P85D Loaner Report

A P85D in My Driveway (only Temporarily)

A P85D in My Driveway (only Temporarily)

I recently had the great pleasure to take a P85D loaner while having my car serviced.  Actually I was just getting the center consoled installed!  While they installed the console, I drove the P85D for 125 miles.  One trip over the mountains to the coast and back, and the second morning finding some errands to run around town.  During the extended test drive, I found a number of small things about the D that I was not expecting.

Acceleration

As has been reported many times, the acceleration is insane and very reminiscent of my four year Roadster experience.  Super fun and smooth from a dead stop.  In 2013, I had driven a P85+ loaner and was not overly impressed with it.  I did not like the car’s reaction to full acceleration from a dead stop as the front lurched up and the wheels squealed a bit.  The D was very fun; I kept it in insane mode for the day and never tried the sport mode.   I definitely used a higher rate of kWh/mile than normal while enjoying this faster acceleration.

Motor Noise

Interestingly enough the motor noise was substantially different.  At first I felt like a small jet was flying by.  The volume was definitely louder than my S85.  But after the first 30 minutes of driving I no longer noticed the noise difference.

Handling

The P85D loaner seemed to handle exactly like my S85; both cars are equipped with air suspension.  I couldn’t really tell a difference.  I did take a good drive over and back to the coast on some really fun twisty mountain roads.

Radio Reception

During my Roadster driving days, I had horrible radio reception.  I still listen to some AM and FM radio on a somewhat regular basis.  The FM signal was not as crisp as in my car, but the AM station was completely inaudible.  I suspect with two motors, the electromagnetic interference is worse.  I easily showed this to the valet that picked up my car as we listened to an AM and an FM station side by side in the loaner and in my car and the difference was very noticeable.

Parking Sensors

False Edge Warning with Sensors

False Edge Warning with Sensors

While driving, the car indicated several times that I was quite close to some mysterious objects in the road. I have driven several loaners in the past with parking sensors and do not recall ever getting these warnings.   The camera screen warned me more than once that I was close to a physical object.  Also twice the dash flashed a warning in red graphics that I was about to hit a car or person in front of me.  I like to drive away from all traffic and am by no means a tailgater. I did not have enough hours with the loaner to determine the true cause of these warnings.

Car “Smell”

When I first got into the car, I noticed an astringent strong smell.  This smell was so distracting, I rolled down the windows for a long period.  I spent most of the 125 miles with the sunroof and windows down in one configuration or another.  The weather varied between 60 and 75 degrees, so driving in this top down fashion was appropriate, but that smell took about 24 hours to not be noticeable.

I don’t know if this car smell is because of some new surfaces in the manufacturing process, unusual behavior by another driver, or a chemical in the mysterious spray bottle I saw being used on the car before I picked it up.  I can’t quite identify the nature of the smell other than unpleasant; my nose and sense of taste can’t determine the list of spices in restaurant food either.   I know whoever that I am quite sensitive to the smell of cleaning agents.

Higher Rear Headrests

The newer rear headrests are so high, I almost wonder why there is even a rear window!  At this point I largely depend upon the cameras, side windows and rear view mirrors.  Only when changing lanes in dicey situations do I use the rear window, But with the new seat backs, the rear window almost useless.

Why Even Have a Rear Window?

Why Even Have a Rear Window?

Conclusions

I think Tesla now has a wonderful option for folks who feel the need for speed.  I was not fond of the P85+ but the P85D characteristics are really nice.  My area is in a big economic boom with more and more people and traffic.  It is getting harder and hard to find places where I could really enjoy the insane acceleration.  To trade in my 39,000 mile S85 to a P85D at this point would be a large outlay in dollars that I could not justify.

However if I were buying my first Model S right now, the P85D would be in serious contention.  The dual motors would work both for having a lot of fun and the occasional trips to the snow.  I could potentially no longer keep the Toyota Highlander Hybrid that spends most of the time in the garage.  Unfortunately with climate change, the California Sierra Nevada mountains have had so little snow in recent years, I almost don’t even need a 4WD vehicle anymore.

Move Forward / Back Up

Firmware 6.1 has a number of new features including the long awaited reverse camera guidelines.  Recently a lot of auto-pilot and driverless car features have been announced by Tesla and other companies.  A pure driverless car will be of interest for some segments of the market – perhaps someone with a tedious commute.  But many drivers will still want to actually drive their car and enjoy being on the road.  Technology and automation is often but not always an improvement to our world.

