Tesla Model S Review & Prices
The Tesla Model S blends high performance with a high-tech cabin and zero emissions. It’s very expensive, though, and is only offered in left-hand drive
What's not so good
Find out more about the Tesla Model S
If you’re looking for an electric luxury saloon, the Tesla Model S is likely to be one of the first cars you consider. It’s good-looking inside and out, offers exhilarating performance and is really practical, too. It’s only available in left-hand drive, though.
Still, that just adds to the intrigue for those who want an alternative to the likes of the excellent but perhaps predictable Mercedes EQS, Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT and BMW i7. It’s a bit like choosing a Google Pixel smartphone over an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
The Model S went on sale a decade ago, and while there have been a few updates in that time, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s much the same car today. However, an updated version went on sale in the UK in 2023 that makes it a much more worthy alternative to its German counterparts than before.
Has it been worth the wait? Well, the new model might look a lot like the old one, but every body panel except for the doors is new, apparently. Everything under the skin is new, too, and the engineers have shrink-wrapped all of the internal gubbins to make more room for people and stuff in the cabin. It's a massive 100kg lighter than the old one, and clever tech reduces noise and vibration for a more refined driving experience.
There is one big downside, though. The new Tesla Model S is only available in left-hand drive. It means visibility isn't as good because roads, junctions and even things like ticket machines are designed with right-hand drive in mind. Visibility is good all round, and there are blind spot cameras too, so while not ideal it's not completely disastrous.
Not enough to put you off? Well, on top of being quiet and comfortable, it also has that famously ludicrous performance. You wouldn’t guess it's packing the pace to put sports cars to shame just by looking at it, though. Next to the aggressive grilles you get on a BMW or Audi, the Model S’s front end looks a bit blank, while its subtle, slinky body is perhaps a bit forgettable.
Drag race: Bugatti Chiron v Tesla Model S
It's less forgettable inside, though. Tesla's minimalist interiors have been copied far and wide so it's less of a shock than it used to be, but it's still one of the most clean and crisp designs out there. This is mostly down to the huge 17.0-inch touchscreen display that dominates the cabin, and controls pretty much all of the Model S’s functions.
On earlier models this was mounted in portrait, but it's now landscape-orientated and can even tilt towards you or the passenger to make it easier to see. You can also have the controversial 'yoke' steering wheel, though you can choose a regular wheel if you want. It's probably for the best, because the yoke can be awkward to use in tight manoeuvres.
There’s plenty of space for you, and a few passengers, to get comfy, and the Tesla’s boot is large and easy to load thanks to its handy hatchback-style boot lid. You get 793 litres of total space across both areas, with the Porsche Taycan nowhere near and the Mercedes EQS sitting between the two. There’s a big space under the bonnet, too.
Driving the Tesla Model S is simple. It’s ready to go when you get in, and moving away is as easy as sliding the car into 'drive' on the touchscreen – the gear selector stalk and indicators are gone for a cleaner aesthetic. The indicators are now on the face of the steering wheel, which works fine after some use, but we did find we would accidentally set them off with our palms in corners from time to time.
You don’t get a great deal of choice when it comes to picking your Tesla Model S’s motor and battery options – all come with a 100kWh battery pack and a choice of two or three electric motors.
The dual-motor versions will get from 0-60mph in a scarcely believable 3.1 seconds. The mid-range performance is just as incredible and little else on the road can match its overtaking punch. Little else, except the tri-motor model, that is. It has a Plaid mode that makes it so stupidly quick that CEO Elon Musk cancelled plans for a Plaid Plus because he felt this was fast enough. Zero-60mph in about two seconds is definitely fast enough. The power delivery is beautifully smooth, too, so you can just as easily drive in a relaxed manner most of the time.
The Tesla Model S feels upmarket inside, has excellent range and is ultra-rapid, but the lack of right-hand drive is a massive let down
Equally rapid is how quickly you can charge the electric Tesla Model S using one of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ public charging points – which you’ll find on our Tesla charging stations map. The Model S can accept up to 250kW, which will add about 200 miles in 15 minutes. If you use a wall-mounted home charger, however, you can expect a full charge to take around 14 hours.
