- The Tesla Model S is chock-full of features, as we found in our recent review of the Model S P100D.
- CNBC compiled a list of the coolest features you'll find in the car, from parking sensors to a suspension that can raise and lower on its own.
CNBC's Tesla Model S P100D review provided an in-depth look at the driving experience, from the comfort of the car to an analysis of its driving features. Now, we're back with a list of the coolest features that drivers will find when they get behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S.
The car is absolutely jam-packed with technology, from cameras flanking every angle to a built-in sketchpad for bored passengers. There are dozens of hidden quirks and fun toys to choose from, but we've selected 11 favorites from our time with the Tesla Model S.
Listed out from most important to least, here they are:
Autopilot is Tesla's advanced suite of active driver assistance. The system is capable of controlling the throttle, brakes and steering in certain situations. It can even make lane changes if the driver activates the vehicle's turn signal. For a more in-depth look at Autopilot, see the full review here.
To unlock the full potential of the Tesla's drivetrain, drivers have to put the vehicle into Ludicrous mode. This, of course, is a reference to the satirical film "Space Balls," in which the spaceship's speedometer has four options: Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed and Plaid.
The newest update, though, features Ludicrous Plus mode. It can be activated by holding down the Ludicrous option in the settings menu for 5 seconds; this will trigger the hyperspace animation shown above. Users are then told that Ludicrous Plus will accelerate wear on the motor, gearbox and battery. Asked if they want to continue, the driver gets two options: "No, I want my Mommy" or "Yes, bring it on."
Opt for yes, and you've now unlocked the ability to go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in a dizzying 2.4 seconds, officially. Third parties, though, have recorded times as low as 2.24 seconds.
Superchargers are Tesla's network of fast chargers. Right now, they're the only widely available fast chargers in the United States. Because they allow users to recharge hundreds of miles of range in only an hour, they're the best way for electric vehicles to conquer road trips.
At present, they only work with Tesla vehicles. That means if you want an electric vehicle that can take you from coast to coast without bumming electricity off houses and businesses, Tesla's the only game in town.
The Model S was the first car to offer software upgrades via over-the-air updates. Just like your phone, the Model S downloads new software over time that irons out bugs and introduces new capabilities.
Autopilot updates, Ludicrous Plus mode and dozens of other improvements have been added to the Model S, and are sent out to all owners with compatible vehicles. Tesla will even sell you a car with an array of cameras designed to enable full self-driving capability through a future software update.
Because the car is internet-connected to provide software updates, Tesla was also able to bundle in audio-streaming services such as Slacker and TuneIn. Slacker allows you to create radio stations and personalize them by thumbing songs up or down. It works like Pandora, but there were no ads, and I never hit a skip limit.
TuneIn allows you to connect to live radio stations from across the country. If you're in Columbus but want to listen to your favorite Bay Area DJs, you can do that. TuneIn also offers podcasts, and as you can see I was listening to a particularly relevant episode of Radiolab during my time evaluating Autopilot.
The internet connection also enables a built-in web browser. For safety reasons, you can't watch videos on the screen, but everything else is fair game.
One thing I should note: While it's a unique and cool feature, the web browser was the least polished part of the Tesla's software. Web pages took ages to load, and scrolling was often slow and jittery. Images, too, sometimes failed to load. It's a work in progress.
Many luxury or off-road vehicles now come equipped with air suspension, which allows the car to adjust the firmness of the ride to better suit driving conditions. For sporty driving, you may want firmer suspension. On the highway, you want it nice and soft.
Another advantage is that air suspension allows users to adjust the ride height of the car. On the highway you may want the car to hunker down for aerodynamics, but you'll need to raise it to clear speed bumps when you get to the destination.
The Model S, though, takes some of the thinking out of it. You can set the car to automatically lower at high speed then rise back up as you exit the highway. If you manually raise it at a certain point, the car will remember that spot and automatically raise the next time you go over the same area. Pretty smart stuff.
Parking sensors have been around for decades. That's nothing new. But Tesla does them better. In my tired old Lincoln, the parking sensors start beeping when they detect a squirrel six counties over from the left side of your bumper. They're full on blaring when you're three car lengths away from a parked car and have gone into a solid monotone wail when you could still lie down between your car and the other vehicle.
Tesla handles it differently. Instead of just different levels of screaming, the Tesla shows you where the object is being detected and how far away it is. No, not only in terms of ambiguous red and yellow lines, but in inches. It's the first car where the parking sensors aren't massively annoying.
The key is shaped like the car. Isn't that cute? If that isn't enough, it's also a pretty clever key. With no visible buttons, it can still do more than the average fob you have on your car.
Just by pushing different parts of the little car, you can open the front trunk (frunk), unlock the car, lock the car or open the trunk.
Chain together a double tap and hold of the roof with a tap to the front or back and you'll activate Summon. Depending on whether you hit the front or back of the key, the car will pull itself out of a parking spot without you even being inside. It'll pull out up to a set distance or until it detects something in the way.
If you don't want to use the key to activate Summon, you're welcome to use the app. The app will also unlock or lock the car, flash the lights or trigger the horn. Your phone can even show you where the car is and what its charge level is.
Finally, the app allows you to set the climate control of the car no matter where you are. When I was sitting in my apartment getting ready to leave, I'd activate the climate control so by the time I walked to my garage — far outside the reach of a normal keyfob for remote start — the car was nice and toasty.
Finally, the Model S is packed with hidden features that are fun to mess around with. There's a drawing pad so you can practice your artistry from the comfort of the car. Tap the red planet and your GPS will show the vehicle as a rover on Mars, a nod to Elon Musk's other company, SpaceX.
Then there's my favorite, the one shown above. Hit the hidden cowbell, and you'll be prompted to pull the Autopilot stalk four times. Do that, and the audio of the "More Cowbell" skit from Saturday Night Live will start to play and the Autopilot display will show you on Rainbow Road.