Reverse Camera Guidelines

When I first got the Model S, I really wanted these guidelines but after driving the car for almost two years, I have a strong sense of both the front and back space of the car and really feel no personal need for these guidelines nor the parking sensors.

Backing Up Towards Another Tesla With Reverse Camera Guidelines and a Dirty Screen

Backing Up Towards Another Tesla With Reverse Camera Guidelines and a Dirty Screen

My parallel parking skills are not superb but this weakness is largely due to lack of practice as where I live I simply don’t parallel park frequently.  I have backed into so many supercharger stalls, I now feel very comfortable backing into parking spaces.

I now see both the reverse camera guidelines and parking sensors similar to training wheels on a child’s bike.  They are very helpful for a period of time or in unusual situations but at some point are not generally necessary.

Reverse In Parking Spaces

Recently a number of local municipalities are starting to design reverse in parking spaces.  The San Francisco Bay Area is getting more and more dense as we are experiencing another boom in Silicon Valley.  We have a lot more parking garages, compact parking spaces, bicyclists and pedestrians.  Back in parking spaces are safer because when you pull out of the spot you can see other cars, cyclists and pedestrians.  Also when loading items in your trunk, the trunk is near the sidewalk not oncoming vehicles.

The city of Fremont tested back-in angled parking five years ago.  Unfortunately the experiment failed miserably.  But five years ago there were not very many cars with backup cameras.  Fremont reported on the experiment:

“The typical driver backs up by looking out of their back window. Depending on the visibility, this can work when you are trying to fit between two cars, but it doesn’t work if there are no cars parked to guide you … so they ended up parking across the lines at all angles.”

With many newer cars having backup cameras, I think this will mitigate a lot of the challenges in backing into parking spaces.

Tesla Speed Assist

Tesla along with Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz can with both GPS speed limit data and front-end cameras that read the speed limit signs notify the driver of the current speed limit.  The newer Model S will soon be able to also warn the driver with a chime when they are driving over the limit or up to 10mph over the limit.

I was not particularly excited about this feature when first announced but recently a friend of mine got a speeding ticket for driving 70 in a 35.  She is not a reckless driver but owns a very cushy late model car and was driving on a country road where the speed limit is 55mph.  She passed through a town with a few hundred inhabitants and did not notice that the speed limit changed.  I can see the value of Tesla’s speed limit detector for situations like these.

Conclusion

Some technology improvements have really helped the world.  Others can be useful for only a period of time or have less value.  When choosing options I would consider both the short term and long term use of some of these features and also the monetary cost.

Fisheye Lens

I found a new and fun use for the Model S.

After returning from my cross country journey, I thought I needed a short road trip!  I decided to visit a friend about 100 miles away and needed to charge overnight to make the journey home very easy.

Their ten year daughter simply loved the car and her favorite feature was the rear view camera.

I have gone to photography school, own an SLR with a lot of lenses but never owned a fisheye lens.  The Model S has a fun fisheye lens in the rear view camera!

Rear View Camera as a Fish eye Lens

Rear View Camera as a Fish eye Lens

60 Loaner Report

During my cross country road trip, I had a few items worked on my car at the Minneapolis service center.  A subsequent blog post will discuss the items in for service and the service experience. This blog post will discuss my half day driving and review of the Model S with the 60kW battery.

The Model S I am reviewing had the following options different than my own car:

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

  • 60kW battery (60)
  • 19” Wheels
  • Parking Sensors
  • Folding Side Mirrors
  • No Panoramic Roof

Acceleration / Range

I was pleasantly surprised by the acceleration of the 60.  The Tesla web page now states that the 60 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.9 seconds, and the 85 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.4 seconds.  I would not chose a battery based upon acceleration.  I had written earlier an extensive review of the P85+.  With the high performance drive inverter, the P85+ or P85 can accelerate in 4.2 seconds in 0-60.  I definitely felt a difference with the P inverter, but I did not care for the way the P85+ front lifted off the line.

The primary determining factor between the different batteries is the range of the car.  The 60 has an EPA range of 208 miles, and the 85 has an EPA range of 265 miles.  I constantly get asked how far my car can drive without recharging.  The simple answer is in California probably around 200 miles with mostly freeway driving.  But in near freezing weather with extensive gusts like my recent experience in the Black Hills, that range is closer to 150 miles.