Once topped up, the Model S has an impressive range. Tesla claims the dual-motor model will travel up to 405 miles on a charge, while the Plaid will manage 390 miles, making them some of the longest-range EVs you can buy.
Despite the weight of all its batteries, the Tesla Model S handles surprisingly well. Sure, it doesn't do a sports car impression quite as well as a Porsche Taycan on a twisty road, but the Model S is superbly capable and confidence-inspiring in corners. 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.
It might be more fun in corners than a spacious saloon car really needs to be, but it's also really safe, which is good to know if you plan to use the Model S as a family car. Euro NCAP awarded it 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, braking, accelerating and steering for you – providing you keep your hands on the wheel, that is.
It might not be the sole option for those after an electric luxury saloon anymore, but with a super-cool image and exciting performance, the Tesla Model S still has enough to stand out from the crowd.
The Tesla Model S has a RRP range of £93,480 to £113,480. The price of a used Tesla Model S on carwow starts at £22,797.
If you’re thinking of going electric with a Model S, it’s certainly not a cheap option. You can't configure a car to your exact specification, but you can buy existing vehicles with prices starting at around £85,000 for the dual motor or £100,000 for Plaid versions.
These prices do make it competitive among its key alternatives, being similarly priced to the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT, with most versions considerably more affordable than both the Mercedes EQS and BMW i7.
There aren't too many options to look out for on a Model S, but one of the most interesting is the Track Package. For about £16,000 extra you get sticky tyres, lightweight alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes to go with the clever Track Mode software that comes as standard to make the Model S more capable on a track day. The brakes are awesome (and should be added by anyone getting a tri-motor model, budget-allowing), though the not-road-legal tyres seem a bit extreme.
Other options include a choice of 19- or 21-inch alloy wheels, exterior and interior colours, a round steering wheel and upgraded 'Autopilot' technology.
The Model S is stupidly fast but also perfectly comfortable for long motorway drives, though there is some wind and tyre noise to deal with
Tesla has been successful in converting people to electric cars – arguably more so than any other brand on the market. The performance of the Model S is one of the reasons, along with the futuristic-looking cabin.
However, for everyday purposes and for travelling in and around town, low-speed performance is what matters. The lack of an engine makes the Model S cabin quiet, but you will notice some tyre noise creeping in. And while it is fairly comfortable, you'll want the BMW i7 if you really want to relax behind the wheel – the Tesla is closer to the sporty Porsche Taycan in the way you notice bumps and coarse road surfaces as you drive over them.
The steering is sharp, without having too much feel to it. But in town, this isn’t a major concern, especially when moving in and out of tight spaces. Here, the light steering can help you get around with ease, which is helpful given the Model S is not a small car.
Visibility isn’t helped by a thick pillar between the windscreen and the door, which creates its own blind spot. Meanwhile, the view out of the rear window is hampered because of its narrow dimensions and the rear headrests stopping a clear view from the front.
None of this is helped by the fact that you're on the 'wrong' side of the car, either. That said, the windows are large, which helps mitigate the effect of the large pillars, and there are blind spot cameras that appear every time you indicate. Regardless, you do have to plan ahead because many junctions are angled with right-hand drive cars in mind, which can catch you out and make it hard to pull into traffic.
On the motorway
Whichever Tesla you choose, it will be fast. That means overtaking at motorway speeds is a doddle and the sprint from 50-70mph is blink-and-you-missed-it quick.
It’s not all about speed and performance, though. On the road, the Model S is comfortable, relatively quiet and the air suspension makes all the difference when doing long miles. It seems to settle over bumps a bit better once you're moving faster, but again, an i7 or Mercedes EQS is a bit better still.
