After 45 years of road-testing cars from Minis to Rolls Royces I have discovered my best all-time motor. The Tesla doesn’t even have a petrol engine – has only two gears and can drive and park itself. The revolutionary Sport model I tested is styled like an Aston Martin, as fast as a Ferrari and delivers Rolls-Royce drive comfort. And no fuel or oil bills. With features such as automatic pilot, automatic steering and parking it is set to conquer the world of motoring.
Tesla is a relative stranger to the UK – though you will have no doubt sighted their distinctive charge points everywhere – or even seen (but not heard) a classy sports car that just wafted past. For being electric means the Tesla is an absolutely silent except for the drumming of the wheels and occasional outside win noise. And here’s the rub – the most-technical motor in the world is very easy to drive.
I picked up my Tesla test model at the company’s British HQ near Heathrow airport, and first glance the motor looked more technical than an aircraft – but after settling into the big-bum comfort seat and getting the hang of the huge TV-sized on board computer I flicked the car into gear and was off.
I whirred soundlessly down a side-road before joining the mega busy M4, and effortlessly engaged the cruise control by flicking the short stubby “gear” stick for cruise control then another flick up and you are in automatic pilot, which only works on motorways.
Like magic – the motorway appeared large as life on screen and its radar showed cars behind and overtaking and as an overtaking Porsche pulled in in front of me the Tesla slowed itself down to let it in! Amazing, and It gets better. If the vehicle in front moves into a faster or slower lane the Tesla accelerates gently to sit some car lengths behind the new vehicle in front. And should you drive too close to a vehicle in front the Tesla slows down to keep a safe distance. I should make clear that the driver still has to keep hands either on or close to the steering wheel ready to take control in case of emergency such as a sudden lane changer in front – habitual problem in the UK.
Another problem Tesla drivers will experience is that you are the constant subject of attention from other drivers – curious about your classy motor.
I buzzed my Tesla straight on to the M3 and cruised on auto-pilot all the way to Winchester, where I tested the company’s free chargers at a huge Sainsbury’s supermarket site just off motorway and though it did not really need a top-up I charged my battery to full in 15 minutes while I sipped a coffee and read road maps.
What a clever idea – do your weekly charge-up and shopping at the same time – and I was soon back on my way to Britain’s National Motor Museum in the heart of the New Forest at beautiful Beaulieu in Hampshire.
I spent three days testing the Tesla and found it more endearing every day. And after putting it though all its paces U gave it the Excellent rating. The only worrying feature was that the Tesla was so silent that the New Forest ponies kept running alongside – no doubt curious at the silent machine gliding by.