Horses were a cool way of getting around. You couldn’t ride one into a tree or over the edge of a cliff, even if you tried. You could fall asleep on them and safely wake up in the stable next to your house. They eat nothing but hay and poop out pure, nutrient-rich horse puddings.
But then some clown invented the automobile and ruined everything, retiring our dutiful horse friends in favour of thirsty metal murderboxes. The horse remains the benchmark to which all automotion should aspire, and after a century the car hasn’t managed to catch up.
Tesla’s made the first car that’s even remotely as good as a horse, a full-electic that’s parked itself in the intersection of technology and motoring. It runs on electricity – a kind of 21st century hay – which is free at Tesla supercharging stations and often cleanly harvested from the sun and the wind. It can pretty much drive itself in some situations, following road markings and matching the speed of the car in front. Like Spider-Man it can sense danger and automatically apply the brakes.
It’s dripping with techy features: an app that learns your schedule and sets the car to your preferred temperature in advance, little door handles that pop out as you approach, a “summon” button that pulls the car out of driveways and garages. There’s even a button on your phone that honks the horn from anywhere in the world.
As well as being a gadget on wheels, the Tesla is also an extraordinarily good car. The Model S 90D goes about 300 miles on a single charge (up to 346 miles if you're boring) and does 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds, which is quick enough to make the back of your skull tingle. It’s baffling, the sort of performance you’d never expect from battery power. An iPhone can barely survive a day without plugging in, a Tesla will fire you out of a sliproad like an angry cannon without breaking a sweat.
It’s a car that feels on the cusp of a shimmering future that hasn’t quite arrived yet. This isn’t a self-driving robot: features are still in development and couched in common sense caveats. The autopilot gives stern instructions to keep hold of the wheel and makes angry blooping sounds if you don’t. Regular over-the-air updates improve the on-board software too, adding new features about as quickly as Elon Musk’s brain can think them up.
White Car has just started offering the Tesla Model S 90D to rent from Heathrow Airport. On the outside chance that you don’t have the best part of £80,000 sitting around, you can have a go on a Tesla for £169 per day. Inclusive in the rental price is insurance, an additional driver and a valet who’ll pick up and drop off the car from anywhere within a 25 mile radius.