Most pure electric cars on sale in the UK right now are supermini-sized or smaller, but the new Tesla Model S targets the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. So can an EV be a luxurious, desirable and good-to-drive executive car?
Tesla claims it has eliminated range anxiety to a large degree, offering a staggering 300-mile range in the flagship Model S – more than three times that of the Nissan Leaf (the entry-level model will take you 160 miles).
While UK charging details have not been confirmed, US versions need 8.5 hours to fully charge their lithium-ion battery pack, which sends power to a 416bhp direct-drive electric motor.
The Model S is longer and wider than its rivals, but it rides lower to improve aerodynamics, which in turn boosts its range.
Inside, wood grain, chrome and silver detailing surrounds clear instruments that display the car’s speed, remaining range and how much energy is being regenerated by the car’s brakes. Overall quality is good, but it’s not quite up to BMW standards.
What does set new standards, though, is the stunning internet-equipped 17-inch screen (the largest one ever fitted in a production car). It performs the majority of dash functions, so the only physical switches in the Model S are the window controls, column stalks and steering wheel buttons.
Select D, push the pedal and acceleration is immense thanks to 600Nm of torque. Backed by a surreal hum, it’s an oddly calm experience as the Model S quietly storms to its 130mph top speed on the Autobahn. The chassis remains stable under braking and acceleration, while the air-suspension rides comfortably.
The Model S handles well, but the seats need better bolstering – you’ll slide out of them long before you reach the limit of grip.
The electric drivetrain offers clear advantages inside: the boot is huge and there’s also room under the bonnet. Total luggage space is 744 litres – a substantial 204 litres more than the E-Class. You can also fold the rear seats down, expanding capacity to 1,845 litres.
There’s excellent rear passenger room, too: a flat floor means the middle rear seat is the most comfortable, as headroom is a little limited on either side.