Published on May 25th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Tesla P85D Test Drive & Reactions (5 Original Videos)

May 25th, 2015 by  

After test driving the Tesla Model S P85D (aka Tesla P85D), my initial feeling was that I didn’t want to get out of the driver’s seat. Really. I’ve driven some fun cars in my life, but none of them came close to this. The raw power and fun is not just exhilarating — it’s immediately addictive. But the overall takeaway I most wanted to express was simply… “Wow.” (Hence what some considered to be an incomplete article.)

I’ve now edited the videos from the test drive to share them with you as well, and they are below, but there are a few points I think should be written beforehand:

1. Videos and articles can’t capture the experience. That may seem obvious, but really, they can’t. I’ve watched many Tesla P85D reaction videos, of course (see the links on the bottom of this article), and read many articles and comments about the car (it’s my job!), and I thought I was fairly prepared to have some fun but not lose my mind. Well, it seems I was wrong. You simply have to experience it.

2. Being the driver and being the passenger are two very different experiences. Being the driver, you have control of that massively powerful rocket ship (it feels like a rocket ship anyway… a super quiet one). The experience of stepping on the pedal is a ton of fun, but fun you are controlling to some degree.

As the passenger, it really is a bit like riding a rollercoaster. However, you don’t know when the driver will step on the electricity, so there is more of a surprise factor, and more “nervousness” about when it will actually happen. It’s fun.

Tesla Model S P85D

3. There is truly much more to the car that “wows” than simply the acceleration. The steering wheel makes you feel like you have a race car in your hands, the excellent handling thanks to the low and balanced center of gravity has a similar but stronger effect, the touch screen is huge (can’t capture that in pictures or videos), the touch screen options are wonderful, the trunk space is crazy, and I loved the next-gen seats, which were firm but comfortable — exactly what I’d want.

4. While it’s hard to say any car is “worth” 3–5 times more than an average, good, electric car (like the Nissan LEAF), I think it’s very hard to settle for another model or brand once you’ve driven a Tesla P85D (or any Tesla Model S, I presume). As one of our readers, Kyle Field, wrote in a comment after test driving the P85D, “I’m looking into a used Model S to replace my Prius… or a 200mi LEAF, but the more I compare, the more the Model S seems like a no brainer. Yes, I’m aware that it’s twice the price but it’s soooooo much better on every level.” Indeed. It’s like a completely different product.

5. There’s obviously more to write, but the main thing is simply: go for a test drive!
(Or don’t, if you really need to keep your money in your pocket!)

Tesla P85D Test Drive & Reaction Videos

OK, on to the videos. And a huge thanks to Bárbara Rubim, Jorge Martinez, Kristin Johansson, and Rebecca Chan for joining me on the test drive and helping with the video production (I think Bárbara and Jorge actually did most of the recording). You’re probably better off opening each of these in a new tab or watching in full-screen mode, but I guess that’s up to you.


If you didn’t and won’t watch all of the videos, there were a few more things from them that I want to highlight, since they were new to me despite learning about the Model S as a job for years.

Speaker Control

I’m not sure how common this feature is in other cars, but it was pretty sweet to see and experience during the P85D test drive. Basically, when you have the music (or something else) playing, you can drag a dot around on the touch screen to focus it on particular areas of the car — even specific corners, like the front-passenger corner of the car. And it worked really well.

Backup Camera

Many cars now have little backup cameras to help you when parking or backing out of a tight space. Tesla’s backup camera (thanks to its massive touch screen) is almost like an entirely different product. It is huge, which makes it much more useful than others I’ve used. I mean, you shouldn’t have to put on your reading glasses to use the backup camera.

Supercharger Memory

Well, I might have known about this one before, but I’m not sure, and it’s a cool thing that I think I never gave any attention to before: aside from searching for Superchargers generally or based on your location, you can also mark some as favorites and quickly jump to those or scan through recently visited Superchargers.

Suspension Auto Adjusts

This is one I definitely knew about before, but it is a very cool feature that I think is worth highlighting: aside from the suspension automatically lowering the car when you get on the highway, it will also remember places where you typically lower or raise the car (like going into your driveway) and start adjusting automatically in that location.

Excellent Turning Radius

Well, the subheading says enough. It can turn in not quite as tight a radius as a Renault Twizy, but it sure felt sharp — surprisingly so for such a large car.

Beats A Lamborghini

The Tesla P85D is faster to 60 mph (or 100 km/h) than most Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche models, but much quicker right off the line.

Anti-Car Person

If you didn’t watch the videos, you didn’t catch this tidbit: one of the passengers in our P85D test drives is quite opposed to cars (for very logical reasons) and wasn’t that into the idea of going on a test drive. She loved the P85D and said afterwards that, despite the fact that she still wouldn’t buy one, she said she “wouldn’t mind taking a drive in one every day.”

