tl;dr: After recently test driving a new Tesla Model S Performance I was impressed with the changes of the last 4 years. However I was very disappointed with the latest Autopilot version.
Here’s my story:
Tesla started calling me up around late 2018. They asked if I wouldn’t like to trade-in my Tesla Model S P85D (2015) with a newer model. The Model S is rather big for Switzerlands streets and parking garages. I therefore eyed with buying a new Model 3 Performance. After test driving one I was however not impressed (ask me about it in the comments). Fast forward to early September 2019 when I got the opportunity to test drive the latest Tesla Model S Performance (Raven). Having the car for a full day I tested it on my regular commute route (some 35km each way).
I categorise my impressions from the test drive in the following categories:
Interior / build quality
Probably the most impressive and noticeable step forward compared to my 4 year older Model S. The interior quality is significantly better, way less plastic. Some examples:
- The inside door covers (mine are plastic, new ones are leather)
- The “stowage” compartment (mine again plastic, now they are alcantara)
- The rear view mirror is much thinner (mine is very bulky, probably due to more electronics for the auto-shade function)
- The front and rear passenger seats are from a different world. Extremely comfortable and soft in the new Model S (also the back seats in mine didn’t give any side support)
- The center console now has nice dark metal frame (mine had kind of bright grey frames around the center console)
- The middle console with cupholders are now standard (I never missed that in mine tho)
So all in all very impressive improvements which have made it into the interior of the Model S in the last 4 years.
It was to be expected that my Tesla Model S P85D (0-100km/h in 3.3 secs) can’t keep up with a Tesla Model S Performance Raven (0-100km/h in 2.6 secs). The acceleration is phenomenal. The newer version has especially in the area of 80-120km/h a very brutal continuous force pushing forward. My car kind of flattens off in that speed area to a less aggressive acceleration. I also noticed that the Raven sounds different when under full load. My P85D had this spaceship like Zoom sound where the Raven produces a more monotone low tone.
The new adaptive suspension is another highlight. I’ve driven a Mercedes Benz E65 AMG before. That car has the magnetic ride feature. When switched off it makes the car feel like a cushioned boat, riding on clouds. But when turned on it feels stiff and your back feels every bump in the road. The Model S Raven adaptive suspension is very similar to that magnetic ride feature. With the “Standard” setting being very cushioned and soft and the “Sport” setting feeling very close to the road. My Model S P85D feels like “Sport” mode all the time which makes the ride less comfortable.
Historically a problem with the older Model S, the panel gaps. I’ve seen some bad early Model S cars in Switzerland with panel gaps for example in the frunk where I could fit my hand between the hood and the front bumper but not in the middle (basically bent hoods). I got lucky with my Model S P85D and can’t complain about any of the gaps really. Some of the chrome appliances around the windows deformed themselves over time but it’s not really noticeable.
This is however not a problem anymore with the newer models. The Model S Raven didn’t have a single problem with any of the panel gaps or the chrome appliances.
My 2015 Model S has the AP1 version which was sourced from the company MobilEye (now owned by Intel). They provided a turn-key solution for the Autopilot and lane keeping features. Tesla later developed their own solution after the fatal crash of a Model S car.
The 2019 Model S Raven does have the so called AP3 version which is the latest Autopilot. It does support new features like “Navigate on Autopilot” and “Smart Summon” (afaik not available in Switzerland yet). However this new, self developed Autopilot is very disappointing. Out of 10 attempts to change the lane on a highway 8 of them failed with an error message. That however only shows up after blinking for like 5 seconds already. The same lane changes my AP1 would execute immediately after flipping the turning light indicator. It then just shows a notice to check the dead angles on the side of the car and switches lanes reliably every time. I really don’t understand why Tesla wouldn’t compute constantly a 0 or 1 and somehow indicate it on the display when a lane change is possible and can be initiated immediately.
One of the features I had really high hopes in was “Navigate on Autopilot”, it promises to automatically take intersections, highway exits and do lane changes when activated. Turns out the automatic lane change feature is another thing which is not yet enabled in Europe and taking the right lanes and highway exits is narrowly locked to the GPS signal. That becomes clear when the “Navigate on Autopilot” feature gets disabled 200m before, during and after a tunnel. Unfortunately out of 4 intersections of the highway on my commute, only 2 are further away than 200m from tunnels.
The net benefit of having the newer Autopilot for my daily commute were therefore effectively zero, as the lane changes are more bothersome and the “Navigate on Autopilot” feature not yet in a state where it would be useful to me.
The improvements going into the last 4 years of production are impressive. The new seats are extremely comfortable, the adaptive suspension is fantastic but the AP3 Autopilot is unfortunately still not on-par with my 4 year old Model S. It did improve a lot compared to the 2017 Model X with AP2 which I drove as a rental car for a day in 2018. Back then the Autopilot literally bounced between two lane limiters like a ping pong ball, especially in curves.
If I wouldn’t already own a perfectly fine Model S, I would definitely buy a new Tesla Model S Performance. But until the Autopilot is not giving me an advantage on my commute I don’t see a reason to trade-in my car. So I happily keep the little bit slower and little bit less comfortable car. It is still light years better than any internal combustion engine car. Or when did your car last got an update over the air which gave it fart sounds when using the turning lights?
If you’re thinking about ordering a new Tesla feel free to use my referral link which will give you 1500km of free Supercharging.