Tesla Model S review
The all-electric Tesla Model S is about the size of a BMW 5 Series and offers sportscar performance
The Tesla Model S is a luxurious and comfortable saloon that delivers supercar performance from one of the most practical electric vehicles yet. It has a range of more than 300 miles (in range-topping Performance specification), which rivals many petrol cars, particularly performance models such as the BMW M5. The BMW 5 Series is similar in size and performance, with a 4.3-second 0-62mph compared to the Tesla’s 4.4-second 0-60mph claim. Lesser Model S variants have a range of 160 miles and take 6.5 seconds from 0-60mph. It will take 8.5 hours to charge fully, which is on a par with a Nissan Leaf, despite that car only having a 100 miles range after an eight-hour charge. The Model S also features plenty of tech – for example, there’s full Internet capability via a stunning 17-inch LCD screen.
Our choice: Model S
The Tesla Model S is slightly longer than the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, marginally wider, and sits lower to improve aerodynamics – its slippery shape helps it achieve its impressive range. There’s a traditional front grille, even though there’s no engine under the bonnet, while the four-door coupe-like look is emphasised by the sloping roofline. There’s a fabulous full-length glass sunroof, too, which although it’s tinted, still lets plenty of light into the cabin. The glasshouse tucks inwards towards the rear, with taillamps reminiscent of a Jaguar XF. There are a few design features that look unfinished, such as the fiddly taillight clusters, but on stylish 21-inch alloys it’s a sophisticated looking saloon.
This car is as quick as a BMW M5. Yes, that’s correct: the all-electric Tesla Model S accelerates as quickly as the twin-turbo V8 performance saloon. It’s easy to achieve the figure, too, as the instant torque of the electric motor and high grip from the wide rear tyres mean the car launches forward with a seamless supply of power. Power goes to the rear wheels and the car is perfectly balanced with a near 50:50 weight distribution. Grip is strong, too, thanks to excellent traction and stability control systems. The interior is refined and the ride is comfortable, and the three-mode steering offers good feedback and good turn in. The regenerative braking may change your approach to corners, as the Model S slows quite suddenly when you lift off the throttle, meaning you won’t have to brake as often. There’s good body control around corners but the leather seats, while comfortable, are a little slippery and could do with more bolstering to keep you in position.
The Tesla Model S comes with a two-year warranty that includes roadside assistance, while the lithium ion battery pack has an eight-year warranty. Lessons learnt from its first road car, the Tesla Roadster, mean that the Model S has all its components liquid cooled – that means the battery pack and power unit has its temperature regulated. On top of this, Tesla is responsible for building around 2,500 Toyota RAV4 EVs, as well as working with Mercedes (who own shares in Tesla) on an electric version of the B-Class. If Mercedes and Toyota are happy for Tesla technology to wear their logo, then reliability should be strong.
The Tesla Model S is an oddity among electric cars – it has a decent range. The top model will go for 300 miles on a single charge, while even the smallest battery pack in the entry-level model is capable of covering 160 miles (officially, anyway). Tesla says that the ‘fast charging solution’ that’s standard on the top 85kW Performance model will allow a full charge in as little as 45 minutes. Excellent space is another advantage of the Model S. Its electric motor is mounted in front of the rear axle, while the battery is sandwiched in the floor. The entire mechanicals fit between the axles, meaning that there’s a versatile boot in the front and the back – not unlike a more practical Porsche 911. There’s 745 litres in the back boot with the seats upright, which is more than even the Mercedes E-Class, which has 540 litres. The 60/40-folding seats allow a total of 1645 litres when they’re flat.
With no tailpipe emissions, the Tesla Model S costs very little to run and can be charged from a household socket. Servicing is cheap, too, as Tesla offers a four-year package to make costs more manageable for owners. While most makers’ fixed-price servicing includes the basics but not consumable items, the Model S servicing plan includes everything from the brake pads to wiper blades. The only item not covered is tyres, but it’s an impressive move and shows the confidence in the car. The only downside is the hefty purchase price.