quick stop or two right off the freeway where needed.  I decided to do a formal “test” of this new feature.

I was going to visit as many superchargers as needed and charge the exact amount of time listed.

For this journey, the total amount of supercharging would be exactly an hour at three different superchargers:  Mt. Shasta (15 minutes), Corning (25 minutes) and Vacaville (20 minutes).

While driving I watched to see if the numbers changed.  I kept close to the speed limit perhaps exceeding it by up to 5mph.  The test occurred on a Sunday afternoon where I-5 is actually reasonably busy and has a comfortable 70mph speed limit for most of the journey.  For late April the weather was a bit warm in the high 80s but not exceptionally hot for the central valley of California.

Supercharger Mt. Shasta

When I arrived at the Mt. Shasta supercharger I was the only Tesla there.

Charging Progress Screen

Charging Progress Screen

The software does a nice job reporting progress while charging.  It lists how many more minutes you need to charge and also the amount of energy you will have left at the next charging station.  The estimates also include a negative charge, which is a nice feature to monitor while waiting.

I quickly filled up as needed in the 15 minutes of time listed.  I was comfortable with how many miles I had in the battery.  When I am at home, I like to see the amount of energy in the battery listed as a percentage, but when traveling I like to see the distance in rated miles (not ideal), so I can quickly compare it to the amount I would need to travel.

After the 15 minutes were up, the car let me know it was ready to go both on the car’s screen and the Tesla Iphone app.

Driving to Corning

On the way to Corning, I noticed that the software seems to think in 5 minute intervals.  From time to time it seemed to estimate that it might take 20 minutes to charge at one of the superchargers, than it changed its mind to 25 minutes.  I’m not sure why Tesla decided to not make the number of minutes more granular as they are still estimates.

Corning Supercharger

At Corning there was another Tesla there, but I pulled into a charger that was not paired with theirs.  I went for a stroll, but I was not hungry enough to grab a bite to eat and was going to find something in Vacaville.

My charge took the 25 minutes as required, and the car told me “You have enough energy to continue on your trip”. I recorded on the Tesla app a charge of 140 miles.  Google maps indicates the driving distance is 113 miles.  EV trip planner also says there is a drop of 174 feet.  Although the buffer was not large, I was comfortable enough driving on.

Williams

A little after 5pm, the hunger pangs hit in and I decided to find some vegetarian fast food.  Just off the exit in Willows, CA is a Burger King, which sells a vegetarian burger.  After picking one up, the range assurance software became very unhappy.  I had not even added a mile to my trip, but it wanted me to go back to Corning.  I refused and checked my battery level and was comfortable I could get to Vacaville.  I continued on driving just under the speed limit at 68 or 69 mph and kept my kwH / mile at a reasonable level.  I was comfortable with the amount of energy in my battery.

I turned off the navigation as it continued to want me to make a U-turn.  I briefly became a bit anxious; I was finding the navigation system was giving me more range anxiety than I have had in the past; I did not actually have “range anxiety” but I was slightly disappointed that I unexpectedly need to pay more attention to my energy usage than expected.  In my 40,000 miles of driving the Tesla I have never experienced any true range anxiety.  I have experienced a few periods of time where I needed to drive conservatively.   These few cases were planned in that I knew I was pushing the limits of charge in my battery before I began driving.

I turned the software on again a few times to see what it decided to do.  Somewhere in the middle of the two supercharging stations, it told me to go find another place to charge!

Unexpected Mid Journey Warning too Far Away From  Any Chargers

Unexpected Mid Journey Warning too Far Away From Any Chargers

For entertainment purposes, I hit the show chargers option.  It wanted me to drive over the mountains and go to some wineries on the way to Calistoga. I was definitely not going to do that option, and turned off navigation and continued my conservative driving with the cruise control on.  When I asked the Tesla where to go at one point it wanted me to drive to the Roseville supercharger first and arrive there with zero charge!  The distance between the Corning supercharger and the Vacaville supercharger is 113 miles, whereas the distance between the Corning supercharger and the Roseville supercharger is 128 miles.

Navigator Re-routed Me to Roseville

Navigator Re-routed Me to Roseville

Software Weakness #5 – The software needs to remember in the cache that it had earlier told me I had enough energy to get to the next supercharger.  I was driving within the speed limits.  Just because I used up perhaps a wee bit more energy and would arrive with 20 miles left instead of 25, the software should not get completely confused.

Ironically just across the street from the Burger King is a Motel 6 with a Sun Country charger.  Also fifteen miles before Vacaville is a public charger in Winters, CA.  These two options along with a few other choices along I-5 and in Woodland would have been much better choices in a real charging emergency.  Charging stations are not ubiquitous along I-5 but do exist.

