Tesla Model S review - Interior, design and technology
If you want to feel part of a digital future, the Model S is sure to impress
With a low-slung and svelte shape the Model S isn’t a bad-looking car. Its wide haunches and sweeping roofline combine with optional 21-inch wheels to give it a sporty stance on the road. However, it’s inside that Tesla’s different approach hits home, and it’s even more emphatic in the latest model with its all-new interior.
Walk towards the car with the keyless fob in your pocket and the door handles pop out towards you. Swing open the wide driver’s door and the first things you’ll notice are the aircraft-style ‘yoke’ steering wheel, the huge 17-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and another TFT screen in the instrument cluster pod set in front of the driver.
Whereas previously the screen was stacked vertically in the centre console, it’s now more like a widescreen TV. The dash itself looks less traditional than ever, with a single slab of wood running across the car like a shelf, and the design makes it clear that ‘driver engagement’ is less of a priority than driver entertainment. The rest of the cabin is kept simple, with flowing lines and a minimalist design that’s upmarket but not flashy.
Generally, quality has been pretty good on current models, but some plastics low down in the cabin are a little cheap and the Model S is certainly not as plush as a Porsche Panamera. Parts feel plasticky, such as the cup-holder and storage tray, but there’s leather, cool metal inserts and lots of tech that feels upmarket. There is some familiar Mercedes switchgear, too, especially the window controls and column-mounted gear selector, but this doesn’t detract from the futuristic appeal.
Kit is generous and includes heated seats, LED cabin lighting and a custom audio system with eleven speakers, although Tesla cheekily charges £200 for a boot load cover. Still, it's a pretty impressive place to be, and the only party piece the Model S is missing, is the Model X's gullwing doors.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Model S’s interior is dominated by its 17-inch touchscreen. This controls all of the car’s functions, from media connectivity to navigation and personalised drive settings. It’s a focal point to the cabin with lots of tech – including Internet in the car – but requires a minimum 3G connection to run most functions. The main screen is intuitive to use and operates just like a tablet, with pressing, swiping and zooming functions.
The size of the screen means some of the settings are harder to reach, but the climate controls remain located at the bottom of the screen for easy access. Full length maps and WiFi connectivity are both boons, while the crystal clear reversing camera makes parking a doddle. Once on the move, all the crucial operations can be duplicated via the multifunction wheel, while speed, range and energy flow are displayed in the smart central TFT screen.
In the newly updated 2021 versions, there’s a ‘take-no-prisoners’ 960-Watt audio system with noise cancelling tech, while the screens in the front and rear can be connected wirelessly to games controllers.
In this review
- 1Tesla Model S reviewThe all-electric Tesla Model S is an impressively competent luxury EV, but new rivals mean it’s got a fight on its hands
- 2Engines, performance and drivePerformance is, erm, electrifying... but heavy batteries mean cornering feels disappointingly leaden
- 3Range, charging & running costsMinimal running costs and tax-breaks are appealing, while Tesla's Supercharger points are growing in number
- 4Interior, design and technology - currently readingIf you want to feel part of a digital future, the Model S is sure to impress
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Tesla Model S has a futuristic luxury feel that belies an improbably practical interior
- 6Reliability and SafetyTesla offers an eight-year battery warranty for the Model S, while safety levels are first-rate