Tesla Model S review: performance, motor & drive
The Tesla Model S is exceedingly quick and performs well as a refined motorway cruiser; semi-autonomous features reduce the strain further
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As the Tesla Model S is powered by dual electric motors, 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.
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. It'll surprise you at first, but 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, 0-62mph and acceleration
The latest Tesla Model S Long Range hits 60mph from rest in 3.1 seconds, while the top speed is 155mph for all models. The Plaid gets power boosted to over 1,000bhp for a 0-60mph figure of just under two seconds. That makes it one of the fastest cars ever produced; the quickest variants of the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT can do 0-62mph in 2.8 and 3.3 seconds respectively.
The Model S’ battery pack is located in the floor of the car, so the centre of gravity is very low. This means it grips the road well and the body barely leans when cornering. However, the sheer bulk of the Model S (all models weigh 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.
If you want a more engaging and enjoyable car to drive, the much sportier Porsche Taycan will suit you better. At cruising speed, though, the Model S is relaxing. You’ll hear the whirr of the electric motor, plus noise from the tyres and some wind roar, but it’s still a calmer environment than in a typical petrol or diesel car.
But our biggest issue is that since May 2023 – and for a long while before the official announcement, actually – Tesla has stopped producing right-hand-drive versions of the Model S and Model X. This really does limit their mainstream appeal in the UK, making things like road positioning more of a challenge. And that's before considering the faff of entering car parks or toll booths.
In This Review
- 1VerdictThe Tesla Model S set the bar that all other long-range EVs had to meet – but you can no longer buy a right-hand-drive car in the UK
- 2Range, battery & chargingLarge batteries and access to Tesla's Supercharger network makes the Model S a great long-distance car – but it's now left-hand drive only
- 3Running costs & insuranceThe running costs of the Tesla Model S are very low, but the asking price isn't cheap
- 4Performance, motor & drive - currently readingThe Tesla Model S is exceedingly quick and performs well as a refined motorway cruiser; semi-autonomous features reduce the strain further
- 5Interior, dashboard & infotainmentThe Tesla Model S feels spacious and elegant inside, although the fit and finish leaves a little to be desired
- 6Boot space, seating & practicalityThere’s a generous amount of luggage space in the Tesla Model S, and there's lots of room for passengers too
- 7Reliability & safety ratingThe Tesla Model S has a relatively clean record for reliability, and once again boasts a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating