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Discussion Starter #1
As I reported in another thread (3F EV Tesla shared ownership) I hired a Tesla for a long trip over New Year. It was a great opportunity to get to know the car before making that final commitment to take delivery of my own Model S later this year.

As it was such an extended test (about 1600 miles, mostly through France) I thought it would be useful to share my experience in comparison to my 24 kWh Leaf Tekna. I won't cover the obvious things that you would know from a short test drive.

Range Anxiety

As I had hired a 90D I really didn't expect any concerns about range. I was wrong.

The first long leg of my journey was 190 miles from Folkestone to Reims. Given an indicated 'typical' range of around 300 miles, I thought I would be fine. However at AutoRoute speed (130km/h max) I was quickly presented with warnings that I needed to keep my speed down to reach the destination. First below 110km/h, then 105km/h and finally 95 km/h as I continued to ignore the warnings.

As you can imagine, hiring a car now retailing for close to £100k with options, I was not impressed at having to sit in the right lane with the lorries. As it happened the warnings are slightly pessimistic: I judged that you can probably travel at roughly 10km/h more than the recommended speed and still make it.

Overall we probably pushed it too far by taking a direct route rather than weaving through the available superchargers. But the navigation system managed our expectations well and allowed us to arrive with 5% battery remaining (equivalent of VLBW - it goes through orange before red). I would never have dared to cut it so fine on the motorway with the Leaf.

Having got to Reims services we did have another slight problem. I couldn't find the chargers, which were actually before the petrol pumps rather than in the car park. A few illegal manoeuvres were required to get the car back to the required position to charge.

The big screen

Of course as I was impressed as anyone else with the big screen. Google satellite view of the surroundings overlayed with live traffic information. However there is a fatal flaw in the some crucial controls of the car can only be controlled from that screen.

Imagine driving along the AutoRoute to be hit with a patch of fog. The automatic headlights don't register so you have no lights on. Is this the perfect time to discover the detailed settings menu of the car? Without autopilot this would have been a very dangerous operation. It is ridiculous that there is no way of controlling the lights from the stalks or steering controls.

Satnav

The Tesla satnav comes in for a lot of stick, and rightly so. No only does it not give you a choice of routes, it doesn't even let you set up waypoints. Pretty frustrating if you fancy a detour to take in a scenic route or a restaurant of your choice. If you just set the destination as the next waypoint, you lose the ability to use the satnav to manage your charging (see Range Anxiety above).

Having said that the routes it picks are not so bad and it uses the live traffic information to predict your arrival time. Altitude is also taken into account. For the final leg of my journey it indicated that it would take 40% of the battery to get into the Alps but only 20% to get back. And it was right.

It didn't seem to know about non-supercharger charging options. This was fine for my journey but in the UK I would want to know about all the CYC and Ecotricity chargers.

Autopilot

Setting off towards Folkestone in light fog towards a rising sun was probably asking for trouble. It was certainly a baptism of fire as initially it refused to even permit the TACC to be enabled. However once on the M20 I thought I'd give autopilot a go. Within a few minutes the car attempted to dive into the central reservation. Clearly a damp road facing low sun is to be avoided and I started to remember and concur with the various comments that arch-sceptic @Paul_Churchley has made about the system not being ready for public use.

However in France, with better road markings and a higher sun, I was very impressed with the system. I reckon that it's lane discipline was better than mine and most other drivers. I did have to regularly take control because it clearly can't anticipate other vehicles joining the carriageway or about to pull into your lane.

I also used the auto lane-change system which worked well provided that there was enough space for a leisurely change. The most annoying feature of the system is that it checks you are holding the wheel just as it's decided it's possible to change lane. This frequently resulted in me tugging the wheel hard enough to disengage the autopilot completely. Unfortunately it doesn't always detect that you're actually holding the wheel (as I always was).

Another feature of the lane-change system is that it will only engage if it can see a clear dotted lane divider. In many cases there was a stream of tar between the lanes and the autopilot interpreted these as solid white lines so refused to budge.

Autopilot even performed well in twist sections of dual carriageway leading into the Alps. The only time when it really gave up (in good weather) was on the Boulevard Périphérique around Paris. Then again I nearly gave up too as the cars weren't obeying the lane markings at all. This was the only time where I had to reduce the following distance and drive above the speed limit to keep with the flow of the traffic.

I didn't use the autopilot on single carriageway roads except long straight ones. I prefer to take closer to a racing line through bends and found autopilot just too brittle for typical winding roads. It also approaches corners too quickly for my liking.

Only once did the car offer to autopark, and it did a good job reversing into the supercharger on that one occasion.

Driving experience

I didn't get close to pushing the limits of the acceleration of the car. It is certainly fast enough to accelerate up to AutoRoute speed as quickly as you would like.

The car had 19" wheels with air suspension and this was fine but slightly softer than my Tekna. I would prefer to have tried a car with coil springs (which is what I have on order). Having said that it was great fun through the esses leading up into the mountains. Strong acceleration and harsh regen were a great combination. That last time that I did that road was in my Lotus Elan +2 ten years ago and it was nearly as much fun in the Tesla.

