No Further Improvements

Tesla from time to time sends owner’s emails about general Tesla news.  Typically by the time the emails arrive in the inbox, the news is already a bit old.  Today’s email was no exception and included the following information:

  1. Auto-pilot launched
  2. 0-60 in 3.2 seconds
  3. Consumer leasing
  4. Software 6.0
  5. Link to a shareholder letter

But what was most interesting was at the very last section of the email where Tesla wrote a “What’s Next” section:

“With the introduction of Dual Motor and Autopilot, there will be no further significant platform changes to Model S for about a year. We continue to see rapid growth elsewhere with the construction of the Gigafactory, the spread of Superchargers, and increased vehicle production.”

Clearly Tesla has received significant flack from recent Model S customers that were unaware of the upcoming D announcement and perhaps chose to purchase a P85 or P85+.

Also some customers may have felt a bit wronged when their car built only a few weeks earlier did not have the auto-pilot features included.

Tesla is not operating like a traditional car company in many ways.  For the most part, the customers greatly appreciate that fact as features have been added when they are available such as parking sensors.

Consumer electronic companies also use this type of announcement model but there is often enough unofficial information and general anticipation of upcoming features, that buyers can often choose to wait for a potential “expected” announcement of a new model. Perhaps Tesla is realizing that with an expensive automobile, customers perhaps need a little bit of warning of upcoming significant changes in options.


The D and Auto

Tonight at 8:18pm, Tesla announced the D version of the Model S.  The D as many owners guessed stands for Dual motor or an all wheel drive version of the Model S.

An AWD version can really help sales in cold weather climates but also provides significant benefits over 2WD versions

1. Faster acceleration

Elon stated that the 0 to 60 will be 3.2 seconds with the P version of the AWD.  This number is really fast and even faster than my Roadster.  I have not been excited about the P85 because the acceleration was not nearly as smooth as the Roadster.  I hope to get a service loaner P85D in the future to check out the characteristics of this acceleration with two motors not just one.

2.  Top speed is higher.

This feature will probably be hard to take advantage of in most places outside of perhaps the German autobahn or very remote locations.

3.  Efficiency increases.

ICE cars become less efficient when you add AWD.  With the sophisticated electronics, the Tesla D is more efficient than a standard Tesla even with the increased weight of the second motor on the front axel!

The Dual Motor option for the S85 is $4,000 with no listed 0-60 performance increase.  The P85D is another $14,600 over the P85.  The P85D requires 21″ wheels, the tech package and smart air suspension.  The difference between a similarly configured S85 to a P85D is $26,600.  In a way I am glad this option was not available when I bought my car as that speed is very tempting.

Auto-pilot Announcement

Along with announcing the D, Elon announced some auto-pilot features that are in the cars that are currently produced.  He made it clear that these cars are not autonomous self driving cars.  The technology includes

  1. Forward looking radar that can see through fog, snow and sand.
  2. Cameras that with image recognition that can distinguish pedestrians and can read signs.
  3. 360 degree ultrasonic sonar that creates a protect cocoon around the car and is sensitive enough to see a small child or a dog.

With these features, the car can self park and automatically brake.  On private property, you can summon the car to you.

Although I am more excited about the speed of the D for roller coaster thrills, the auto pilot features are potentially more interesting for many buyers.


Performance and Plus

On the various Tesla forums there is a lot of discussion on merits of the Performance and Performance Plus options.  I thought a blog post in summary of the differences would be helpful.

Speed – High performance drive inverter.

The performance option decreases the 0-60 mph time of the car from 5.4 to 4.2 seconds with the use of a high performance drive inverter.   The torque ratings are 362hp for the 85kWh version and 416hp for the performance version.  Conflicting accounts on the forums exist in what speed range the performance improvement exists.  In comparison to the Roadster I drove for four years and my 85kWh battery version of the Model S, the clear difference to me is from 0-30 mph.

Since the Roadster was so new in the electric car world, I took a lot of people for rides.  I am very familiar with the shrieks and fear of the acceleration off the block.  I had to always search for an open stretch of road without traffic to demonstrate the amazing acceleration.  Although the Model S without the performance option is very fast, in the 0-30 range the acceleration is simply not as fast.  I do not notice the difference above 30mph.

Cost Difference Performance

The simple cost difference is $15K on the surface if you look at the package pricing of $72,400 vs $87,400.  The performance package also includes the beautiful 21” tires for $3,500, napa leather for $1,500 (in 2013), and active air suspension for $1,500.  Assuming you want all these options, the inverter costs $8,500 dollars.

A few cosmetic things are also included in the performance package:  carbon fiber trim, contrasting piping on the leather trim and a Alcantara headliner.  Alcantara has the look of suede but is made out of polyester and polyurethane. I personally don’t particularly care for the two toned leather treatment.  I feel as it detracts away from the bare bones “Steve Jobs” aesthetic.  I also did not find the carbon fiber or alcantara headliner trims compelling.

Cost Difference Performance Plus

Add in another $6,500 and you get improved handling, range and a more comfortable ride.  Tesla has improved versions of dampers, bushing, stabilizer bars and tires.  The improved acceleration occurs on low grip surfaces, and the range improves 6 to 12 miles.

Using the Higher Performance

I live in a community that has a fair amount of traffic, a ton of bicyclists, some pedestrians and fair amount of wildlife.  For the most part it is simply unsafe to really enjoy the full performance aspects of a car.  To show of the Roadster, I always had to search out an un busy stretch of the road.  I am unlikely ever to go to a racetrack, and rarely go somewhere just to go on a drive without a destination.

Occasionally I do miss the full acceleration of the Roadster in cases where I am going from zero to freeway speed with no other cars in sight.  I still get the G forces I like above 30mph.  I can also pass other cars and get around them with more than enough ease and fun.  On country roads it feels almost instantaneous to pass a slower driver.

Handling of the Standard 85kWh Battery

I am more than happy with the handling of the 85kWh battery version.  I actually like the way it handles better than my Roadster.  I have no interest in the performance plus for the type of driving conditions in my location.  For handling, my biggest concern is simply the width of the car.  I would prefer a car about 10” narrower.  It feels like it takes up every inch of the road leaving no wiggle room.

Opportunity Cost

I always consider the opportunity cost of spending money.  Even if you have the available cash, how else could that money be used?  Not necessarily for a purchase for yourself or those close to you but how about charity?  $8,500 can provide 4,722 meals at the Star of Hope Soup Kitchen in Texas.  $8,500 can keep a homeless person off the streets in Fort Lauderdale for 8.5 months.  And the additional cost of both packages will increase your insurance by an amount.

Regret Pangs?

Occasionally I had regret pangs in the first month not getting the performance version as it did miss the head snapping zero to 30.  As a child I loved roller coasters. But after a while, I made the right decision for me.  My driving conditions simply do not justify the opportunity cost of $8,500.

Since I initially wrote this post, I have driven a Performance Plus for 4 days.  I have reviewed it on this post.