In a week or so, my 2013 Tesla Model S, now fitted with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery, will wind up its third year of residence in my driveway.
It just finished its third cross-country trip, from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley to a winter getaway in Carpinteria, California, and the odometer just ticked over 55,000 miles.
It’s been a great ride. Though my battery capacity has declined about 7 percent, reducing my range from 265 miles to 248, the car still looks and drives like new, and I still tingle every time I get in it.
Not once have I looked out through the windshield and said to myself, “I wish I were driving that car instead of this one.”
Until last week.
I’d dropped by the Tesla store in Santa Barbara to see about replacing my worn-out Michelin Primacy tires. A sales guy asked about my car’s age and mileage, and suggested that now would be a great time to trade in my three-year-old car on a new Model S.
“We’re really looking for CPO cars,” he told me, referring to Tesla’s Certified Previously Owned program.
“We could give you a good trade-in allowance for yours right now," he said. "But 60,000 miles is the upper limit for a CPO car, so once you get past that number, the trade-in value would go way down.”
He pointed at a gorgeous 2016 metallic blue S90D parked in front of the showroom. “If you’d like to test-drive that one, I could let you have it for 24 hours.”
Deal! We traded keys, and I drove off in the 90D.
At the time, I figured there was zero chance of me doing a $40-50,000 trade-up just to get the latest model. (Sorry, sales guy.)
But I was eager to see how the Model S has evolved over the past three years.
No more 85
As I write this, Tesla has just discontinued the 85-kWh Model S. Its replacement, the 90-kWh version, is now available only with the dual motors that give it all-wheel drive.
So the 90D is in fact the closest current equivalent to my 2013 S85, and the appropriate model for a then-versus-now comparison.
My car, with air suspension, 19-inch wheels, and no sunroof, had a list price of about $81,000 in 2013.
An equivalent 2016 90D, similarly equipped, would price out at $91,500 today. About half the difference is the cost of the dual-motor set-up; the other half is a combination of a 2014 price increase and some minor changes to standard equipment.
The first revelation came almost immediately, as I pulled onto the 101 freeway. The 90D definitely feels quicker off the line.
My 85 has a listed 0-to-60-mph time of 5.2 seconds. The 90D’s official number is 4.2 seconds.
That’s a big difference on paper, but I’d always wondered how the lower number translated into real-world use.
It translates very well indeed: the 90D is noticeably, grin-inducingly quicker than my 85.
In fact, I’d call the 90D’s acceleration almost perfect: It's all you ever need for normal driving, plus a little bit extra just for the fun of it.
Anything more—like the over-the-top acceleration of the Model S Performance versions—seems to me good only for bragging rights, street racing, and scaring the pants off passengers.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but those aren't my priorities.
I’m not the type of driver who screeches around curves on mountain roads, so I’m not particularly qualified to comment about on-the-edge handling for either car.