Tesla’s Autopilot has had a mixed reception, with some people relying too much on the technology and believing it is a completely hands-free experience (which it very much isn’t). However, used the right way – with one eye kept on the system at all times, the semi-autonomous nature will make life much more relaxing when on the move. If you find it too intrusive, though, it's easy to use the regular adaptive cruise control system, which will maintain your speed and distance to the car in front without tugging at the wheel.
On a twisty road
Like most electric cars with big battery packs, weight is an issue that can affect performance. However, the Model S provides plenty of grip, inspiring confidence when pressing on down B roads. A low centre of gravity is achieved thanks to the batteries mounted in the floor, ensuring the car remains stable while going through corners.
Because of the slightly sportier edge to the suspension, you do feel like you can push a bit harder in the bends, even if the steering doesn't offer much feedback about how much grip the tyres have. A Porsche Taycan will offer more satisfaction, but there's not a huge amount in it.
Where the Model S excels is, in particular, the Plaid model's acceleration. Put it in Sport mode and you'll be shocked that there's still more to come, as you're pushed back into your seat when you press the accelerator pedal. This is actually the better mode for sporty road driving because the instant punch offered by Plaid mode makes it difficult to make smooth progress. But for a party piece to impress your friends (or make them feel quite queasy) there's nothing quite like Plaid. Stamp your foot on the throttle and you feel like you've been punched in the face by the horizon.
Going for the Plaid? Friendly reminder that you'll want one with the carbon-ceramic brakes if you can afford the upgrade. There's a hell of a lot of power for the regular brakes to contain, with many owners complaining that they're not up to the task.
The Model S is spacious inside and has a massive boot, but cabin storage is surprisingly poor
It's easy to get comfortable in the Model S because there's loads of adjustability in the driver's seat and steering wheel. It's annoying that you have to move the wheel using the screen instead of an easy-access lever or switch, though, and if you plan to use this Tesla on track it's a shame the seat doesn't go lower for a sporty feeling.
While there is plenty of room up front in the Model S, levels of practicality are not as impressive. There is, as one would expect, a traditional glovebox, but it's rather small, with the same to be said of the door bins, which can only really hold a small water bottle.
There's a big space beneath the arm rest, which is the most useful storage area, as well as a couple of cupholders. Ahead of these is a pair of wireless phone charging pads that are propped upright – having one for both front seat passengers within easy reach is a neat touch.
Continuing on that theme, the rear bench has no split in the seats – and therefore no ski hatch or the ability to carry long objects. Not a deal-breaker for some, but a strange omission, given they are popular in models such as the Mercedes EQS or Porsche Taycan.
Space in the back seats
The sloping roofline of the Model S means that some rear passengers might find things a bit cramped, but only if they're comfortably over six foot. For most people there's loads of headroom to go with enough room to stretch your legs out and get your feet comfortable.
The floor is completely flat because there is no transmission tunnel going from front to back, however, the batteries housed in the floor might present a bit of an issue for some. Packaging constraints mean that the floor is raised, so rear passengers sit at a slightly unnatural position, with legs raised higher than they would typically be.
What the flat floor does mean is that three passengers can fit in with ease along the rear bench, plus it is easier for people to move between the seats. That middle seat has a comfortable cushion, but the backrest juts out enough to be annoyingly uncomfortable for longer drives.
If you need to fit a child seat the Tesla Model S is a great option. The doors open really wide, almost to 90 degrees, so if you have space you can get them right out of the way to slide the seat inside the big door aperture. The ISOFIX mounting points are easy to access beneath the covers, but because of the thigh bolster it can be tricky to get your fingers into place to unhook the seat when you need to remove it.
Luggage capacity on the Tesla Model S – accessed via the electric tailgate – is impressive. There is a lip, which might interfere with some loading and unloading but, on the whole, it’s a practicality win. With the rear seats folded forwards, the space isn’t completely flat and a slightly awkward ridge sits between the two spaces.
