Tesla’s reputation often precedes it. But no matter what you think of the electric car company’s “unique” CEO — with his active Twitter presence and unorthodox methods for selling EVs (no advertising, no dealerships, all online) — Tesla’s vehicles are not like any other.
Sure, there are other electric cars out there that feature regenerative braking, one-pedal driving, instant acceleration, and fast charging. But that still doesn’t make them anything like Tesla.
And no car brand, from the EVs to the gasoline-fueled options, comes with as many hidden modes and settings as Tesla.
Here’s a rundown of the Tesla-only features that make Tesla, well, Tesla.
1. Only one touchscreen
Tesla’s newest cars are the Model 3 and Y; both feature the same sparse interior with a single center screen that controls everything you need to do, from running the car and playing the radio to finding driving directions. No other car has such a pared-down layout. Even the button to open the glove compartment is on the one and only screen.
Available since around 2015, Autopilot started as an extra feature you could add for a hefty fee to complement your driving. The advanced driving system would auto-steer, keep up with other vehicles, brake for slower traffic, and generally help out with highway driving, as long as the driver kept eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Now, most of those features come included as part of Tesla’s basic safety system. But there’s also Full Self-Driving mode, for a current upgrade price of $10,000, which claims to be hands-free driving that can stop at stop signs and traffic lights, make automatic lane changes, and eventually auto-steer on any road, even off the highway. So far only a select group of beta testers are using the full FSD package. It’s been a rough start, with FSD mode struggling in dense, urban areas.
Tesla has its own charging network, exclusive to Tesla owners. Other EVs (like Rivian and Jeep) are starting to build out their own networks as well, but none are as extensive as Tesla’s. Supercharging is available across the U.S. and in other countries where Teslas are sold: There are more than 25,000 superchargers. The fast charging adds up to 200 miles in 15 minutes. No longer free like it was in the early days of Tesla, you either pay by the minute or kilowatt using a credit card loaded into the car computer.
Not the car itself, but the Supercharger network let’s me do some road trips. That was a big factor for my purchase. I don’t see any of the competition having that yet.
— Sean (@proudgeekdad) May 27, 2021
4. Free over-the-air updates
Other car companies are catching up, but Tesla was the first to treat its cars like cellphones. Just like you update your iPhone with the latest iOS via a free over-the-air software update, Tesla’s software connects to WiFi and can update a long list of car functions. When there was a braking problem a few years ago, an OTA update even fixed that.
5. Keycard access
It’s like a hotel room keycard, but for your car. You don’t have to take it out for it to work, but if you have it out you can touch it to the door side panel to unlock the door. You can also open the car from your smartphone with the Tesla app installed.
6. Sentry mode
Other cars have security systems, but not like Sentry mode. If someone gets too close to your Tesla for too long, the cameras start recording, a message appears on the screen that the car is recording, and classical music starts playing from the audio system. You can turn on Sentry mode to keep away any would-be intruders or vandals.
7. Dog mode
Just like it sounds like, Dog mode is for dogs to chill in the car. Parked cars overheat and are unsafe for dogs, but with this mode engaged, the car is kept cool with the air system still on even with the car in park. Plus, an on-screen message on the center console says “My owner will be back soon” to let passersby know your dog is safe.
8. Ludicrous and Plaid mode
Turning this on in a Model S means you need to brace for super-fast acceleration. With Plaid activated, the car can go up to 200 mph and accelerates to 60 mph in under two seconds.
9. Bioweapon defense mode
This mode came in handy during the devastating Western U.S. wildfires throughout 2020. It’s only available with Model S and X cars that have a HEPA filtration system that automatically turns the car into a safe breathing space.
10. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube streaming
You can watch all your favorite shows in your Tesla. But don’t get too excited; the car has to be parked for streaming to work. You can log onto the various streaming platforms when waiting in the car, most likely while charging up.
More entertainment in the car! This time it’s karaoke, with lyrics to popular songs appearing on the touchscreen when parked. But since it’s in the car, it’s been appropriately renamed “Caraoke.”
Our favorite feature is Caraoke (Karaoke).
Always puts us in a good mood.
Use when we arrive early for an appt/practice, on our way to school, and even had a few Caraoke parties in our garage.
Time spent singing & jamming out with family & friends has been priceless. pic.twitter.com/6tt62HTOpu
— Shane (@shaneevans) May 28, 2021
12. The frunk
Tesla paved the way with the portmanteau of “front” and “trunk” to create the concept of a “frunk.” People put anything from presents, pooches (see below), to extra charging cords in the front compartment. While most electric vehicles now feature a cargo space under the hood where an internal combustion engine used to sit, Tesla did it first with the Model S.
13. Fart mode
You can make your Tesla fart, or at least sound like it’s farting. Officially called Emissions testing mode, the setting is perfect for pranksters. You can turn on the fart sounds on-demand, or when you push the turn signal. You have to be in the car to release the farts.
My car can fart 💨
— St≡v≡n Christakos | My Electric Adventure (@schristakos) May 27, 2021
14. Easter eggs
Beyond all the various modes and games, more surprises are sprinkled throughout the car. There’s a Christmas jingle hidden within the settings, along with an inside joke about cowbells. Wikipedia has a list of all the Tesla Easter eggs discovered so far. Happy egg hunting!
Bonus: Elon Musk as CEO
Elon Musk is one of a kind and eccentric as hell. On top of running Tesla, he’s sending rockets into space with SpaceX, trying to reinvent the subway with his other company, The Boring Company, and trying to hack the human mind with Neuralink, his brain implantation startup. And he tweets incessantly. No other car company has Musk. And maybe that’s a good thing.