Supercharging

Supercharging is literally child's play. It makes using even one of the more recent Chademo connectors seem very cumbersome. And that's before you throw in the apps required to get them going.

After our horrific experience at Reims (French services are not where you want to have a comfort break) we chose supercharger sites in hotel car parks. This made for a very pleasant experience involving coffee or meals in hotel lobbies or restaurants on our return journey. Definitely the way forward for those travelling with children.

The app

It was great that 3F EV set up the app for me to use. I found the pre-heating more effective than in the Leaf but less necessary. I think that the car must be better insulated as it didn't seem to cool down over a long lunch.

It also gave useful updates during charging. Notification first that you have enough to continue your journey, then again when the charging nears completion and finally once the charge is complete.

I tried using summon but not in any practical situation. It was a great gimmick to show the kids and straightened up my parking position slightly.

Trim choices


The car had a similar trim level to my order. The NextGen seats were incredibly comfortable and the Premium interior HVAC was fantastic for filtering out the fumes in the Chunnel and around Paris.

I didn't have the sub-zero package and didn't miss it even in freezing conditions because I found the pre-heat to be very effective. I only wanted for it when the car was stuck in an underground car park so I couldn't pre-heat due to no mobile signal. Even then I only used the heated seats (front only) for a minute to take the edge off the cold.

Returning to the Leaf


I expected to feel slightly disheartened returning to my trusty Leaf at the end of the holiday, having experienced such a great car for a long trip. However it was almost a relief to get into a more human sized car for my local driving on smaller roads. This is just as well as I'm going to have both cars for about six months after the Tesla arrives.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
So it's really that big? Maybe wait on for the model 3 eh?
I forgot to say that the satnav once directed us over a mountain pass into the clouds. Probably good for two-way traffic in a 1980's French car but I treated it like a single track road.

I would certainly prefer a slightly smaller car but the (three) kids loved spreading out on the back seat.

The good news is that I checked it fits in the garage :)
 

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I had a similar experience with a 90d i hired from White Car for two days just before Xmas.

I agree with what garyk had said in his review in regards to Sat nav etc but I only drove 700 miles but gives me an idea of what it would be like to own a Tesla.

Too big for me but definitely tempted by Model 3 when it comes time to retire the Leaf (a long time away).
 

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So it's really that big? Maybe wait on for the model 3 eh?
Yep, it's a fair size old bus. I have to be careful where I park it at the office - I've now found that it fits nicely between a VW Polo and an Audi TT :) The width is more of an issue than the length.
On the plus side there is absolutely masses of room in it for people and man stuff. ;)
 

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Great summary!!
The main reason I did not buy the Tesla was its size!!
The Leaf seemed a massive change for us after a jaguar XE and a Porche Macan,
but we love it!!!
Even the model 3 may not be ideal from a size point of view.
But it looks a great car!!
The Leaf has the best driving position of any car i have had, and it is
roomy inside.
Rumours I heard last week are that the new Leaf will be announced this month,
and will probably have a 40 Kwh battery capacity. No surprises there!!:confused:
Not great, but handy.
 

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Rumours I heard last week are that the new Leaf will be announced this month,
and will probably have a 40 Kwh battery capacity. No surprises there!!:confused:
Not great, but handy.
The rumours I've heard about the new Leaf have ranged from the silly (it will be a hybrid whether you like it or not) to the hopeful (60kWh) to the hopelessly pessimistic (a body restyle with the same 30kWh battery.)

Obviously I'd love a Model S (great review, garyk - thanks! I hope you enjoy your new Model S) but realistically my 24kWh Leaf will be upgraded next Christmas to whatever Nissan has available, and as the Zoe is available with 41kWh that's the ballpark I'm hoping for. If I was a betting man I'd put a fiver on 40-45kWh.
 

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Hi @garyk and thanks for an interesting review. I've had a Model S (90D) for a year now and would largely agree with your thoughts. My only real gripe is that I would also like a separate light switch - it's not a major pain, but having to activate a sub menu and then some small buttons for fog lights is an irritation.

I don't use the sat nav as my primary nav aid - that goes to TomTom on my phone. The sat nav has improved and I'm sure given time Tesla will fix the issues, but some of it's traffic routing is completely crazy. Having said that being able to see google traffic on the big screen is very useful indeed.

The Autopilot is something I now find as a fantastic driver aid. I use it all the time on motorways, sometimes on dual carriageways and occasionally on single lane roads in stop/start traffic. I've got used to the situations where it struggles and usually take over beforehand or catch it immediately now. I still pay attention and hold the steering wheel lightly, but I find it's much more relaxing and I arrive less tired and fresher. I also think I'm much more aware of the surrounding traffic conditions because my brain is not loaded up with maintaining position.

The size of the car was a big concern for me, but in real use it seems to fold in around you and is really easy to place on the road. It can be an issue in tight car parks, but to be fair to it I've only clipped a tire once in 30k miles and that was just a light graze that didn't touch the rim. For a big heavy car it also hustles remarkably well - not good for energy consumption of course but it's hard to avoid the Tesla grin! And in terms of swallowing people and stuff it's superb.