Regardless, on volume alone, the Model S has all of its alternatives well and truly beat. The Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan have 366 and 407 litres respectively, though the latter is offered in the estate-ish Sport Turismo body style, upping capacity to 446 litres. The BMW i7 has 500 litres of space, but the closest competitor is the EQS at 610 litres, still some way behind.
Unlike some electric vehicles, the front boot is very usable. There's plenty of space, which is another tick in the practicality box, thanks to a whopping 150-litre capacity. That's compared with around 80 litres in the Porsche and Audi, while the Mercedes and BMW don't have extra storage under the bonnet.
Tesla adopts a very minimalistic look for its interiors, but while the screen is generally quick and easy to use, many everyday functions are frustratingly clunky
There isn’t a great deal in the Model S’s interior, but the cabin is dominated by a large widescreen display that houses the infotainment system and pretty much every other setting in the car. This display has evolved over time, switching from a portrait-like configuration to now having a landscape design.
The connectivity is very good and many items can be controlled by steering wheel-mounted buttons. However, the majority of the car’s functions will be handled by the big touchscreen. From here, drivers and front passengers can control the suspension, headlights and all phone and audio settings. In addition, the sunroof opening and closing is handled here, via a sliding scale. It mostly makes sense, but it does take some getting used to, while some systems (such as moving the steering wheel) are unnecessarily fiddly.
What's slightly annoying is that the bottom left corner of the screen is obscured by the wheel. This makes it hard to press the car symbol on the move and bring up the main menu, with a similar issue affecting changing the temperature. Quick-access buttons are good, but not if you can't see them.
The seats are very comfortable and have plenty of depth to them for extra luxury. However, they could do with more side bolster support in the quicker models, particularly if you're utilising the Track Package. In fast cornering you have to use your knees to support your body as you slide about on the cushion.
Sadly, despite the price tag, some of the interior trims are not of the quality you would expect. Most of the materials are soft and squidgy, but they don't look particularly upmarket so you don't get an immediate feeling of luxury. The steering wheel plastic is also on the hard side, which is a shame.
When it comes to running costs, there’s a lot to like about the Model S, especially if you’re a company car driver who is able to take advantage of favourable Benefit in Kind tax rates. There’s also the ease of using Tesla’s expanding Supercharging network, although that has now been opened up to drivers of other electric vehicles, so might be a bit more of a mission to get a spot to charge your car.
Although, the driving range of the Model S is impressive, the lineup has been massively simplified in recent years so that there are two specific options: the Model S Dual Motor and the Plaid.
The Dual Motor version has a claimed maximum range of 405 miles, a 0-60mph time of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Meanwhile, the Plaid comes with three motors and 1,020hp to enable it to zoom to 60mph from a standstill in around two seconds. That performance is not to the detriment of the driving range, pleasingly. Tesla reckons that you should still manage 390 miles on a single charge. (Though maybe not if you're regularly testing that 0-60mph time, naturally...)
The Tesla Model S was put through safety testing in 2022, with Euro NCAP giving it a hugely impressive score. Although many cars achieve five-out-of-five, the Model S's scores of 94% for adult occupant protection and 91% for child occupant protection are very high. Its 98% rating for driver assistance is only matched by the Tesla Model Y.
For added protection from the outside, the Model S features ‘Sentry Mode’, which monitors suspicious behaviour around the car when it is parked or left. In the event of an ‘incident’, owners will receive a notification via the mobile app and they can download a video of the action.
The warranty on a Tesla Model S is longer – by one year – than the industry average of three years. However, there is a limit of 50,000 miles during that period, which might put some people off or, at least, have them keeping a close eye on their distances travelled.
The battery, like in most electric vehicles, is covered by the manufacturer for eight years or 150,000 miles, with a minimum 70% retention of battery capacity during that time. Helpfully, that warranty can be handed over to new owners, which might be useful if you’re looking at a used Model S.
There’s a mixed bag when it comes to talking about reliability and build quality of Tesla’s Model S. Some owners will talk about countless issues with their vehicle, but often overlook them because of the performance on offer. However, some industry surveys have seen Tesla score highly with the Model S.