Tesla Y Sunrise to Sunset Tour With Spanish Rock.
We prefer to test cars in actual situations so that we get more than just an idea of their technical capabilities, but also what they are like to live with. So we took the latest Tesla Y Performance for a 3000-mile round trip from Surrey to just south of Valencia, Spain in less than a week. The preparations were left to the last minute as usual and we were a little stressed as to how the whole recharging process would go over such a long distance. However, we were more than pleasantly surprised at how well the Tesla Y performed. Spoiler, there was absolutely no range anxiety at all. In fact, the Tesla Supercharger Network pretty much removed any challenge to the trip, making it one of our greatest tours ever.
This entire tour was a homage to my parents who I used to frequently tour around Europe in various antiquated convertibles and our route followed one we often drove in the eighties and nineties.
The Tesla Y comes in two versions, the Long Range dual motor with a range of 331 miles and the Performance, which we had, boasting 483 bhp, 0-60 mph (note the 60, not 62 mph) in 3.5 secs, with a top speed of 155 mph and a range of 319 miles. A high 5-seater SUV with plenty of legroom and ample boot space.
With a full charge, I set off for Folkestone in the grey rain, picking up my co-pilot Darren at London Road Guildford. As usual, the roads to the coast were pretty awful and full of potholes and ridges. The Tesla suspension coped masterfully, smoothing out the bumps while the cabin is well insulated, reducing the exterior noise to a faint murmur.
We planned to arrive at LeShuttle and recharge whilst enjoying the FlexiPlus lounge. However the car still showed a couple of hundred miles on arrival, so we simply stocked up on free sandwiches, drinks and the sumptuous macaroons in the lounge before driving straight onto the train. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done this, I still get a thrill guiding a two-tonne car into a narrow carriage all the way to the front.
LeShuttle speeds you from Folkestone to Calais in under 25 minutes, which took care of the sandwiches and the macaroons, and we emerged from the train into the glorious sunshine at Pas de Calais. It’s a blast driving up the ramps towards the Route De Soleil heading for Le Mans. French roads are lined with silk and smooth as the proverbial bottom so the Tesla Y glided along in electric silence with Hozier in the background and Darren’s witty mutterings, a mixture of hilarious observations, platitudes and abuse at my driving style. Well, if you’ve got that ludicrous acceleration it would be a crime not to use it.
Our first destination was the Palace de Fontainebleau in Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, a magnificent medieval castle that served as home to the French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III.
We set the sat-nav in the Tesla Y to the Palace and it automatically calculated the route via Tesla Superchargers according to the best distance and recharge rate. The Tesla recharges at 250 kW and charges fastest at 20%. It also preconditions the battery before arrival to speed up charging. This meant that all stress and range anxiety was instantly removed.
We did not have to think or plan in any way. There was no looking up chargers, no calculating times, nothing. It picks the best stops to maximise your range and charging time. Effectively we could pile on over 200 miles in under 20 minutes every three hours. It usually took us more than that to get drinks, stretch our legs and prepare for the next leg. The Tesla Superchargers are the advantage Tesla has over every other manufacturer. They are supremely fast and have been installed all over the world. Often in attractive locations, including the garages which provide far more facilities in France and Spain.
Please excuse me for driving this point home. The Tesla Superchargers are everywhere and during the entire trip we only once came across one that was busy and that was in a tiny fishing village in Spain. The rest of the time we consistently recharged in twenty minutes and were on our way. We never had to look or indeed worry about recharging ever. Plus there is no card payment faff, no account set up, and no app registration. You just plug in, charge, and if you are paying, it is automatically debited from your account. And they all worked, which is not my experience with any other charging company, where half the time they don’t work. Over 3000 miles and we completely forgot about charging. And for this challenge, we had agreed we would not charge at home or hotels, only at chargers.
From Fontainebleau, we headed for Arles in the south of France. A stunning, ancient Roman town with a magnificent Roman Amphitheatre “Les Arenes d’Arles”. Arles hosts many of the finest art festivals in France. I used to go there regularly for the photography festival “Arles - Les Rencontres De La Photographe” from July to September, my favourite photography event in the world. Arles is full of quaint little squares and cafes and the architecture is quintessentially beautiful.
As we leave Arles the Mistral is in full force, blowing trees and white horses across the Camargue. The scenery is spectacular. We pass the town of Leaucate caught between the sea and the gleaming lagoon “L’Etang de Leucate”. White sails criss-cross the horizon as people take advantage of the great winds.
Our route from Arles to Valencia winds along the Mediterranean coast road with its mountains, hills and charming little towns. The heat was a balmy 36 degrees and there were mirages on the roads that evaporated as you approached. The Tesla Y air conditioning is pretty savvy and keeps the cabin at precisely the right temperature. Though as there are no controllable outlets, just one long vent along the dash, it does cool your knees somewhat more than the rest of you.
In fact, the entire cabin is as minimal as can be. The car has a steering wheel, an indicator on the left and a gear stick on the right. That’s it, Apple Mac simplicity. All the controls are on the 14-inch touch screen in the middle between passenger and driver. There is no console in front of the driver and no heads up, which I would like to see in future models. Fine if you pre-program the car before setting off, but not ideal if you want to make changes while driving. Easy enough with a co-pilot, less so on your own. You should not have to look left at a screen while driving. Maps, music, cabin temperature etc are all there, no nobs at all. Apart from the hazard button in the roof.