I personally would not want to purchase a 60 for the shorter range.  I have wanderlust and like to travel.  Within the San Francisco Bay Area, I regularly visit friends in other corners of the region.  I also like to take road trips and the 85 makes them much more pleasant.  But the 60 word work very well for someone who routinely travels shorter distances and does not take many road trips.

19” Wheels

The biggest difference between the loaner car and mine was the 19” wheels.  I have been driving Tesla’s for five years now with sticky tires.  I almost immediately missed the 21” wheels even on the Minneapolis freeways.  They simply do not hug the road the same way.  The loaner also had air suspension so it was a true 1:1 test.

Minneapolis in early May 2014 was littered with potholes, so I completely understand the practicality of the 19” wheels in a cold weather climate.  I live in an area with some fun curvy roads and enjoy the 21” wheels, but I do have a neighbor down the street with 19” wheels.

retractedhandlefront

Mirror Retracted

Folding Side Mirrors

I realized the loaner had folding side mirrors when I parked the car and returned to find the mirrors folded in.  There is a configuration setting if you want this to occur automatically or not.

I would only get this feature if I needed to regularly park my car in tight spaces or lived in a very urban setting.

Panoramic Roof

The weather on this journey has been quite difficult.  Lots of cold and windy days.  When the sun popped out for a few minutes, I really wanted to enjoy a few moments of sun and missed the Panoramic Roof.  The car also felt smaller with the standard roof.

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensors

I was pleasantly surprised that the loaner also had the parking sensors.  When approaching an object, they indicate in green that you are close.  As you get closer, the color moves to yellow with the distance in inches in the US.

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

For parking a car, I found these unnecessary.  With the Model S you have a rear view camera to aid in backing up.  The front distance is easy enough to judge.  I could imagine again if I lived in a very urban area doing a lot of parallel parking this feature could be useful.

I had hoped the parking sensors would help with curb rash.  Even my newly spruced up 21” wheels have small amounts of fresh curb rash.  The parking sensors will unfortunately not help with curb rash as the curbs are too low from the side.  When I pulled back into the Minneapolis service center, I was surprised that the parking sensor did indicate the front curb ahead as shown in the photo on the left.

Summary

In the end, I quickly concluded that my current configuration was the right purchase for me.  Although the 60’s acceleration is still great, the battery range would be a hinderance.  I also really enjoy driving with the 21” wheels despite pangs of guilt using so many tires.  I am also glad I have the panoramic roof on my car.

The parking sensors and folding side mirrors are nice features but I can only really recommend them for people who live in urban situations with challenging parking.

5Yrs 42KMiles 200Posts

This blog post is a large milestone for me.  I have driven Tesla’s as my main vehicle for five years with only occasional usage of a 4WD SUV.   I have driven a total of over 42,000 miles in both cars, and surprisingly written 200 blog posts covering both cars.

My Beginnings with Tesla

I have been an environmentalist all my life and had already owned one hybrid vehicle.  When the GM EV1 came out in 1997, I took note but found the short range not very practical for me. I had been watching the market since then and everything available even in 2006 was basically a golf cart.

Seven and half years ago a friend, who was driving one of the first Priuses, wanted to go to an electric car show in the parking lot of Palo Alto High School.  At the event we talked to several different car “manufacturers”.  The only one that impressed me was Tesla.  They had a mockup / prototype of the Roadster that was pretty rough.  After that initial conversation, I shortly put my $75,000 down for my Roadster.  I strongly felt I needed to have action behind my environmental words.

Why I Blog

I started my blog a few days after I got my Roadster.  I knew I was one of the few people driving Roadsters who had the time or interest to blog about the experience.  I wanted to help encourage other people to drive electric cars.  I have a technology background but I also had roles with a lot of communication responsibilities.  I think I have succeeded in a small way helping others buy electric vehicles.  I wanted this blog to express what it is like to own and drive a high end electric vehicle.  I avoid talking about the stock price and many “news events” as they are heavily covered by the mainstream media and often I have nothing in particular to add to the conversation.

During the Roadster years, I typically got 5 to 10 views per day.  Honestly, there was not that much to write about the car because the driving experience and controls were very simple.

Once I began blogging about the Model S the number jumped by a factor of 10, and I typically get 50 to 100 views per day with some days being substantially higher.  Lifetime number of views is almost 50,000.

Most people find me through google searches a combination of words such as tesla owner reviews model S etc…  and also through a few links on forums and other sites.  I suspect a lot of these people are new car buyers.  Most visitors are from the US but Norway and Canada are also active.  I currently have 45 followers.

