If you thought electric cars were little more than tiny city runarounds, then think again. Ambitious American brand Tesla is aiming to redefine how we think about battery-powered vehicles.
Founded just 10 years ago, the company wants to engage affluent early adopters with desirable high-end electric cars. Its long-term aim is to emulate the Silicon Valley business model that’s seen tablets and smartphones go from being the must-have gadgets of the wealthy few to the mainstream big-sellers of today.
Firstly, the brand launched its Lotus Elise-based Roadster, and now there’s the stunning Model S luxury saloon. With a claimed 310-mile range and high performance, it promises to rewrite the rules. There have been 20,000 sold in the US, plus it’s the biggest-selling car in Norway. Right-hand-drive models arrive in the UK this March.
So can the Tesla Model S switch us on to a luxury performance EV? And how will it fare against the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug-in? This supersaloon boasts high- performance pedigree and eco-friendly credentials in equal measure. We put the pair head-to-head...
The Model S is just 5kg heavier than the Panamera S E-Hybrid. The Tesla’s battery forms the floorpan of the car in a rigid structure, lowering the centre of gravity. The Porsche’s much smaller battery is located below the boot floor and behind the fuel tank. Both cars benefit from near-50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution.
Tesla is virtually unknown in the UK right now, but in the US it’s already become a highly aspirational brand, with premium outlets and a trendy celebrity customer base. However, there’s no doubting the long-established prestige and reputation of the Porsche badge.
While the full EV Tesla is at the mercy of charging point availability, the Porsche’s E-Charge mode allows you to recharge the battery on the move. Alternatively, if you do plug the Panamera in to the mains, it can be fully charged in around two-and-a-half hours. Porsche also offers a home charging unit and, in common with the Tesla, you can programme the car to charge at low-cost times or pre-warm the interior for you.
Tesla will launch the Model X this year. It’s an SUV-inspired crossover based on the same floorpan and technology as the Model S. It’ll be the second car in the range now that Roadster production has ended.
The Porsche makes more sense for more people than the Tesla – for now. It has decent range and top speed in full-electric mode, yet it’s not totally reliant on charging points. It’s nearly as quick as the Model S, plus it handles better and has a plusher cabin. But it’s expensive to buy and costs more to run.
Tesla's Model S is the most convincing electric car we’ve driven. It’s an astonishing achievement for a small company and if it fits your driving needs, it could save you thousands of pounds in running costs. But until charging infrastructure improves, its real-world appeal is limited, so it comes second.
|Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid||Tesla Model S P85+|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£83,967/£93,733||£78,480/£87,530|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£39,800/47.4%||N/A|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£890/£1,779||£0|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,641/£2,735||£0|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||50/£2,077/A/£0||50/£746/A/£0|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£450/£520/£450||£1,800 (4yrs/50k)|
|Engine||V6/2,995cc||AC electric motor|
|Peak power||410/5,500 bhp/rpm||410bhp|
|Peak torque||590/1,250 Nm/rpm||600Nm|
|Transmission||8-spd tiptronic/RWD||1-spd fixed-gear/RWD|
|Full charge time/claimed range (miles)||80-litre fuel tank/1,625||23 hours*/310|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||335/1,153litres||894^/1,645litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||N/A/0.29Cd||11.3metres/0.24Cd|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs||4yrs (50,000)/4yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||20,000 miles/2yrs/36||12,500 miles/1yr/1|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||13th/6th||N/A|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||N/A||N/A|
|0-60/30-70mph||5.3/4.7 secs||4.6/4.0 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||1.8 secs||1.6 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||2.9 secs||2.4 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||167mph/1,500rpm||130mph/N/A|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||N/A/N/A/63/66dB||N/A/N/A/60/70dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||43.3/9.5/762 miles||N/A/310 miles (claimed)|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||151/71g/km/5%||N/A/N/A/0%|
|Keyless entry/adapt susp/met paint||£720/yes/£801||Yes/yes/£650|
|Park sensors/reversing cam/sunroof||Yes/£769/£1,044||£400/yes/£2,100|