Tesla Model S interior
The Tesla Model S might have one of the most futuristic interiors of any large saloon on sale, but it doesn’t feel as plush as some less sci-fi alternatives
Discounting the even more futuristic Model 3, the Tesla Model S has one of the most minimalist interiors of any car on sale. There aren’t any physical buttons or knobs anywhere on the dashboard – thanks to the massive central touchscreen – and even the air vents are neatly integrated into the curved top half of the dashboard.
Sure, it doesn’t have as many classy details as the elegant interior in a Mercedes E-Class, or feel as sporty as the BMW 5 Series’ cabin, but you can still be sure that the Tesla Model S’ eye-catching design will wow any passengers that haven’t sat in a Tesla before.
Sadly, while the leather seats feel lovely and plush, the same can’t be said of all the Tesla Model S’ plastic trims. The glossy black plastic on the centre console looks pretty upmarket, but the flimsy drive select and indicator stalks don’t feel like they belong on an expensive premium saloon car. Some of the trims on the doors and around the centre armrest flex more than those in a Mercedes, Audi or BMW too.
The 2021 version of the Model S, which will arrive in the UK next year, will also be available with what Tesla calls a ‘stalkless steering yoke’, but you can get a normal round steering wheel too if you prefer. Hopefully we’ll also see an improvement in the quality of those plastic trims.
The Tesla Model S’ massive touchscreen makes the displays you get in other upmarket saloons feel a bit low rent, but it isn’t all that easy to use when you’re on the move.
While some of the Tesla Model S’ fixtures and fittings feel a little cheaper than those in alternatives, the same can’t be said of its massive central touchscreen. It’s bright, clear and super responsive, so it feels just like using a massive phone or tablet. Swiping across the screen to pan and zoom in on the high-resolution satellite maps is a particular highlight.
This screen controls almost all the Tesla Model S’ onboard functions, from the cabin temperature to the strength of the regenerative braking system. This does mean that it comes with a great many more menus than in some other posh saloons and the system’s rather small icons can be a little tricky to accurately press while you’re driving.
There’s a feature that splits the Tesla Model S’ screen in two, so you can view sat nav directions while also tweaking some of the car’s other settings, but you’ll still find it takes a bit longer to get to grips with than the simpler systems fitted to a Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series.
Just like these cars, you get a high-resolution digital driver’s display in the Tesla Model S. This replaces conventional analogue dials – that’d feel a bit prehistoric in the Tesla’s sci-fi cabin – with a customisable screen that you control using physical buttons on the steering wheel. This display is even easier to use than the central touchscreen, but it can’t display maps using satellite-imagery in full-screen mode like the Audi A6’s system.
The 2021 Model S, which will arrive in the UK next year, sees a new 17-inch, landscape-orientated touchscreen introduced to replace the portrait-style screen. We haven’t had a chance to try this out yet, but seeing as Tesla has seriously upgraded its performance, we’re confident it’ll be a slick system. We’ll let you know what it’s like as soon as we’ve tested it.