Tesla Model S UK review

6 Jun, 2014 4:45pm Oliver Kew

The Tesla Model S boasts amazing technology and pace, but does the UK have the infrastructure for it?


The superb performance, refinement, practicality and on-board technology of the Tesla Model S are all very impressive. However, our first drive of the electric saloon in the UK confirms the ride isn’t quite as well honed. Plus, the UK lags behind the US and Europe when it comes to vital battery-charging infrastructure, which ultimately hurts the car's everyday usability.

Two years after the Tesla Model S went on sale in the US, Californian start-up Tesla has finally started making a right-hand-drive version of its Model S all-electric saloon for the UK market. 

Pop into the only Tesla showroom in the UK in London, or log onto its impressively glossy website, and you can order one of these battery-powered limousines from £49,900 (including the UK government’s £5000 EV grant). The flagship P85 ‘Performance’ variant we’re driving here includes more power than the lesser 60kWh and standard 85kWh variants and comes with a starting price of £68,700. Our fully loaded test car retails at £98,580.

That eye-watering figure is justified by performance to toast a BMW M5 or Porsche Panamera Turbo. The rear-mounted electric motor develops 410bhp and 630Nm of torque, hurling the hefty Tesla S to 62mph in just 4.2 seconds and to a limited top speed of 130mph - all while emitting no direct CO2 emissions, dodging road tax and the congestion charge, and costing a fraction of what it would to run a petrol saloon with this kind of performance. It’s a compelling drivetrain package that badly embarrasses the premium saloon establishment and any other electric car that’s come before it.

Tesla Model S interior and touchscreen

The 85kWh battery unit is mounted under the car’s floor to give the two-tonne saloon a lower centre of gravity than any of its rivals. The chassis set-up is unchanged from the US-spec Model S and as a result the Model S still feels a fair bit softer than a Panamera. It’s a car to be enjoyed when driving smoothly, riding a wave of instant torque and lifting off for regenerative braking.

Attacking bends betrays the weight and generous America-friendly dimensions, which – combined with thick A-pillars – make the Model S feel somewhat intimidating, despite its relaxing powertrain. Riding on 21-inch wheels our test car also felt a bit jittery over rough roads, despite the optional adaptive air suspension’s variable models. You’ll notice a bit of roll in the bends, too.

Inside the Tesla Model S, the 17-inch main touchscreen and digital instrument display combine to provide one of the most intuitive cabins we’ve ever used, but elsewhere it’s not the highest quality. Some trim materials, which include the slippery, unsupportive one-piece leather seats feel a little ‘recycled’.

In the two years since the Tesla Model S first hit the scene on the US, electric car ownership hasn’t blossomed in the UK, despite healthy financial incentives. The biggest obstacle for the Tesla Model S to be a success in the UK is our relative lack of charging infrastructure.

However, Tesla claims it is working on several UK-based ‘Supercharger’ battery-replenishing stations that can half-charge a Model S in only 30 minutes, creating up to 150 miles of range. The service is exclusive to Tesla owners and is free of charge. However, it’s only compatible with the standard 85kWh and the P85 model we’re testing - it’ll cost extra to get it fitted.

Disqus - noscript

So a 312 miles range that may end up being 200 miles - that's excellent. Charge it overnight and drive 200 miles per day. I would consider that to be daily usability. As long as I have a charger at home there would be little problem.

The best place to replenish the car is at home. Considering the size of the UK. The Tesla Model S can reach most of it in 1 charge.

Real-world range is 208 miles in the 60 and 265 in the 85kw (using heater or a/c, media, etc.). Everyone charges overnight, at home.
Figure up the petrol savings and those prices look a lot more manageable. Next to no maintenance is another bonus.

Agreed, there isn't another electric car to touch this, it's streets ahead and Tesla have a cheaper, smaller version on the way. They have such a lead.

"Plus, the UK lags behind the US and Europe when it comes to vital battery-charging infrastructure, which ultimately hurts the car's everyday usability."

So the UK has no hotels ? Any hotel electrician can provide the right juice.

The last line is so stupid "everyday usability" so most peoples everyday use is more than 260 miles ?

"UK lags behind the US and Europe when it comes to vital battery-charging infrastructure, which ultimately hurts the car's everyday usability." ???

Everyday usability? What everyday person drives more than 200 miles a every day?

The statement makes even less sense considering how small the UK is compared to the US and Europe as a whole. You might even be able to drive across the whole country on 1 full charge if you drive moderately...