It’s like driving a laptop, a high-end expensive one with extremely comfortable silky soft vegan leather seats and a strip of light wood that runs from left to right across the dash. This is not really a car in the old sense of the word, it’s something new, a mode of travel that focuses on getting to your destination with a minimum of effort. It does not feel like a car, more like a piece of tech on wheels. Legroom is fantastic, both front and back and head height are more than generous. A high-tech lounge with huge boot space in the back and frunk space in front.
The exterior reflects the minimalist tech aspect too. A multi-layer pearl white paint that shines deeply in the light and speaks of technology rather than a supercar, which is very low-key considering its 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The shape is attractive but people notice the Tesla badge before the car styling, which now has massive kudos despite its young age. It’s an interesting side effect of the California jeans and t-shirt culture that prioritises power under the hood over flash sports car looks. Perhaps a little Italian exterior styling might not go amiss. A nice belt with jeans and a few spangles on the t-shirt. Maybe a ferocious front grill? Subtle is the new cool.
The Tesla Y performance is the definition of effortless. I need to go back and remove that word from every other car I have written about. The torque from the motor starts at 0 mph and goes on to the top speed. Linear acceleration is available at every speed. It’s not raw untrammelled power, but it’s always there. Change lane, overtake, and spring into chaotic traffic, genuinely simple. The car puts ease of use and driving before everything. Just push the pedal to move forwards and release to brake regeneratively, putting power back into the battery. After a while, you forget the brake. Braking is a sign of poor planning.
The low centre of gravity from the batteries in the floor and the 22-inch wheels give the Tesla Y fantastic road holding, it stays level even if pushed at silly speeds around a roundabout. The steering is a little soft and heavy though, even in comfort mode, though livened up in sport mode. Front visibility is excellent, Darren and I marvelled at the landscapes and were ahead of every driver who tried to take our lane.
The cruise control is a little spooky as it will follow the car in front with great accuracy. Voice activation is a little hit and miss. Telling it to turn the air conditioner on switches all the lights on in the cabin and redirects the sat-nav to take you to a condo in Miami. The infotainment screen does take a little while to become familiar with, and does not always get the speed limit right, but the sat nav is a boon, taking you from one place to another via superchargers with no hassle. Many of the charger stops were in lovely French farmhouses or Spanish mansions with incredible views.
We arrived at our destination in a little Spanish mountain town after 1400 miles feeling remarkably refreshed and ready to enjoy the fiestas that were taking place all over Spain. The festival of the Moors and the Christians has been celebrated since the 16th Century commemorating a battle that took place in 1276. Each town takes great pride in trying to outdo their neighbours in entertainment, processions, family activities and generally providing an excuse for all ages to party together.
We spent the first night of the weekend with a mix of English, French, German and Spanish friends in the little fishing village of Moraira. Anouk and Sandro de Alarcon first taught me to windsurf on Moraira beach back in the day, a passion I still pursue now whenever I get the chance.
On the second evening we celebrated the fiesta in Javea with its long promenade of bars and restaurants that overlook the pristine beach. We dined with a local legend, Judit, who runs two of the finest bar/restaurants as well as the local Harley club and hung out with the musician Pablo Rubio, makeup artist Flac and around a dozen or so more friends. We watched the sunrise over Javea Beach and thought of old times and the many great characters we’d known here over the years.
Monday saw us back on the road heading up to Montpellier, a marvellous student town full of laid-back cafes and higgledy-piggledy streets with astounding architecture. It is home to the oldest medical school in the world, think Nostradamus, Rabelais and Petrarch and one of the oldest colleges in the world, the University of Montpellier, founded in 1220. I was taught to mono-ski on the lakes of the nearby Camargue many years ago by skiing experts and old friends Yvan and Gerard Amanieu. Montpellier is highly ranked as one of the best places to live in France for good reason.
The Tesla Y has Spotify so we rocked to Miguel Rubio and Santero Y Los Muchachos. Superb Spanish guitar and lyrics made a wonderful accompaniment to the sublime landscapes on our route though Spain and France.
Our next destination was Chaumont Sur Loire to stay with one of my oldest friends Robert Mann. Robert is a master printer, celebrated pinhole photographer and film composer. He composed the score for Brad Pitt’s film Ad Astra and built his own instrument, a Long Wire, to create 90% of the sounds. The drive up through the Massif Central and the wide-open plains of France was astoundingly picturesque.
The Tesla Y just ate up the miles with ease and we arrived in Chaumont around 6pm, just in time to open a good bottle of local red wine and sit by the river to watch the sunset. Nine hot air balloons drifted overhead, floating down to skim the surface of the water. Just the sound of birds and the balloon burners punctuated the still evening air as they rose up and down following the river south.
The next morning we drove back to Calais and celebrated the highlights of the tour in the Flexiplus Lounge. The LeShuttle train return was an exciting finale and as luck would have it, it was even sunny back in old Blighty.
From sunrise in Javea to sunset in Chaumont Sur Loire, this was a legendary tour.
The Tesla Y makes long-distance travel a breeze, and the supercharger network is the best in the world, a massive plus when touring. The car interior is extremely comfortable but sparse, which leaves it a little lacking in character. The performance for the price is the other big reason to buy Tesla, so that and the charger network make this still the most serious contender as your first electric car. Once you’ve driven this on a long tour, you’ll never go back to petrol again.
Tesla Model Y from £57,990