In-depth reviews

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

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Electric motor, drive & performance rating

4.5 out of 5

Price
£73,990 - £129,990
Fuel Type:
Electric
0-60mphTop speedDriven wheelsPower
2.3-3.7s155mphFour751bhp

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 wheels for an extra £4,500 or so, 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 its 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 Long Range Plus hits 60mph from rest in 3.7 seconds, while the top speed is 155mph for all models. The Performance gets power boosted to 751bhp, with ‘Ludicrous Mode’ now a standard feature, having previously been an expensive extra. An over-the-air update in April 2020 brought further improvements to performance: 0-60mph takes just 2.3 seconds, while an added 'Cheetah Stance' mode was added to improve standing-start performance.

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 car grips the road well and the body barely leans when cornering. However, the sheer bulk of the Model S (all models are 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, but it’s still a calmer environment than in a typical petrol or diesel car.

Most Popular

Best plug-in hybrid cars 2021
Skoda Superb iV
Best cars

Best plug-in hybrid cars 2021

The best plug-in hybrid cars offer great fuel economy and very low running costs as long as you keep their batteries charged
17 Feb 2021
New Volvo C40 Recharge expands pure-electric range
Volvo C40
Volvo C40

New Volvo C40 Recharge expands pure-electric range

Coupe-SUV model to join XC40 P8 Recharge in Swedish brand's zero-emissions line-up
2 Mar 2021
Volkswagen Tiguan hybrid review
VW Tiguan hybrid
Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan hybrid review

The plug-in hybrid VW Tiguan is comfortable, relaxing and good to drive – but no official efficiency figures are available yet
22 Feb 2021