Software Weakness #6 – When suggesting emergency charging, the software should list all charging stations.  Currently it appears to list only Tesla HPWC and superchargers but not the more ubiquitous chargers by other companies. Even better yet, it should tell you to significantly slow down.  I could have easily driven 60mph.

As I was approaching Vacaville, I began to speed up a bit.  The software finally settled down and routed me to Vacaville with some remaining charge.

Vacaville Supercharger

The Vacaville supercharger was quite busy.  I pulled into a non-paired stall with 17 miles left.  Another person arrived just before me but selected a paired stall.  I have noticed that many Tesla owners simply drive up to any supercharger stall without even checking the stall designation.  Perhaps they are uninformed that their charge can be greatly reduced if they pick a paired stall with another recent arrival.

Backing up is a bit tricky in some of the stalls in Vacaville.  There room in front of the middle stalls is hampered by perpendicular parking in front.  By the time I backed in, the out of state drivers had already walked away from their charging stall.

Continuing my test, I charged until the the time the car told me I had enough energy to complete my journey home, which was exactly 20 minutes.  At this point every charger was full.  As I was simply going home and my test theoretically complete, I pulled out to give my stall to the newcomer.  But taking a second look while parked in front of the 8 Teslas charging, I saw the following statistics:

  1. Driving distance to home – 104 miles
  2. Rated range charge – 111 miles
  3. Expected charge upon arrival 5%

Software Weakness #7 – The warning indicator “You have enough energy to continue on this trip” is not carefully programmed.  The software told me I had enough energy to continue on the trip with a very small margin below 25 miles.  I am guessing that the timer stuck to the initial 20 minutes instead of charging time instead of accurately measuring the charge level upon completion. 

Instead of continuing, I saw another car had left and backed into and charged some more.  The charge rate was painfully slow as I was in a paired stall with I suspect someone pulling a lot of energy.  I probably left about 10 minutes later knowing I had to drive conservatively to make it home.  The Bay Area has a lot of gentle hills and I would need to use a little more energy for the last leg of my trip.

Tire Pressure Warning

About 30 miles away from home, I got the Tire Pressure Warning (TPWS) light come on.  I have not received this warning in over a year.  In the past I got a lot of false warnings and some very genuine warnings before a potential blow out.  I pulled over and looked at the tires and they did not look visibly low.  When I got back in the car the warning went away, only to reappear and disappear again 15 miles later after looking at the tires again.

The next day I took the car to my local garage and one tire was lower by about 10 psi and had a nail in it.   The TPWS worked well and saved my tire.  I’m not sure why the behavior flickered on and off.  The perpendicular angle of the nail resulted in a slow leak and the tire is now repaired.

Conclusions

Tesla is headed in the right direction by helping drivers plan their energy usage.  They correctly labeled this software as a Beta version.  Most of the problems I found were more software weaknesses / enhancements than explicit bugs.  Unfortunately in the current condition the software will do little to reduce range anxiety and in some cases may significantly increase range anxiety.

In the current software, Tesla is trying to appease two opposing needs at the same time:  range anxiety and optimal charging time.  Unfortunately, these two needs are actually inversely correlated.  If I want to have no range anxiety, I would fill up the battery as much as possible before continuing or at least add more of a cushion, but that would take up more time at the superchargers.  If I want to optimize my charging time, I need to watch the driving speed and monitor the energy usage.  If I always keep the battery as low as possible, I could easily have some range anxiety or a trip where I need to monitor energy usage.

Software Weakness #8 – The software should have an option for selecting between truly optimal supercharging times or range anxiety cushions.  Clearly the software is aiming that you arrive at the next supercharger with 25 miles left.  I find this a reasonable cushion for point to point conservative driving.  Perhaps the software should have an option:  range or time.  The time would be in the current configuration.  I doubt anyone would want to plan with less than a 25 mile buffer.  The range option would perhaps increase this buffer by 25 miles to 50 miles.

The current software is useful for existing Model S owners, but in its current state it will not address the concerns of the non-tech savvy person who may have range anxiety.   I have forwarded this review to Tesla management, and I am confident that the software will improve over time.

