Tesla Model S review

The Tesla Model S was one earliest desirable electric cars, but its qualities come at a substantial price

£71,700 - £88,300
Electric

Pros

  • Long range
  • Supremely quick
  • Futuristic technology

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Very expensive
  • Perceived interior quality
Car type Official range Wallbox charge time Fast charge time
Electric 375 miles (WLTP est) 6 hours (16.5kW) 2 hours (50kW)

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: Standard Range, Long Range and Performance.

Tesla says the Model S Standard Range will return 280 miles of range, although official figures based on the new WLTP efficiency tests have yet to be released. 0-60mph takes four seconds, while the top speed of 155mph remains constant throughout the line-up.

The Model S Long Range features a 100kWh battery, with a claimed range of 375 miles; the longest of any electric car on sale today. Acceleration from 0-60mph takes 3.7 seconds.

The Model S Performance achieves even greater acceleration, with a 0-60mph time of just 3.0 seconds. The addition of the £8,700 ‘Ludicrous Mode’ option unlocks an incredible 0-60mph time of 2.4 seconds, making it one of the fastest-accelerating cars in the world. Its maximum range is slightly lower than the Long Range: 365 miles according to Tesla's WLTP estimate.

Prices for the Tesla Model S start from £71,700 for the Standard Range, rising to £88,300 for the Performance. 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 almost two whole days to fully charge the car using this method.

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 13 hours.

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 Performance, the acceleration 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 now-standard 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 Audi e-tron as alternatives. 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.