The Model S is a car that's been rethought from the ground up ignoring a lot of conventional wisdom. My gripe about the light switch aside that's made for a phenomenal car. One of the biggest things though is the fact that the capabilities keep changing and improving. Since I decided to buy my car has added lane assist and change, auto park, summon (although I've only used that to show off so far), had a complete user interface revamp, the rather poor media player has been improved, the sat nav has also improved although these latter two still need to be better IMHO, multiple map updates, plus a lot of other minor features. I have never owned a car where the functionality has improved before and it's great.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for the encouragement @pbceng. Last weekend involved two long journeys in the Leaf (320 miles, 5 rapid charges) and was the first where I really missed the Tesla. Not so much because of the charging stops because these were all coincident with breaks for coffee, meals or shopping but I just remembered how easy the Tesla was on a long run.

As to the size of the Tesla, it definitely requires a different approach in the area where I live. There are many unclassified roads that I use and even some of the B roads are a bit tight with two large vehicles. I certainly found myself slowing down to give way, rather than just squeezing through. Even the Leaf feels a little larger than I would ideally like.
 

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Hi @garyk, the Leaf was also my preferred option until I realised that even my normal commute in the winter would be seriously pushing things. I asked if my employer would put in charging points (hardware provided by me and connected up using our in-house electrician) but failed to persuade them so it was only with considerable reluctance I discarded the idea of a Leaf and then considered the Tesla as the only viable EV option for me. As it happens my role at work has changed and I'm now covering a lot more miles, but the Model S has taken it in its stride.

I still fancy replacing my wife's Prius with a Leaf when it reaches the end of its useful life but will wait and see what's around at that time.

The roads by us are generally pretty narrow and before getting my car I was expecting to avoid several. In actuality I now take it down all of them, the only exception being one multi-storey which is particularly tight (my wife managed to damage the rear wing on her car and she's a better driver than me). It is wide, but as I said above, surprisingly I find it very easy to place on the road and in practise haven't had any real issues. Some of the width restrictions in London require a brave pill, but I haven't been defeated yet!
 
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Is it worth 4x as much as a top spec Leaf?

Roll on the Model 3, or my winning lottery ticket, which ever comes first.
 

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Is it worth 4x as much as a top spec Leaf?

Roll on the Model 3, or my winning lottery ticket, which ever comes first.
I would have said definitely not before owning one, and I'd still say not now, but to a much lower degree. My 90D was about 2.5x the cost of a high spec Leaf and is a very revolutionary car in a lot of ways with a lot of things rethought out - not perfect, but probably the closest thing I've driven so far. I love the Leaf, but it is a bit of an acquired taste - the Model S is expensive, but looks fantastic, drives superbly, has a good range, has changed the public perception and really upset the conservative OEMs. I am still completely bowled over by how good it is - Sorry!
 
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Interesting and thanks for the post.
Personally I couldn't manage anything wider than a Leaf on the roads I use. Not that I could afford a Tesla yet anyhow :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Is it worth 4x as much as a top spec Leaf?

Roll on the Model 3, or my winning lottery ticket, which ever comes first.
My metric is about 3x, having ordered a 60D back in July.

I don't expect it to be 3x better than my Leaf any more than the Leaf was 3x better than my previous classic ICE.

I have never been interested in expensive, new ICE cars but the Leaf made me think again. I had never owned a car with an ECU before but the completely different technology made it seem truly from the next generation. And affordable on PCP.

The Tesla is more of the same. I fully expected to but a CPO Model S to tide me over until the Model 3 became available but within days of Brexit shock in July, I booked a test drive as I could see it would imminently affect new prices and eventually used prices too.

Again I'm paying for that experience to have the new technology before it becomes mainstream. My children are just at the age of being able to enjoy longer adventures on the road but still all able to fit comfortably on the back seat. The supercharger network opens up a possibility for European travel that would be just too much hassle in any other EV.

A Model 3 would be perfect but my thought is, why wait? That will be three years' missed opportunities for travelling while the children are still young enough to be in wonder at the experience.
 

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Is it worth 4x as much as a top spec Leaf?
If your looking at PCP costs its actually much more than that.

30kWh Leaf can be had for a total cost of about £6K on a 2 year PCP deal.

Cheapest Model S is £15K down than £627/month for 24 months = £30K over 2 years

So actually working on a 2 year total cost it's about x5 the cost. Just the cost of x6 leather seats on our X is about the total cost of our Leaf over 2 years - including insurance!!!

The differential is party because the Leaf is so cheap but also because Tesla is very very expensive.

However no one can answer the question on 'worth' apart from the individual. £30K is a lot of money for most people but not for some, £6K is a huge amount of money to most but again not to all, even £100 is a lot of cash to a lot of people. Personally I think you have to be nuts to waste that kind on money on a Tesla, but you only live once and if your lucky enough to afford it why not, I can think of countless worse ways to waste money :).
 
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