Tesla Model S review

The Tesla Model S was one of the first to make electric cars desirable, but its qualities come at a substantial price

£73,505 - £129,405
Electric

Pros

  • Long range
  • Supremely quick
  • Futuristic technology

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Very expensive
  • Perceived interior quality

Having been introduced in 2014, the Tesla Model S remains almost without rival several years later, and arguably holds the title of the first truly ‘desirable’ electric car. Capable of the kind of acceleration usually reserved for supercars, the Model S also boasts one of the longest ranges of any electric car on sale, as well as optional Autopilot technology that allows a degree of hands-free driving.

Many trim levels have been sold since launch, although only three are available today: 75D, 100D and P100D. The Tesla Model S 75D features a 75kWh battery and the now discontinued NEDC testing procedure indicates a possible range of 304 miles. However, Tesla expects a figure closer to 259 miles in real-world driving. The 75D will do 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 140mph.

The Model S 100D features a 100kWh battery, with a claimed range of 393 miles, but Tesla expects a lower figure of around 335 miles in the real world. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 4.3 seconds en route to a top speed of 155mph.

The Model S P100D reaches the same top speed, but achieves even greater acceleration thanks to Tesla’s fabled ‘Ludicrous Mode’. This unlocks an incredible 0-62mph time of 2.7 seconds, making the P100D one of the fastest-accelerating cars in the world. Its maximum range is slightly lower than the 100D, at 381 miles; in the real world, this should convert into 315 usable miles.

Prices for the Tesla Model S start from over £73,000 for the 75D trim, rising to over £90,000 for the 100D and to almost £130,000 for the P100D. A number of costly optional extras are available on all trim levels, pushing the price of the Model S even higher.

As for charging, you’ll be extremely hard-pushed to top up the Tesla Model S off a normal household socket. Tesla provides just such a cable to allow you to do that, but you’ll need at least 32 hours to fully charge even the lowest-capacity 75D.

Tesla also provides a ‘blue’ adaptor capable of charging at 7.4kW, which allows you to plug into a dedicated home car charger (which you’ll have to pay for, via companies such as Chargemaster or Podpoint) and most public fast chargers. This will deliver a full charge in around 11 hours for the 75D, and 13 hours for the 100D.

The best solution – provided you have the necessary off-street parking - is to install a Tesla wallbox at your home. These cost £460 and can charge the Model S up to a rate of 16.5kW, which translates to 51 miles of range per hour on charge.

On the road, the Model S is enthralling to drive thanks to its instant acceleration. In ‘Ludicrous Mode’ in the P100D, the performance on offer is nothing short of stunning, although any spirited driving will have a noticeable impact on the range.

The Model S is also reasonably comfortable and the ride is compliant, and while there’s no engine noise to speak of, you do hear more wind and road noise as a result. But on the whole, it’s a relaxing car drive, especially when you engage some of the Autopilot features.

Inside, Tesla has stuck with a minimalist design and the dashboard is dominated by a 17-inch touchscreen that controls everything from the sunroof to the climate control. Overall, the quality of materials is very good, although there are some plastics that feel a little cheap.

The Model S scored five out of five stars in its Euro NCAP crash tests in 2014, earning an 82% rating for adult occupant safety, 77% for child occupants, and 66% for pedestrians. Tesla also sends over-the-air software updates periodically, which in the past have fixed potential faults and even unlocked extra performance from the electric motors.

Even now, the Tesla Model S has few true rivals, although you may also want to look at the Jaguar I-Pace and the forthcoming Audi e-tron could compete on price and range. As SUVs they don’t boast the same sleek looks as the Model S, and if an SUV is on your radar, there’s always the Tesla Model X.

For a more detailed look at the Tesla Model S, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.