Tesla Model S 2014 review

16 Dec, 2013 5:00pm Luke Madden

All-electric Tesla Model S takes fight to BMW 7 Series


The Tesla Model S is a very impressive package. For a company most people have never even heard of, it’s almost unbelievable that it’s outdone the likes of Nissan with an electric car that’s quick, spacious, luxurious and has a decent range. Charging is obviously still a problem, but Tesla aims to rectify that with its Supercharger network. It’s already in place in Norway, where the Model S was the best-selling car in September. A sign of things to come? We hope so.

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.

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I can feel the whole automotive world changing and the change is accelerating. Internal combustion will be history like cross-ply tyres within 10 years.

This Electric car is a giant step forward, no doubt about it! But the record high sales numbers in Norway is mainly because this vehicle has absolutely no taxes whatsoever. In contrast; it's rivals has up to 200% tax mainly due to high horsepower engines.... So this makes the Tesla cost about half of it's competitors like Bmw 5'series and MB E-class....
Btw; the M5 has a price (+/-) of £150,000.....

Tesla Model S is a genuinely impressive car from a very young and relatively small car maker that certainly has a few things to teach the established motoring giants.

This article says that the Model S will take 24 hours to charge. That is only true if... 1) You use a standard household AC outlet. 2) Your Model S has the smaller 60kwh battery. 3) is equipped with only ONE built-in charging unit.

Most people will opt to have their car equipped with TWO built-in charging units, and they will use a clothes dryer outlet to charge twice as fast as a standard outlet. This will bring your charging time down to about 8 hours.

Then, if you purchase the special Tesla wall charging unit, with 80 amps of current, this will cut it down to about 5 hours. Now, all of this is assuming that you are trying to charge a nearly dead battery. With an average range of 265 miles (85kwh battery), or 206 miles (60kwh battery) on a full charge, after an average day all you will need to do when you get home is just "top it off".

Charge time at home is irrelevant. You drive maybe 10-40 miles a day. Get home. Plug it in. Next day you're back at 100%.

Just got back from a trip to Chicago and saw quite a few of these about, really smart looking cars, coupled with the performance and at least a 240 mile range how could this not get 5 stars. Its an electric car I'd actually consider.

Was watching a new supercars series on NAT GEO about this car...interesting vehicle...RWD is always a good thing and with max torque from standstill likely too much for FWD to deal with. Just for the record this car uses what looks like 7000 Li-on AA cells arranged as per floorpan and a directly connected drive system with no gears leaves them with a car with more space than they really know what to do with. An impressive vehicle.

I drive a minimum of 100 miles a day, how will it do then?

Sorry but a clothes dryer outlet? A 13 amp socket you mean? How will this charge it any quicker. The 'special' unit is a 3 phase supply and is nothing special at all and the ONLY way to do a proper fast charge on any electric car.

As someone who does 50k+ miles a year I can't see these making a real dent in to the motoring world yet as they just aren't ready still. What EV's like this do help with is the testing of electric motors which in 10 years will be attached to hydrogen fuel cells instead of those horrible heavy, mile reducing batteries. Remember Plug in EV is not the future, its just a stop gap.

I can see this been the only modern saloon where RWD is actually needed (its not needed on rep mobiles!) due to the torque produced by those motors.

Are you sleeping at night? It's time enough for charging 100mi.

Okay, the reason I called it a "clothes dryer outlet" is because here in the US, electric dryers plug into a 220 volt outlet. A standard household outlet is 110 volts. I don't know exactly what voltages you use in the UK. A 220 outlet will charge your Tesla twice as fast as a 110 will.

Also, from what I've heard, the actual current costs of building a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is astronomical. Yes, the cost will go down in the future, but then you also have to build the infrastructure to refuel them.

With an electric vehicle, you just "refuel" it at home in your garage at night while you sleep. Tesla Supercharger Stations are meant to be used only for long trips out of town.

Oh, and one more thing... Having several gallons of gasoline in your car is enough of an explosion hazard; a tank full of hydrogen would make me really nervous! Anyone remember the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986? (sarcasm)

Yes, lithium-ion battery packs can catch fire from thermal runaway if something penetrates the armor plate protecting it, but they do not explode. In the event of a Tesla battery's catastrophic failure, the car warns you there is a problem and instructs you to safely pull over and exit the vehicle long before a fire will erupt. Even then, there are firewalls separating all 16 modules of the battery pack and another firewall between the pack and the cabin.