Popular Posts

I have a number of posts that are consistently popular over time as they contain some detailed information for new buyers.

P85+ Loaner Report – which compares driving a S85 vs a P85+ for several days

Performance and Plus – which breaks down the S85 vs P85 and contrasts driving the Roadster

19” vs. 21” Wheels – which includes an estimated breakdown of long term costs

Living With 110V – My successful first month with the Model S using just 110 before I got my adaptor to my Roadster High Power Connector.

There have also been a number of posts that were analyzed data or were news oriented that were also popular

Range Test – I surveyed a number of other Model S owners to see if driving style had any influence on the car’s rated range.  The results were a clear conclusion that there was no relationship.

Valet Mode — applies to the Roadster but received a lot of attention at one point

Supercharger Time Test  — trying to achieve 170 miles in 30 minutes during five different  systematic tests.

Seven Years of Solar  — detailed analysis of my solar usage on the house

Vampire Drain  — detailed analysis of the drain when my car was left idle for long periods

Driving

So many owners have described how wonderful it is to drive a Tesla.  I avoid emphasizing this part of the experience on my blog as it is very redundant.  But in summary, I can’t imagine ever wanting to use an ICE vehicle as a regular car.  My top favorite reasons for loving my Tesla is:

  1.  I love the acceleration of the Teslas.  In any situation knowing I can safely accelerate past another car when necessary.  I still enjoy this part of the car although from time to time I can scare my passengers.
  2. The drive is smooth, quiet, comfortable.
  3. Never having to go to a gas station.  The convenience of filling up at home is really nice.
  4. The overall electronics experience is very nice in the Model S.
  5. I do feel I am doing my part for the environment as I am “driving on sunshine” as except for the occasional outside charging, all the electricity is generated from the solar panels on my home.

If I have to be nit picky about the Model S I would like these things improved:

  1. Rear view visibility.  I am not that thrilled with using the camera particularly on rainy days.
  2. The car is really just a bit too wide for me.  I would prefer it a little narrower in order to get into a lot more tight parking stations as the Bay Area is getting more and more crowded.
  3. I have a fair amount of curb rash on my beautiful 21” wheels.  But most of these rashes are from the first six months of driving (or parking).
  4. At times I wished the Iphone and the Model S talked to each other better.  If I have someone’s address on the Iphone I would like to be able to navigate directly there.
  5. The homelink at times can be slightly annoying.  It seems to recognize the garage door sensors quite far away but often cannot open them till quite close.  And the drop down menu often turns off the rearview camera’s picture.

Service

The only real problem I had with the Roadster was horrible radio reception but that got fixed over time.  With the Model S I had several problems with the door handles but they also have been resolved.

I have found all the folks at Tesla to be extremely responsive and friendly.  I have enjoyed all of my interactions with Tesla personnel.  I would give them my highest possible marks for customer service.

Who am I

I have kept my identity hidden from the blog.  A large reason is that I really wanted to have a straight forward historical blog about living with a high end electric vehicle, not about its owner.  I also wanted to not receive any preferential treatment from anyone at Tesla.  Only within the last six months I have disclosed my identity to Tesla in order to get some important questions answered about supercharging.

I also have never owned any Tesla stock.  There was a brief opportunity when Elon permitted accredited investors with Roadster deposits to invest in Tesla.  At that time I was reeling from an unenjoyable experience as an angel investor.  Although I have invested in pre-public technology companies several times, I was not completely comfortable with my knowledge of the car industry.  Once Tesla went public, I just never made the move perhaps fretting over timing.  Regardless whether or not I ever invest in Tesla, the amount will not be a significant one for me, and this blog will continue to be objective.

The Future

I still have a number of ideas for future blog posts and maintain a running list.  My posts over the years have in general have an increased level of analysis and word count.  I am probably overdue for a cosmetic overhaul.  I would love to hear any feedback on the blog in general both good and bad and what anyone would like me to write about in the future.

Close to the Limits

We finally had a rainy spell this winter during our drought here in California.  One morning the car actually slipped pretty severely!  The road situation was actually very extreme.  I was driving on a very unusual pavement where half the roadway was a large grate — probably five feet in length.  So two of my wheels were on wet slick pavement and the other two were traversing this highly unusual grate.  For a brief instant the car definitely swerved and scared me a bit but the quickly corrected itself as nothing had happened.  I rarely actually take this particular section of road, but I vaguely remember it being dicey in the past.  I suspect this unusual grate was installed to correct severe flooding problems.