For Model S drivers when using this software, I would point out the following five facts before embarking on a road trip:

  1. The amount of time to charge at each supercharger is relatively aggressive leaving you only 25 miles extra driving distance at the speed limit.
  2. You may get some scary warnings if you veer off the software’s designated path.
  3. The Tesla software does not include any non-Tesla chargers – either commercial stations or free if you are close to running out of juice.  Please consult other websites or smartphone apps if you are running out of energy.
  4. The software may notify that your battery is full enough to leave the supercharger but may actually need more time.  Double check the charge before unplugging.
  5. The software may give you false warnings when out of cell signal range.

Version 6.0

One wonderful thing about the Model S is that we regularly get software updates.  A couple of weeks ago, my car was loaded with version 6.0.  The three more interesting features for me are the calendar app (in a Beta form), keyless starting and traffic based navigation.  The release also includes commute advice, which is of no interest to me as I do not work, the ability to name your car, some power management options, and location based air suspension.

Many of these software features can bring up concerns about privacy.  In the case of the calendar and navigation features, a third party has access to where and when you are in certain locations.  I don’t have a particular personal concern about this and I trust Tesla a lot more than other businesses, but I am concerned with the level of government spying on individuals in the U.S.

Calendar Application

One of the new features include linking to your calendar app on your phone.  I took a few times to get the link to work as you have to configure your phone in several different places. I was having trouble with my iphone 5s at the time.  The phone could not update an app, played a random piece of music on its own and even called one of my contacts by itself!   Thankfully, the iphone was still under warranty and the flaky intermittent problem reappeared at the Apple Store!  And my difficulty with the calendar linking has not reappeared with my “new” iPhone, which I hope to keep for many years as I do not want a larger phone.

The calendar app, which is a Beta feature, is a bit underwhelming as it simply shows you items on your calendar for today and tomorrow.  I’m not a sales person so I don’t have a lot of different items on my schedule.

In general, I have wanted a way to be able to tell the car to “drive to this particular location” by name:  a restaurant or someone’s house.  Currently you have to say “navigate” to a particular address.  This new calendar feature allows you to navigate to an address that you put in your calendar.  I would love a much more general feature where it navigates to an address in your contact list, or a location on the web.  I make very cryptic calendar entries just to be expeditious and almost never add a location to any appointments, but I am starting to include the addresses for this linking feature.  I have had other people in the car comment that their vehicle has more sophisticated links to their contact list.

Keyless Driving

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

The remote starting / keyless driving feature is an interesting feature.  Using your smartphone and the Tesla app you can start the car.  Once you hit the “start” button on the app, you must enter your password, and then you are given two minutes to have your foot on the brake pedal.

Because this feature requires both a smartphone and either internet connectivity or a cell phone signal, I don’t think this feature is truly keyless.  A true keyless feature would allow me to use my fingerprint on the car to unlock the car and then drive away.  To read text on my smartphone, I need a pair of reading glasses, so typing in any reasonably secure password requires yet another physical object.  And I use a secure password manager for all of my passwords, so finding the password for the Tesla app is another step.  I hope that Tesla can use the fingerprint check on the iPhone instead of a password mechanism.

The Detour Not Worth Taking

The Detour Not Worth Taking

I live and frequent somewhat rural locations.  My home for example has weak cellular service and I still maintain a landline.  I would not feel comfortable depending upon a connection between my car and the phone for the only way to drive my car.  I suspect the intention of this feature is more of a backup to your key fob if it is lost or misplaced.

Traffic Based Navigation

I have driven a couple of times where I experimented with the traffic based navigation.  A drive that can often be difficult is crossing through the west side of San Francisco.  On this particular day I chose to use the most common route of 19th Avenue.  Although 19th Avenue had a lot less traffic than normal, the navigation wanted to route me over a street.  I chose just to continue on my way.

Another day I had the reverse situation where there were two ways I could arrive at a particular restaurant that has a very tricky route from the freeway.  I decided to follow the navigation instead of my normal route and hit a zone of red traffic for about a mile.

In both these cases, the traffic navigation was not perfect.  I think common sense and local knowledge will always be better than most automatic solutions.

Location Based Air Suspension

The location based air suspension will remember where you previously raised the car to go over an obstacle and perform it the next time you are in the same location.  I only know of one particular location that I visit a few times a year where I do raise the suspension but this could be quite useful for someone with a home or work location that requires a higher suspension.  My inner jokester also thinks this could be a feature for a great practical joke on someone.  Imagine someone finding their car raising every time they hit a certain street or returning to their car from a particular location.  In the highest setting, the Model S looks visibly different.  The driver may think their car was haunted.  I wonder if you can teach the car to “unlearn” high suspension at a particular location.

Coil Suspension Review

I got the opportunity to drive yet another loaner as I am still experiencing challenges with my alignment that I will report in another post.  This particular loaner had coil (not air) suspension along with parking sensors.

