The Tesla Model S is the first clean sheet design from the brand, but this all-electric car boasts technology, battery range and luxury that’s unheard of in this class. So with the first right-hand-drive versions arriving in March, should you get your order in now?
• Full Telsa Model S review
Just getting in the S is an event – with the beautiful sculpted key in your pocket, you simply walk up to the door, wait for the handles to pop out and then climb aboard. Sit in the seat, buckle up and you’re ready to go – there’s no start button and no handbrake.
Before setting off, you can plot a route on the huge central touchscreen – the size of two iPads – or browse the Web or just set up the infotainment. It looks daunting, but swiping, zooming and tapping is second nature on this instantly responsive set-up. And once you’re on the move, you can control everything from the media to the sunroof from the steering wheel.
The instrument cluster range meter reads 208 miles as we drive away, and that’s not even fully charged. Tesla says this model, fitted with the larger 85kWh battery, can cover 311 miles. The standard 60kWh battery has a range of 242 miles.
Our car is the top-of-the-range 85kWh Performance, which is 1.2 seconds faster from 0-60mph than the standard 85kWh model, taking 4.2 seconds – that’s supercar territory. It feels seriously fast, but if the road is at all wet you need to be really careful with the throttle.
Our S has Smart Air Suspension and a Performance Plus handling package, and is as sharp as a Model S gets, but it’s still no match for the BMW 5 Series. The steering feels artificial and numb, and the chassis just feels less adjustable and generally less fun. Still, it rides very well – it can glide over cracked roads and float over speed bumps better than most other cars this size.
The Model S has plenty of space for rear passengers, and can also be had with two rear facing seats in the boot – you won’t find that among any of its rivals.
Charging is still a problem. From a plug it’ll take 24 hours, while the Supercharger network – which lets owners charge up for free to give themselves a 200-mile range in just 30 minutes – doesn’t arrive here until late in 2014.
Still, this is the most convincing electric car produced to date, and it even has a competitive price – our range-topper costs from £68,900, compared to the £73,505 starting price of the slightly smaller BMW M5. Business customers won’t have to pay any company car tax and their employers can write off 100 per cent of the car’s value against tax in the first year.