Four days in a Plaid, and what did I think?

When you’re inside this remarkable thing, you feel like you’re cocooned inside a shell of engineering and computer science excellence. You’re surrounded by an ecosystem of digital tools that feels like an extension of your central nervous system: everything is on hand, or rather on finger, at the press of a digital button, to enable to you to operate the car, or rather to allow the car to operate, often autonomously, with Autosteer. From the volume, to the indicators, to the steering, the Model S does everything from your fingertips.

With its entirely digital driver experience, this is like some kind of Japanese Feng Shui minimalism in a car. Once you quickly become attuned to the button led approach, it’s a super elegant driving experience.

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The key issue, for many, of course, is that the Plaid is only available in left-hand drive in the UK. I have to say, into day two in LHD, I was fully habituated. It actually felt more right, driving on the left, and being able to align the car to the side of the road. I genuinely preferred it. I’m conscious, though, that I am a little maverick in liking things that are left field, quite literally, in this case. That said, although it’s left-hand drive, you don’t often need to actually drive it in full self-driving Autosteer mode.

At the top of the EV digital tools tree is of course the Supercharger network, which sets Tesla apart from all other OEMs. Having Teslas for test drives, for just a few days, and having access to home charging, I’ve never actually needed to use the Supercharger network in anger on a long-distance journey. However, just knowing it exists, and that the car’s advanced mapping  tools are intimately connected to it, is reassuring.

This is three cars at the push of a digital button: one a family saloon in Chill mode; one, a sports car in Sports mode; and then, a full-on hypercar in Plaid mode. There are other, more colourful, ways in which you might describe Plaid mode when it’s propelling you to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. Of course, there is something about this level of ridiculously powerful propulsion that is entirely unnecessary and, in fact, goes against the grain of EVs being the greenest automotive solution, but this vehicle is something like the definitive marketing machine for just how technologically advanced an electric car can be. The sector still needs to say it’s better than combustion, and this hyper-powerful device absolutely does that.

As a new experience, it’s excitingly unnerving knowing you’re driving the best, the quickest, car on the road. It’s strangely, counterintuitively enjoyable being overtaken by people in normal fast cars, knowing you could leave them in a cloud of tyre particulates at a fingertip touch to Plaid mode.

The only practicable way to experience the Plaid in full effect and force is away from the constraints of the carriageway. So, off to  a former airforce base I headed to put the Plaid through its paces in Drag Strip mode. That said, the Plaid is so quick, it put me through my paces. Although it took just 1.9 seconds to propel me to 60 mph, it then took 1.9 hours to fully recover from the experience. The remarkable thing is how it just keeps on, and on, pushing and pushing, unconstrained, as it is, by any sort of combustion engine power band. This is relentless power up to an incredible 200 mph.

However, it is, of course, a bit like owning a thoroughbred race horse as a family pet. Taking Red Rum out for walks with the kids isn’t entirely practicable, but it would certainly attract the interest of the neighbours. My kids totally loved it.

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