Electric cars aren’t as green as bikes (and aren’t as good for livable cities), but if powered by sunlight or wind, they’re greener than basically everything else around.

Related Stories:

  1. I Drove The Tesla P85D, And Now Nothing I Drive Will Feel The Same Way Again
  2. Tesla P85D Test Drive, BMW i3 On Amazon, Electric Mustang, Unfriendly Kia Dealer… (Cleantech Talk #10)
  3. Car Hater To EV Lover (What Made Me Into An Electric Car Lover?)
  4. Tesla P85D Cellphone Test — Instant Torque In Action (Video)
  5. 7 Top Tesla Model S P85D Reaction Videos
  6. Tesla Model S Feature Overview (Video)
  7. Tesla P85D VS. $400,000 Lamborghini Murcielago (Video)
  8. Tesla Leaves Lamborghini In The Dust (+ Other EV News)
  9. How Does Tesla’s P85D Compare Against The Audi RS7, BMW M6 GC, & Mercedes CLS63 AMG?
  10. Tesla Model S P85D Test Drive Blows Motor Trend Away

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Haggy

    You made a good point about being in the P85D as a passenger, and I haven’t done that under full acceleration. As for “(or any Tesla Model S, I presume)” I think that’s pretty much on target. For the most part, they are the same car. You can only go from 0-60 at top speed so many times in day to day use, and it usually comes out to zero times. It’s the real life ramifications that count, and the other editions still have excellent acceleration. The P85D gives you far more from a standstill but any will give you what you need when you need to make a lane change or merge and need a rapid change of speed. They are all fun to drive.

    As for the camera, that took some getting used to. One of the big complaints was that it initially lacked backup lines that curved as you turn the wheel. Since all you saw was a fisheye view, it was great in terms of knowing even what was in adjacent lanes, but not so good at helping you park compared to most backup cameras. A big plus about the Model S is free OTA upgrades. One day, the feature just showed up.

    Tesla isn’t big on lawyer screens, or messages that say that you should always look over your shoulder rather than relying on the camera. I find that in real life, I keep looking over my shoulder because I’m supposed to, and then realize that it leaves me completely blind when backing out of a parking space in a lot. The camera shows me traffic in the aisle when all I see looking over my shoulder is the sides of other vehicles. Even though I’m not supposed to rely on the camera, it lets me see things that are literally impossible to see without it. But it’s not the best thing for judging distance except close up.

  • AlanW

    Could you comment more on the turning circle? The early Model S reviews said it wasn’t great at 37.0 feet. Has that improved? One of my wife’s criteria is that her next car have a turning circle like a Camry, at 35.4 feet for good U-turns on 2 lane roads. The Renault Twizy has turning circle of 22.3 feet. You said “It can turn in not quite as tight a radius as a Renault Twizy, but it sure felt close.” How can 37 feet feel like 22.3 feet?

    • From a subjective perspective, it’s hard to say much more — I expected it to be much worse given the size of the car. I wasn’t presented with a difficult spot to use it, but it surprised me both times at how sharp it was. (And, yeah, the lady said 11.3 meters.) The Twizy is a tiny vehicle, which helps it to have an amazing turning radius. Given the size of the Model S, I found it surprising and impressive, and the sales rep apparently did as well, which also makes me think it compares very well to other cars that size.

      • Bob_Wallace

        An intelligent AWD car should be able to pivot on one wheel, should it not?

        I’m assuming the RPMs of each rear or front wheel is independently controllable. Just “disconnect” one rear wheel and let others power the car around.

        Could be a great feature on an in-hub motor EV. Tightest donuts ever!!!

  • djr417

    great videos! Taking that on the road to Whistler wouldve been spectacular (very scenic drive). I was wondering about the large sunroof- did you try it open? Im wondering about the noise level /turbulence, looks like an amazing car either way.

    • Yeah, would be nice to rent one and go to Whistler next time. 😀

      Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about the sunroof. 😛 I was perhaps a little mesmerized. 😛

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Did you notice how slow the response was on the 17″ monitor?

    • Zach Albrecht

      depends on what they are loading, and that’s a built-in tablet essentially.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        I noticed the lady was unsure if she pushed the right button on the 17″ touchscreen tablet. Then it finally registered. Then she pushed another tab and this time she didn’t try to touch it twice. However the touch never registered. Reminded me of my Nexus 6 phone. Along with the bad voice recognition. I always wonder why companies don’t dedicate a CPU to handling the GUI and only the GUI. I only watched the first video. I’ll try to watch the other videos when I get time.

        • The others are much more fun, but I figured many would appreciate the details shared in the first one. Some of that was new to me. 😀

    • Haggy

      The response time is usually quite good, but there can be exceptions. For example, it’s frustrating when you press something to get a drop down for the garage door opener, you aren’t sure if it registered, and just as you are about to touch it, it drops down so your touch cancels it. That doesn’t describe most everyday use by far, and is a rare exception. But it is indeed frustrating when it happens.

