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Hands-on review part one: Driving Tesla’s Red Rocket Model S

FYI, this story is more than a year old

Over the past weekend, I have had the opportunity to get hands-on with perhaps one of the most impressive pieces of technology created to date, the Tesla Model S. 

From the moment my co-pilot and I first got into the car we were absolutely blown away by how aesthetically impressive and technology advanced the car is, it truly did feel like we were stepping into a high-tech spaceship. 

However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the hands-on experience here is a quick refresher on what exactly the Tesla Model S is, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. 

The Model S is designed from the ground up to be one the safest, most exhilarating sedans on the road. 

With performance delivered through Tesla's all-electric powertrain the Model S supposedly accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in as little as 2.7 seconds. 

It also comes with Autopilot capabilities designed to make highway driving not only safer but stress-free.

On top of that this car also boasts an all vegan status, meaning that no animals were harmed in the construction of the car. 

Overall it is an environment junkie’s dream car mixed with a motorhead's race car fantasy. 

The Model S also features full LED adaptive headlamps and a medical grade HEPA air filtration system, which removes at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from the cabin air.

The tests

When we heard about all of the impressive features the car boasted we were somewhat sceptical, after all, we hear these kinds of lavish claims every day.

Never the less, we were going to put each and every bit of this car to the test. 

In our three day journey, we drove the car down to Tauranga via the Coromandel and then back up to Auckland via Hamilton, to test the supercharger. 

The drive to Tauranga 

The first thing we noticed while being stuck in Auckland rush traffic on the way out of the city was just how useful the rearview camera and proximity sensors are.

We were able to judge, gaps, and following distance with ease, though it is worth noting that the rearview camera is not great for judging distance, unless something gets really close. 

The second thing we noticed was the incredible lane detection, which alerted us if we strayed too close to the edge of our lane. 

Overall on our drive out of the city, we were smiling the entire way at all of the intuitive bits and bobs the car was throwing at us, all while not being too distracting to the driver. 

As we left the city we became a bit more experimental, first trying ‘Ludacris mode’ which offers a ridiculous acceleration rate.

This is where their claim of 0-100 kph is proven to be true, as we clocked in at 100 roughly 2.3 seconds after beginning our acceleration.

At some points, we were even a bit caught off guard by just how fast the car actually sped up. 

Another cool feature we really began to appreciate was the regen-braking, which helps conserve power by slowing down the car when you aren’t pressing on the accelerator. 

This did take some getting used to but once we did, it was simply such a convenient feature.

The onboard maps system was also very useful guiding us relatively accurately to our destination. 

One minor thing we did notice on the darker country roads is that the LED adaptive headlamps could be a little more aggressive to oncoming traffic than they should be, often only turning down the brightness a few moments before a car drove past us. 

Overall, however, it was an incredibly smooth ride down to Tauranga and perhaps one of the most exciting drives I have ever had.

On the four hour drive to Tauranga, we used approximately 60% of our battery (which was only charged to 85%) and had a cool 25% to spare if we felt like driving a bit more. 

Taking The Red Rocket out on the town

The next day we spent driving around Tauranga and The Mount testing out various features we were a bit too afraid to try the previous day, without reading the manual first. 

One of the most impressive features of the car was by far its driver assist feature. 

Once activated this feature automatically keeps the car at a certain speed and following distance, as well as automatically follows the lane the driver is currently in. 

When we first turned it on we were totally in awe as the car began doing the majority of the driving for us.

We were particularly impressed at how advanced this feature was despite only using two of the car’s eight cameras at the moment.

That being said there are some definite limitations to the feature, as it is not currently designed for anything other than the motorway, and as we were testing it in the town it did seem to have a few issues with cars parked on the street, not quite understanding why they aren’t moving it once assumed we were about to hit gridlock traffic and began to slow us down. 

However, it’s easy enough to deactivate this feature by just gently moving the steering wheel.

During our time in the town, we also made ample use of the sunroof this particular model has built-in.

The drive home 

On our last day with the Model S, we decided to head to Hamilton to test out the supercharger. 

On our way there we made sure to use all of the exciting features we familiarised ourselves with over the previous days, and when all of them got put together the drive became incredibly easy.

So we only had one claim left to put to the test, the supposed 15 minute supercharge. 

We arrived in Hamilton with roughly 30% of our battery left plugged the charger into the car and left it for a little while. 

I bet that the car would only be on 60% by the time we got back, however, I lost that bet, upon getting back into the car it had charged all the way back up to 85%, more than enough to get us all the way back home with plenty of battery to spare.

In the end driving the Tesla was an amazing experience, however, this portion of the review only starts to scratch the surface of what makes this car so great. 

In part two I will explain some more of the interior comforts as well as compare and contrast the pros and cons of driving an electric car like this. 

You can jump to part two here.

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