Tyler Willingham

Ludicrous Mode in the Model S P100D

I had to go to the mall today, but not so I could buy something at a department store. It was so that I could test drive a car that does 0-60mph in under 3.0 seconds. Aside: shopping malls suck around Christmas. Surprise.

We got to the mall just before 2:30 for our scheduled test drive. We were greeted by our saleperson who drove from another dealership. The Model S in its P100D guise is a little less common and the original dealership we visited didn't have one available hence why we ended up at a location in a mall.

After a quick greeting and waiver signing we walked through the crowded foodcourt to our demo car.

There is no contesting that these cars all feel technically special. From getting in and starting the car the second you put your foot on the brakes, to adjusting any of the car's many configurations through the most ridiculously sized touchscreen.

The driving experience was pretty good. The acceleration is surprisingly quick from normal speeds in a car that weighs 4,941 pounds.

Let's talk about everyone's favorite party trick of the P100D... launching the car from 0-60 in 2.3 seconds.

This is what I expected to be the most exciting experience of this car... but I was a little underwhelmed. The first 0-30mph feel super quick, make no mistake about it. But I've had the opportunity to drive some really incredible cars in the last year and I felt like the experience of a 0-60 pull in a McLaren 570S was leaps and bounds more exciting.

Maybe it's that the Tesla delivers the power instantly and effortlessly in a very compliant, comfortable package. Maybe it's the complete absence of engine noise. It might be the lack of drama you get when a dual-clutch car changes gears and kicks you back in the seat in the middle of your sprint. Ultimately, I think it's the absence of drama that made this experience less thrilling than I anticipated.

Let's revisit that McLaren. You hit the accelerator and you need to be fully alert because that car is going to scream to redline and you need to be on top of your game to click off the next shift before the digital tachometer hits the redline at 8,100 RPM. All the while you have an engine screaming behind your head with all of the dramatic sounds you'd expect from a supercar with a twin-turbo V8. There's a little bit of a kick in the midrange as the car rockets off. You're sitting so deep in this carbon fiber tub that you feel like you're barely above the concrete below you. That's a sense of occassion. A 0-60 blast in that car is an experience where you need to be alert, engaged and accepting of the risk you're taking on.

Not so in the P100D. I think I did 3/4 of my 0-60 pulls with a single hand on the wheel and the other on my lap. This is a car that reaches incredible speeds, super quickly, and makes it feel numb. Your heart might press into your spine during the initial 0-30mph of the acceleration but then the excitement is over and you're just watching the digital speedometer climb to 60+ wondering, was it really that easy?

I walked away from this drive impressed, but not excited. I am glad I got to experience this car and the incredible acceleration it presents... but at the end of the day I was happy to hop into my slower but more engaging car and get up to speed on the on-ramp clicking through the gears, firing off some sharp cracks from the exhaust and knowing that the only range anxiety that I have to face is between wherever I am when the gas light comes on and the nearest Shell station.