      The entire design of the Homelink interface is a disaster, but that’s another story.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        lol, homelink is not nearly as bad whatever that is that Cadilacs use.

        GUIs should always be as responsive as pushing a switch or turning a knob in real life. It’s a shame how telephones are so crappy. Even some desktop applications. Maybe the internet has conditioned people to think it is ok for slow response times? I’m just surprised Musk would allow slow response times to creep into the Model S. Maybe Tesla will update the software so that no longer happens?

        • Haggy

          It’s not Homelink itself that’s bad, but Tesla’s implementation. I can blame Homelink for the three device limitation that their chip supports, but the rest is up to Tesla.

          Tesla designed a small icon that I can press to get the drop down, and the drop down itself is location aware so the appropriate choice will show up on its own. It sounds good, but there’s no way to set the distance. So I might want to open my garage door when I’m twice as far away as the car decides. Or I might care about direction and want the drop down for the entrance/exit gate only when I’m on the way in. Tesla doesn’t give any choice at all. If I reach for the fingertip sized icon, and get to it just as the car is about to give me a drop down, my press could cancel it out. It would be absurd to have it on/off/on if a person tapped a few times quickly, when it was more likely a bump in the road while pressing it, so some lag is needed there. But the trick is for me not to have to press the icon to begin with.

          So when I’m in the garage and don’t need to see it, there’s a drop down in my way, but I’ve already used the wall switch. Once I back out of the garage, chances are the drop down disappeared, but that’s when I need it to close the door.

          The drop down appears as a vertical list, as most drop downs do, but that covers too much screen. What’s really needed is a one line list with the location aware one closest to the driver. I’m not likely to need the others unless I have a bunch of garages next to each other, so showing them all isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

          The drop down has a final item for setup, but it shouldn’t be there at all when I’m moving. Nobody is going to decide while in motion that it’s time to program a new remote, considering that part of the process will be from outside the car anyway. So if I’m reaching for a line on the list while going over the slightest bump, and my finger is off by half a finger’s width, I might get the programming screen. Then I have to worry about lag, getting that to go away, getting the list to drop back down, all while trying to keep my eyes on the road. By that time, I’ll be in the driveway, but the whole point should have been that I could have opened the garage door in advance.

          Something as simple as a button on the header or mirror works on other cars. It should have been implemented so the screen made it easier, but this is one of the rare cases where the screen makes it more awkward.

          It’s stupid things like this that put the list in my way when I don’t want it, have it gone when I need to close the door, have it in my way when I approach the exit gate but want the calendar (so I can touch the meeting and have it navigate to its location) or the navigator icon, which are blocked by the list, and make me wonder if they ever thought it through.

          So the problem isn’t truly lag, but lag within the context of bad design. People who don’t own the car are always trying to point out problems that owners don’t have, so they see owners as defensive, when in reality it’s that owners don’t have certain types of problems. This is an example since lag itself is rarely an issue, but can be within a certain context.

          I’m not surprised that Tesla didn’t anticipate that I’d want to be able to press a button to have a list disappear immediately and then press it again to have the list reappear instantly, but the problem is that I didn’t want it to disappear in the first place. More “lag” would have been needed in the sense that they should recognize that if the car popped up the list on its own and I requested it within a fraction of a second, chances are it was my intention to request it before the car popped it up.

          That stupid fingertip sized Homelink icon is also next to the list of driver profiles, so the wrong list is there when I get into the car and really want to adjust the seat, etc. Having a giant screen with some things like this right on top of each other are the real stupid things going on in the console. Then there’s the issue of setting anything using the console before my seat is adjusted since it might start out too close for me to get in….

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Wow! Are we related? You sound very much like me. Going on in great detail about problems. That great description will probably be noticed by Tesla and they should fix it. Hopefully soon.

            I have solar panels on my gate. The batteries were starting to make noise to tell me they needed to be replaced. Wasn’t happy with that since I thought they should last for 10 to 20 years, not three. So I took the batteries out and was going to put car batteries in. But that’s been a year. Or two. I just get out and open the gate by hand. I’m too lazy. In your predicament I’d go to Lowe’s and buy one of those liftmaster universal clickers and put it on the visor. Then reset the gate and garage door openers so the Tesla can’t operate them and use only the clicker. Then again I’m something of a luddite. I’d like to get a new car like the Tesla but I don’t want the electronics. I think electronics are just going to be problems in the future. Maybe not with the Tesla since they take such good care of their customers. So maybe it’s just a matter of time. Let passionate people like you work out all the kinks!

          • Bob_Wallace

            The nice thing about Tesla electronics is that improvements can be made quickly and remotely.

            Maybe Tesla needs to add an (optional) beep or visual signal that tells the operator that their message has been received. It’s something that lots of computer programs need.

    • I didn’t. Don’t think I actually messed with it, though.

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