Tesla Model S Review
The Tesla Model S is a remarkable car, blending high performance with luxury, a high-tech cabin and zero emissions, but it’s expensive
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Astonishingly quick
- Extremely quiet
- High-tech cabin
What's not so good
- Long recharging time
- Weight blunts handling
Tesla Model S: what would you like to read next?
The Tesla Model S is an all-electric executive saloon that combines amazing performance with zero tailpipe emissions, a luxurious, high-tech cabin and tremendous refinement.
The car is a little longer than a Mercedes E-Class, but its battery pack is arranged in a large, flat slab under the car, so there’s a surprising amount of room inside. You can even get the car with seven seats, although the two seats in the boot are really only suitable for small children.
However, when you step inside the Tesla Model S, it’s not the space you’ll notice first. Instead, the huge 17-inch touch-screen display dominates the cabin and controls pretty much all of the Model S’s functions. The large screen may seem daunting at first, but having nearly everything controlled through this screen means there are far fewer buttons around the cabin.
Driving the car is similarly simple. It’s ready to go when you get in and moving away is as simple as putting your foot on the brake, moving the transmission stalk to Drive, and driving away. There’s not even a starter button or hand brake.
The Tesla Model S is available with a variety of power outputs, numbered by the kWh rating of the battery packs – beginning at 60 and topping out with the P100D. In this top-of-the-range car, ‘P’ stands for Performance and the ‘D’ for dual motor, or four-wheel drive.
Even the least powerful car is immensely fast, but the top model is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Engage Ludicrous Plus mode (yes, that’s really what it’s called), and the P100D will get from 0-60mph in a scarcely believable 2.5 seconds. The mid-range performance is just as incredible and little else on the road can match its overtaking punch. The power delivery is beautifully smooth, too, so you can drive it as quickly or in as relaxed a manner as you like.
People use the word game-changer too readily these days, but with the Model S, it’s fair enough. It will make even the most die-hard petrolheads sit up and take notice
Despite being a heavy car, the Tesla Model S handles surprisingly well and the ‘D’ models with four-wheel drive are even better. It’s true that the steering lacks feedback, but the Model S is a superb way of wafting from place to place. Whether on a B-road or a motorway, the low-set battery packs provide a low centre of gravity, meaning the car always feels stable.
The range depends on the battery, varying from about 200 to 300 miles – but it also depends on how you drive. Ultimately, the issue is not performance, but charging. And, if you only have a domestic socket to charge the Tesla Model S from, you’ll be looking at something like 16 hours to fully recharge a flat battery. And, that’s the smallest battery – the bigger the battery, the longer it takes.
It’s far better to use a fast charger, which will dramatically shorten the time. And, if you need to top up on the road, you can use the growing network of Tesla superchargers, which can give you 80 per cent charge in about 40 minutes.
The other benefit of an electric car is that charging it costs significantly less than filling up a petrol or diesel car. On top of that, it’s exempt from the London congestion charge and incurs BIK tax at the lowest possible rate. Some electric cars also qualify for free road tax, but not the Tesla Model S, because of its high list price.
On the other hand, you certainly get what you pay for, especially in terms of safety. Euro NCAP awarded the Model S the maximum five stars for safety, and among the array of safety functions is the Autopilot system. Using cameras and radar tech, the Model S can follow lanes in motorway traffic while keeping a safe distance from the car ahead.