This review is very unfair I feel. The Model S seems very well suited for the UK, considering how small this country is and how much traffic we get stuck in. The UK like always lags behind the USA. Hopefully some indepednadt review websites get a chance to say what they think.

A review written by a misguided knucklehead...most people don't use non-home chargers for everyday use. They charge at home most of the time.

Chargers are built into the Tesla. All one needs to charge is an electrical outlet. 95%of tesla miles are charged at home, at night, at a relatively slow speed.

No one cares about this review. Tesla fans know more about Tesla and what it takes to run one than Auto Express. I was tickled by the criticism of the ride/handling and America friendly proportions. Won't stop me getting one though.

Plus our std 240v domestic power supply will charge a Tesla overnight unlike in the US with their 110v supplies who need to install special chargers at home (although we still need to fit an upgraded socket )

Oliver said: "though it’s only compatible with the standard 85kWh and the P85 model we’re testing. It’ll cost extra to get it fit"

Oliver why don't you stop writing poor articles about subjects you know nothing about?

All 60 kWh version Model S cars are compatible with supercharging and all of them come with necessary hardware pre-installed. There is no hardware to fit.

You can enable supercharging either at the time of purchase or with a phone call any time after the purchase. Cost of supercharging is build in to the purchase price of 85's. With 60's you have the option of enabling it or not. That's all.

Oliver said: "The biggest obstacle for the Tesla Model S to be a success in the UK is our relative lack of charging infrastructure"

Oliver you are EV ignorant. You are not supposed to charge the Model S in any existing public charger. You charge it in your garage or driveway. If you have a front garden you can have a charger installed by British Gas in front of your house and it is free thanks to a government grant.

Every morning you have a full battery which has 265 miles rated range. Why on earth would you need to use a public charger?

When traveling to another city you use the superchargers which are twice as fast as anything else out there.

The biggest obstacle for Tesla is that they can't make these cars fast enough. Every car they make is sold out. There is a waiting list.

Its the Mission-R for me. Being a biker.

It is great that there is something for 2 wheelers as well.

Funny how it is all coming from America! Of all places!

Same for the motorcycle side (mission-R).

The key is the market - if it is shown that there is so much demand for these vehicles, the regular manufacturers will jump on board too - driving down costs, boosting technology and improving infrastructure.

Mission-R having a max 105 mile range and costing (likely OTR in the UK) £30,000 is not that attractive an idea. The new small Tesla model is likely to cost between £30K and £40K.

The Mission R strikes me as a fun toy for rich people. I have 2 bikes, a small one for cheap commuting and a big one for play. Both are 10 years old for economic reason, I don't see the Mission R in my future.

Everyday usability ? may be true for i8 with 30mile range. Not for Tesla 260mile range unless everybody in UK are sales men.

Reading this, you would think AE had something against the principle of usable, good looking electric cars. It's really good and interesting. AE is obsessed with diesel and German brands. Imagine if the same car had a bmw badge. What a wankfest it would be.

until I looked
at the draft saying $4068 ,
I did not believe ...that...my brother was like they say truly receiving money part-time at there computar. . there aunts neighbour has done this for
less than eighteen months and resantly paid for the mortgage on there house and bought a new Volkswagen Golf GTI . check it out
Here ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started,-*-------------,, HuL­­­uJoB.­­­C­­­O­­­M


"Funny how it is all coming from America!"

I don't understand? The States lead (dominate) the world in every technology field. Why would any of this be surprising?

If you ignore all the hype and look at the reality, you will see a very obvious flaw in the range projections. Not stated here, but you can find it in Tesla's own marketing material is information on the range, i.e 312 miles at 55 mph on the P85 version....The P85 version is sold as a performance version, i.e. it has the most powerful engine, so given that, how many users are going to be driving it at a steady 55 mph on say a UK motorway?......No one. In reading road tests from both users and car reviewers, the actual average range of the P85 with a full charge is around 160 miles....Now, throw in your average UK winter, i.e headlights on most of the time, a heater, radio, etc and you can see that being cut even more.....Okay, so if you do 50 -- 70 miles a day, you should be okay, but who is going to spend this kind of money to travel short distances like that everyday?.....Think about it, you might be saving money by not having to buy petrol everyday, but look how much you are spending to do that. It simply isn't viable.

Key specs

  • Price: £68,700
  • Engine: Three-phase electric motor
  • Power: 410bhp
  • Transmission: Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • Range: 312 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • On sale: Now