Tesla Model S electric motor, drive & performance

The Tesla Model S is exceedingly quick and performs well as a refined motorway cruiser; semi-autonomous features reduce the strain further

0-60mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
3.0 secs 155mph All-wheel-drive 751bhp

As the Tesla Model S is powered by a dual electric motor, it launches from a standing start like little else on the road. And because it has no gearbox, it’s incredibly smooth to drive.

Running on adaptive air-suspension, the ride is for the most part very comfortable, although this is influenced by tyre choice. You can upgrade from the standard 19-inch alloys to 21-inch ‘Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine Wheels’ for an extra £4,300, however the larger tyres make the ride more fidgety on the UK’s rough roads, and they make more noise than the smaller standard wheels.

Another characteristic of the Model S is the regenerative braking, which recycles energy back into the battery that would otherwise be wasted when slowing down. When driving, this means that Model S slows down very quickly when you take your foot off the accelerator, although it’s something you’ll quickly get used to.

Luckily, you can adjust the level of regenerative braking: less makes the Model S better to drive, while more increases the amount of charge sent back to the battery. A digital display on the screen will show you just how much energy you’re recovering, too.

Tesla Model S electric motor, 0-60mph and acceleration

The Tesla Model S Standard Range hits 0-60mph 4.0 seconds, while the Long Range version manages it in 3.7 seconds. Top speed is a constant throughout the range at 155mph.

The Performance however gains a ‘high-performance’ rear motor, boosting power to 751bhp. This has a dramatic effect on the acceleration, dropping the official 0-60mph time to 3.0 seconds. Spend £8,700 on ‘Ludicrous Mode’ and that will fall even further to 2.4 seconds.

One of the main benefits of an electric motor is that 100% of the power is delivered instantly, unlike in a petrol or diesel car, which need to build up revs. This means you can blast past others on the motorway: 45-65mph is said to take just 1.2 seconds in the Performance. Compare this to the Jaguar I-Pace, which will do 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds regardless of trim level.

Handling

The Tesla Model S’ battery pack is located in the floor of the car, so the centre of gravity is very low. This means the Model S grips the road well and the body barely leans when cornering.

However, the weight of the Model S (all models are comfortably over two tonnes) makes it less than thrilling on a twisty road, and while the steering feels weighty, it won’t give you much feedback. In this department, a Jaguar I-Pace is more enjoyable.

At cruising speed, though, the Model S is relaxing to drive. You’ll hear the whir of the electric motor, plus road noise from the tyres and some wind noise, too, but it’s still a calmer environment than you’d get in a typical petrol or diesel car.