It is rumored that sometime in 2014, Tesla will start offering an all-wheel-drive option (same chassis as in the upcoming 2014 Model X SUV/Crossover) for the Model S. This means there will be a second electric motor located in the front axle, and as a result, the Model S P85 will then have a 0-60 mph time in the mid to high 3 second range!

Yes, and Tesla already have a big lead.

That explains a lot if your from the US. I was a little confused there! We run 220v @ 50hz so we do have a more 'powerful' supply network. The 3 phase supplies still remain the only way to fast charge any electric vehicle to capacity, again these are all the tesla chargers are and any electrical engineer like myself could fit you one of these.

I agree, Hydrogen still does need a lot of work, the biggest hurdle of course been the oil companies.

Every sort of motoring has a risk, your car could be fire proof and its hit by a tanker, doesn't matter how good your fire stopping is then lol motoring carries inherent risks, its just something that has to be accepted.

Hydrogen fuel cells still have issues with cost, (they generally use platinum as a catalyst), longevity and power delivery. (More specifically with respect to immediate power delivery; they have limited ability to ramp power up during acceleration. This is why even fuel cell vehicles still contain batteries to buffer the power...)

Let's also keep in mind that fuel cells use hydrogen... hydrogen that at this time is created by splitting natural gas into H2 and carbon dioxide. So much for green credentials. Electrolysis is frequently mentioned as an alternate, cleaner method to create hydrogen, but then you're using power to create hydrogen, to power an electric motor. Why not just use a battery to store the initial power and save the extra steps and unnecessary CO2 production?

I am not sure of the cost for Hydrogen filling stations, but Supercharging stations are rumored to cost ~$150,000 per location. I doubt you'd be able to permit and install a high pressure hydrogen station installed for the same amount. (Or even close to the same amount.)

Oh, and in Canada most residences don't have enough power or the right type of power to install a 3 phase charging unit. (100A or 200A single phase is the norm as you're probably aware. 240V @ 60Hz.) We are ergo relegated to (at best) an 80A Tesla HPWC or something like a Clipper Creek (via Sun Country) 80A unit @ 240V. This will charge the car from zero to hero in about 5 hours and 15 mins. After your specific trip of 100 miles it would take an hour and forty-five minutes to recharge using a HPWC from Tesla. (Home charging unit.)

Possibly but there is also a fairly green sentiment in Norway. I don't think there's a single reason for the increased sales, but they're sure a welcome sight.

Yes. Absolutely, the green sentiment is zero taxes on "no-emission vehicles" i.e all Electric vehicles, including the Tesla and Leaf has zero taxes, but hybrids and other "low emission" vehicles have reduced taxes.

Technically impressive but for everyday use, no thanks.The reported range does not say anything about the testing conditions such as airco, heating, lights etc. And even if the supercharger infrastructure is in place,the 30 min recharging time is way too long compared to the traditional cars. In fact a colleague of mine owns this model and I know him sweating every time he has to go somewhere further. Not a viable option as yet. .

Depends how far you drive each day. My normal driving is in the 40-100 range, and I never get below half charge. I regularly do a 200 mile round trip (over 20 times so far in the year I have had the car), and always get home with at least 50 miles left. That is with heating, stereo blaring and heated seats.
Seriously, unless you have a 300 mile daily commute, you will not get 'range anxiety' with this car, after the first few trips. As they say in the UK, it 'does exactly what it says on the tin' - it really goes 260 miles+ on a charge - no problems.
And, you get into a car with a full tank of 'gas' each morning. That never gets old :-)

Key specs

  • Tested: Tesla Model S 85kWh Performance Plus
  • Price: £68,700
  • Engine: Three-phase AC induction motor, 410bhp
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/top speed: 4.2 secs/130mph
  • Range/CO2: 311 miles/0g/km
  • Equipment: Synthetic leather, Wi-Fi, 17-inch touchscreen, keyless go system
  • On sale: Now