Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous Proves Tesla Is the New Apple

Traditional automotive brands should be very, very afraid.

byAlex Roy|
Tesla Reviews photo

Writing a Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous review is a waste of time. The car is amazing: 762 horsepower; 0-60 in 2.8 seconds; 270 miles of range. The world’s best electric powertrain and autonomous driving features. Sure, the interior could be better, and reliability issues persist. But owners don’t seem to care, and I loved the thing.

Now, let’s review what you really get for $120,000+, which is the idea of owning a Tesla—which is really, then, the idea of Tesla itself.

Fair warning: I admit I've drunk the Tesla Kool-Aid. I also drank the Apple Kool-Aid about 15 years ago and haven't looked back since, and I think that's worked out quite well.

Tesla is the Apple of the automotive world—but the Apple of 2002, just after iTunes was released and iPods still had click-wheels and spinning hard drives. We take the iTunes/iPod ecosystem for granted today, but there was a time when a small, white device chock full of the exact music you wanted was revolutionary. Sony and Microsoft didn't see that ecosystem for what it was, and so despite throwing billions of dollars at the market they were unable to stop Apple from becoming the dominant player in the music business.

Of course, without realizing the true nature of the iTunes's/iPod's popularity, it probably looked simple to Sony and Microsoft: Apple makes a portable music player; people love it; we should make one, too.

Andrew Nathanson/TheDrive.com

But that missed the point. A sexy piece of hardware is one thing; what the iPod/iTunes combo gave you was an integrated unit that let you find, buy, organize, and listen to music. Even now, you can't imagine the iPod without iTunes—it was integral to the overall experience, and part of what made it so unique. There’s a reason the Walkman brand is dead. If you wanted a seamless, portable music solution in 2003, you belonged to Apple—and you probably loved it.

Sound familiar?

As a standalone car, The Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous is no more than a charismatic oddity—a handsome electric sedan with hints of Jaguar and Aston Martin in the sheetmetal and a quicker sprint to 60 mph than a Ferrari Enzo. But it's also a ground-up rethink of what cars can, and should, be, and as part of Tesla's larger ecosystem it represents to its buyers a blinding white beacon leading us into the automotive future.

Andrew Nathanson/TheDrive.com

Here's an illustration: Make a list of everything that sucks about car ownership—purchasing, software updates, refueling, maintenance—and then realize that Tesla is upending those processes. Fueling: Charge it, for free. Glitch in the UI, or you want more range and performance? Tesla offers wireless updating to fix and/or boost the car you already own. The Germans and Detroit's Big Three don't do this because of dealer franchise agreements. Tesla doesn't have dealers. You go to a Tesla-owned factory store where pricing and service are standardized.

This is a company that's decided it's seen, and is building, a better version of the future of a consumer product. Don't like it? Hit bricks. Welcome to Apple...er, sorry, Tesla ownership.

If you’re judged by your enemies, Tesla doesn’t get enough credit. Almost every major manufacturer hates Tesla, resents the company, is jealous of them, or all three. And rightfully so, because free of the legal and cultural inertia inherent to Old Business, Tesla can take risks legacy manufacturers cannot.

Within five years, every manufacturer will offer something like the Model S, or at least the upcoming Model 3. Notice I said "something like" those cars—because their vehicles won't come with (or represent) Tesla's revolutionary new ecosystem of automotive ownership, without which a Tesla would be just like any other premium car.

In other words: a gilded brick in a wasteland of filthy gas stations, dominated by the sales and trade-in process that's largely populated by people with whom no one wants to interact with twice.

Even though Tesla has never raced a car or hired a marquee designer, the company has built more brand capital in the last three years than most legacy manufacturers have in 20. Not only that, the type of brand capital they've accumulated is the very best kind of all: Telsa is seen as the company that's pulling the rest of the industry, kicking and screaming, into the future. That's a dangerous mindset for legacy manufacturers, because for a certain type of moneyed, tech-savvy, upscale consumer, every car that doesn't represent the future is nothing more than a Microsoft Zune.

The Tesla Model S isn’t perfect, but its flaws are few and easily solved. The interior issues will go away in the next generation. Reliability is good enough, and will improve, as will the likelihood of the company’s survival.

You should lease, though, just in case.

Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, holds multiple Cannonball Run records, and is author of The Driver and LiveDriveRepeat. Pro-choice in the War on Driving, he commutes to our Brooklyn office in a Morgan 3-Wheeler, rain or shine.