Georgia Lewis tries to atone for her gas-guzzling past and takes an online test drive to customise her very own zero-emissions Tesla Model S Plaid…
Once upon a time, I was an expat cliché. I still had the usual worries about bills and boyfriends that I couldn’t leave behind in Sydney, but this was sweetened by the fact I was working as a motoring journalist in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I saw obscenely expensive cars so often, I thought nothing of parking next to a Lamborghini Gallardo at the supermarket. When I wasn’t driving around in my gas-guzzling Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, I reviewed all manner of expensive cars.
Irresponsible highlights of this era include barrelling a Bugatti Veyron at 180mph on a public road, looning in Lamborghinis around Qatar’s motorcycle track, and monkeying about in a Mercedes SLK on the Monaco road where Grace Kelly died. My carbon footprint must have looked like a coal miner’s lung.
A hybrid virgin in the Middle East
In 2010, Julian Millward-Hopkins, the late, great Mercedes Middle East PR manager, put me behind the wheel of a hybrid Merc. He was honest enough to tell me he wasn’t sure how many would be sold in the Emirates unless a sheikh set an example and bought one, but it was important to at least try to create a market for hybrids in the land where oil reigns supreme.
By the time I left the Middle East for London in 2011 there were few signs that the UAE was embracing greener motoring. Fast-forward to 2021 and there are only about 4,000 electric cars on UAE roads, compared to nearly 300,000 pure-electric cars on UK, and more than 600,000 if including plug-in hybrids.
As I look wistfully at my blue, petrol-powered Volkswagen Polo on the drive, I know my next car will probably be electric. You can’t fight progress, despite valid arguments about the often-unsavoury supply chains for electric car components, or whether it’ll all be a waste of time if we charge our cars with electricity from dirty power stations.
But what if I got in early and went electric sooner rather than later? And what if I got myself a really awesome option? Curious, I found myself exploring the Tesla UK website. My only real-world experience with a Tesla was last year, when, bizarrely, I went to Switzerland for the day to tour a food processing factory for a story. After flying to Zurich (remember planes?), I got a train to Uzwil where I was picked up from the station in a black Tesla Model X. It was slick, the quality control was insanely perfect, and it was so quiet, I felt like I was in a mobile hearing test booth.
But for my virtual shopping trip, I thought the Model S saloon might be more suitable than a Model X – I cannot think of the last time I needed to transport seven adults anywhere – and I started looking at my options. Let’s see if I can have top-of-the-line everything in my Tesla, I thought, clicked on ‘Model S Plaid’ and got busy.
So what comes with the Tesla Model Plaid S?
If I was to eschew the Plaid options, the base model dual motor all-wheel-drive Model S would set me back £87,980. But I wanted a Plaid, an all-wheel-drive with three motors, with a starting price of £118,930 and estimated delivery for the end of 2022. If I must wait more than a year for my new car, I may as well make it a good ‘un.
The stats are pretty impressive. A top speed of 200mph, a 0-60mph sprint of 1.99 seconds, 1,020 horsepower, and a single-charge range of 405 miles. In a country the size of the UK, that would be ample for most journeys so range anxiety wouldn’t be a massive problem, especially as more electric car charging stations are appearing. I regularly see a Tesla juicing up in the Asda car park. Perhaps they can’t afford Waitrose after handing over their life savings to Elon Musk.
A top speed of 200mph, a 0-60mph sprint of 1.99 seconds, 1,020 horsepower, and a single-charge range of 405 miles
My Plaid would grant me access to more than 25,000 superchargers globally so I could top it up to a 200-mile range in 15 minutes. The trip planner looked embarrassingly easy to use, with the website suggesting a 208-mile jaunt from London to Manchester and currently less achievable journeys, such as Munich to Zurich (196 miles), Amsterdam to Brussels (131 miles) and Brussels to my beloved Paris (194 miles). For anyone who has experienced Google Maps rage after being sent down a country lane the width of a pencil, this would be a boon.
The cost of personalisation
For my £118,930, I’d get as standard a pearl white multi-coat paint job, 19-inch wheel and an all-black carbon fibre interior. Bargain! But I wanted more and started clicking the most expensive options – soon I created a red multi-coat Plaid (£2,500) with a black and white carbon fibre interior (£2,000).
Then I got really carried away and added £3,400 worth of ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ to give me auto lane change, that freaky self-parking function, and ‘Summon’, which helps you locate your car. As someone who once spent nearly an hour in a Sydney carpark in 40-degree heat trying to find an un-air-conditioned Mitsubishi Colt, this was appealing. Click!
While I was at it, I figured £6,800 was a price worth paying for ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’, although the fine print made it clear I would not be able to simply sit in the back with a bottle of champagne and a trashy novel while my Plaid chauffeured me around. For now, my £6,800 would prevent me from running traffic lights and stop signs.
Tediously, “the currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous” but I would receive updates via the car’s software in the years ahead. I’d basically be buying a giant laptop on wheels.
After the extras… savings!
After my clicking rampage, it was the moment of truth – my Tesla Model S Plaid would cost me £130,280, or a mere £125,280 “After Est. Savings”. I’m always up for a bargain so I investigated how much I could save on this beast. I clicked on ‘I commute to London’ because one day I might want to take my new Tesla from the wilds of Zone 4 into glamorous Zone 1. This turned out to be a savings bonanza – I’d get £9,000 off because of the London congestion incentive and the computer estimated I’d save £5,000 a year in fuel. This made it a £116,280 car.
Like a mad impetuous fool, I clicked on ‘Continue to payment’. To my surprise, the only money that was due today was £100. Somehow, I figured the deposit would be a bit higher than the cost of a purple sequined jumpsuit I saw on sale in Monsoon today.
That was, obviously, the point where I bailed out of this absurd online excursion. I may have at least £100 in the bank but if I had the remaining £116,180 kicking about, I’d probably be really boring and throw it at the mortgage. And continue tootling around South London in the petrol-powered blue Polo…
In a career that has spanned Australia, the Middle East and the UK, Georgia has written about all sorts of things, including sex, cars, food, oil and gas, insurance, fashion, travel, workplace safety, health, religious affairs, glass and glazing… When she’s not writing words for fun and profit, she can usually be found with a glass of something French and red in her hand.