Driving on a regular route from my home I quickly noticed that the car felt different.  I was not consciously test driving or reviewing the car as I had covered the P85+ and the 60 with the 19” tires and the parking sensors earlier.  The only option I had not reviewed was the coil suspension.

I was noticing that the road just felt bumpy for the lack of any other description and the ride reminded me of my Toyota Highlander, which has a Camry base.  I had not remembered the 60 loaner with the air suspension having this same feeling.  I was driving down a basically straight road so the difference was not the 19” tires. I quickly looked through the menus and realized I was driving with the coil suspension.  The ride was fine but just was not the silky smooth ride of the air suspension that I was so used to.  I do prefer the air suspension over the coil suspension.

Sensitive Parking Sensor

Sensitive Parking Sensor

The parking sensor feature I noticed when I returned home in my driveway.  I had earlier tested this feature in Minneapolis in an unfamiliar area.  Testing this feature at home was quite different as I mentally knew the turn radius in my driveway and garage.  I drive into the garage on auto pilot as I have owned the Model S now for 16 months. I have a large three car garage but for aesthetic reasons it is divided with three individual doors.  The spaces are wide enough but are individually separated. I recently let someone test drive my car into my garage and I did sort of get slightly nervous for a brief moment as he swung the car into the spot.

I was quite surprised though when I pulled the loaner into the garage spot, the parking sensor said STOP.  How could I be that close to the pole?  I pulled back and tried it two more times and got the STOP warning again.  I was not that close to the wall and in the middle of the turn but the sensor is quite sensitive in the front.  In talking to Tesla service, they indicated that the sensors are adjusted on the conservative side in order to avoid hitting objects or children.

Plenty of Clearance for the Turn

Plenty of Clearance for the Turn

New Tires – Again

So unfortunately I had to buy a full new set of tires.  The Minneapolis service center prediction was wrong.  I am now at 26,000 miles and decided to replace all four.  Two of the tires may have lasted a little bit longer but did not seem worth the trouble to deal with the issue again in a couple of months.

With the original equipment Continental tires, they lasted 20K miles on the front and 6K on the back.  The pair of Michelin tires I purchased this year lasted 7.5K on the back and 6K on the front.  I may have been able to get a little more mileage out of the Michelins.  I decided to purchase the Continentals as they appear to have slightly better longevity but I really am just guessing.  The Denver service center implied that the low wear was due to the usage of the low suspension setting.  I am not going to use this setting unless I need extended range.

Another fact that I found surprising is how much my car was out of alignment again.  If you look at the detailed report below, the tires are out of alignment particularly with the rear toe.  The shop owner indicated that some of the bolts were not particularly tight.  The overall alignment numbers are actually worse than the earlier problem I reported.  The local garage suggested that I stop by again in 1,000 miles to see how my alignment is holding up.

 

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

Denver Tire Rotation

After another 6,000 miles of driving since the last tire rotation in Minneapolis, I decided to call the Tesla Denver Service Center to have my tires rotated.  They could either fit me in at 7am or 11:30am the next day.  Neither time was convenient, but I chose to get up at 5:30 to avoid traffic and get my tires rotated.

The Minneapolis Service Center had indicated that I may get another 12K miles out of all four of my tires.  Unfortunately, the new report was only a tight 1K on the original Continental tires and maybe 3K on the newer Michelin tires.  In the best case my new Michelin tires would run 9K on the rear and 6K on the front.  The Continental pair that had alignment issues lasted 12.5K on the back alone.  Almost all of the wear on the Tesla Model S tires occurs when the tires are in the back.

I was informed that because the 5.9 firmware now allows for the low suspension, my additional accelerated wear was probably due to using this low setting.  As the vehicle lowers itself, the suspension angle changes and the camber becomes more negative which means more insdie edge wear.  Since I spent a lot of time freeway and highway driving, I was not accelerating frequently.  I was however regularly manual lowering the car. I was quite saddened by this news of low tire wear.

A trade-off for an environmentalist:  use slightly more energy or wear out tires faster?  Okay, a perfect environmentalist would be driving with the 19″ tires or not driving at all.  I do not plan to use the low suspension setting again outside of cases where I really need to maximize my range as it is simply not worth wearing out my tires.

At this point, I am not sure I would buy the air suspension again.  My primary purpose of buying the option was for increased range.  None of the loaner cars I have had to date have had the standard suspension, so I cannot comment on the handling differences.

21" Continentals - 18K on front, 6K on back

21″ Continentals – 18K on front, 6K on back