Behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S on one of the most scenic routes in Ireland
JOE's Conor Heneghan took a spin in a Tesla Model S on a trip to Ashford Castle and he was suitably impressed.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk made headlines recently with some eye-catching responses to investors during a conference call, specifically the line: “Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool. Next?”
Boring? Not cool? Musk certainly wasn’t talking about the electric vehicles that have helped make him into one of the most famous and wealthiest people on the planet, or least not the one I had the privilege of driving late last month.
I was certainly aware of Musk – launching a car into space is the type of thing that will get you noticed – and was aware of the existence of Tesla cars, but I was still pretty green about what they were capable of before I pitched up at the only Tesla dealership in Ireland, in Sandyford in Dublin, on a wet April Friday evening.
Opened just over a year ago, the showroom still very much has a ‘new car smell’, with a shiny Model X and Model S taking shelter inside and a few more models of each parked along the roadside.
I was soon sitting behind the wheel of a sparkling red 181-D Model S, complete with white interior made of a synthetic, easy-to-clean material and staring at the 17-inch touchscreen display that controls pretty much all of the car’s functions.
Everything from the radio (you can sign in on your own Spotify, you can use the Tesla Spotify or access media from your own device via Bluetooth), climate control, the camera (rear and front facing), battery status and navigation is accessible from the Model S’s very own mission control and though it might look daunting at first, it’s very easy to get the hang of.
Easily the coolest part for your humble author was being able to save my own personal driver profile, which, amongst other things, one can use to return the driver’s seat to specific settings at the touch of a button if one was generous enough in the first place to allow someone else to sit in the seat and adjust it to their liking.
Before long, I was on the road and headed for Ashford Castle in Mayo, a journey that takes the best part of three hours, eating up less than half of the car’s battery life in the process.
Once I was clear of the traffic on the M50 and out on to the open road on the M4, I got the chance to get a feel for what the Tesla was made of and the first thing that struck me was how incredibly smooth it was.
If you want it to, the Model S can go from 0-60 in under three seconds thanks to its so-called ‘Ludicrous Acceleration’, which elicits a feeling of butterflies in your tummy similar to what you get when a rollercoaster sets off at high speed.
This will give you a better idea...
Clip via techAU
Once you’ve reached a regular driving speed, however, it’s almost like driving a cloud and with the car’s lighting and wiper controls operating automatically, all there was left to do while on the motorway was to relax and appreciate the most comfortable drive I’ve ever had in my life.
It was when I reached the significantly narrower, windier and more challenging rural roads of Galway and Mayo that the Tesla’s other qualities kicked in.
As well as being one of the best hotels in the world, Ashford Castle is also on the doorstep of one of the most scenic drives in the country, from Cong in Mayo to Maam Cross in Galway, where it links up with the main Galway to Clifden route, itself one of the most beautiful motoring stretches in Ireland.
It was on that route on a sunnier Saturday morning, looking down on Lough Corrib from a height with the Twelve Pins in the background, that the all-wheel-drive Tesla came into its own, with the dual motor system and low centre of gravity making cornering a joy on a road where there is a hell of a lot of corners.
On my return to Ashford Castle, it was about time to give the Tesla a charge, with Estate Activities Manager Thomas Breen personally driving the car from the reception to the charge point a short distance away.
A full charge at a destination charger like the one at Ashford Castle (one of 26 destination charging points in the Republic of Ireland) is best facilitated overnight, although Thomas informed me that there are plans to install a three-phase charger, which can charge a car fully in approximately four hours.
With a supercharger - of which there are currently three in the Republic of Ireland with another one on the way in Enfield in Meath - the Tesla battery will go from nearly empty to nearly full in the space of around half an hour.
Recharging the Tesla gave me ample time to explore the grounds of a hotel named as the AA Irish Hotel of the Year, in the top 100 hotels in the world and as one of the best 25 travel experiences on the planet all in the space of the last year or so.
If that wasn’t enough, it was also one of a select few hotels to feature in the BBC2 series, Amazing Hotels: Life Behind the Lobby, in which hosts Giles Coren and Monica Galetti work alongside staff in some of the most extraordinary hotels across the globe.
Located on the outskirts of the village of Cong, a village made famous for the filming of 1952 classic The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, Ashford Castle is situated on a stunning 350-acre estate, where guests can go fishing, play golf, go horse riding, play tennis or do a spot of shooting or falconry.
If water is your thing, then there’s stand-up paddle boarding, traditional boat trips or a cruise on Lough Corrib on offer, with a sister hotel, the Lodge at Ashford Castle, and the village of Cong itself both a short walking distance away.
After being purchased by the Tollman Family in 2013, Ashford Castle became part of the Red Carnation Hotel group and underwent a renovation that cost €75 million before the hotel reopened to guests in April 2015; amongst the new additions to the interior were a 32-seater cinema, a billiards room, a spa, a cigar terrace and a renovated wine cellar that houses over 600 wines.
Safe to say that all that praise hasn’t been showered upon the 800-year-old castle for no reason and that Rory McIlroy chose wisely when settling on the venue for his wedding to Erica Stoll in 2017.
With a night in Ashford Castle ticked off the bucket list, it was back up the road to Dublin to reluctantly return the Model S and the Model S-shaped car key back to the garage in Sandyford.
My first experience of driving a Tesla won't be forgotten in a hurry, hopefully, it won't be the last.
For more information on the range of Tesla cars available in Ireland, check out the Tesla Ireland website.