Limited Regen

Limited Regen

Late last year we had a serious cold snap and the garage one morning was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about 5 degrees Celsius).  To my surprise, I actually had a dashed yellow line — limiting regen.  While parked the car uses as little energy as possible to keep the battery warm in order to avoid the energy wasting vampire drain.  In cold weather you can drive your car with a cold battery, but the regeneration of energy into the battery is limited.  After only a couple of miles of driving, the battery warmed up and the yellow line disappeared.

 

Limited Acceleration

Limited Acceleration

As I earlier reported, I did a number of supercharger tests where I drained my battery down to 0 rated range.  While intentionally draining the battery, the upper limit of power was reduced — indicated by the dashed yellow line.  I don’t remember the exact rated range left before the power was limited but it was at a significantly lower level than normal.  The car still had enough pep to very comfortably drive.

I also noticed in the rain serious impact to the rear facing camera.  I think this is a problem with all cars.  I had grown a little too dependent on the camera during driving instead of the traditional mirrors and head turning.

Mediocre Visibility in Rear View Camera in the Rain

Mediocre Visibility in Rear View Camera in the Rain

Three Tesla Events

I generally don’t cover Tesla news as the mainstream media and the two forums cover them well.  Recently there have been three events that I thought were worth mentioning on this blog.

First, two teams of people managed to cross the country in Tesla’s using the supercharger network.  The first was a father and daughter team.  The second was an official Tesla team earning a Guinness world record for “lowest charge time for an electric vehicle traveling across the country”.  Seems like somewhat an odd world record but they basically made it in a little over three days in true winter weather.

Both of these exercises would not be particularly fun or something a typical driver would want to do.  Most people would want to stop and enjoy the scenery and sights and not simply drive from point A to point B.  But both of these trips showed that enjoyable road trips throughout the world will soon be possible as more and more superchargers are installed.

One notable feature I noticed in the coverage of the official Tesla cross country drive was the newer firmware has an option to show the percentage of battery remaining.  I am excited about this small feature as I think the percentage is much more intuitive than the current reading of rated range miles.

The third event was a Q&A session in Norway with Elon Musk and JB Straubel in Oslo last week.  You can watch the long video.  I found the following points the most interesting.

The upcoming version 6 software will have some new features and improvements on existing features.

  1. Real time traffic.  This feature is already there but may include an interaction with navigation or faster updating.
  2. Internet music improvements.
  3. More suspension options for the driver.  You will be able to adjust the suspension manually at a variety of speeds.
  4. A later update of the software in the version 6 family will have lines in the backup camera.

Tesla is working on an active hill hold feature.  Today the Model S on hills reminds me of stick shift cars where if you were not good with the clutch, the car would roll back.  With the Model S, you have to use your brake on hills in order to not roll back.  On steep hills, I often feel like I need to very quickly shift from the brake pad to the accelerator.  I have experimented with trying to use the existing creep feature on steep hills but it did not solve the problem in a significant way.  In extreme situations, I have used both feet to release the brake instantaneously while pressing the accelerator.

Various questions from the audience brought up physical aspects of the car.

  1. Center console for storing items is coming soon.
  2. Improved seats will also be available as an upgrade.  First, a small upgrade in the spring force of the seat and later on a redesigned upgraded seat.  Seats today need to work with the air bag system so redesigns are not that simple.
  3. Improvements in radio reception.  I find the radio reception today so much improved over the original Roadster’s radio, I don’t notice this issue.

A discussion occurred on how green the Model S is.  Tesla has done an internal energy study on the car production and will release a white paper on this soon.  JB said that the energy payback occurs in less than 10,000 miles of driving.  Elon also said the car with a battery replacement should easily last twenty years.

Most of the superchargers this year will be charging at 135kW — another improvement of charging times for most Model S owners.

Tesla does not record car speed or location data.  During an emergency, they can detect this information.  They do monitor the battery regularly.

Various discussion points about the Model X and its gull wing doors.  A Norwegian driver was concerned about transporting long skis.  Elon said there is potentially a place for a ski box in the triangular place between the doors or a location under the seats.  I doubt the Model X will be able to transport a paddleboard or a kayak.  Elon also said if you can physically fit between the Model X and the car, the doors will have enough side clearance to open.