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Tesla Model S Review

Find out more about the Tesla Model S in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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8
Out of 10
Average Price £59,779
Model Review

Tesla brought its first electric car on sale in 2008 with a Roadster – that was little more than a rebadged Lotus Elise equipped with electric motors.

Tesla knew its Roadster was never going to be a mass-market car so in 2009 a concept version of the Model S was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Production versions of the Model S began to be rolled out towards the end of 2012 elsewhere around the world but it was not until 2014 when the very first Model S’ arrived on UK shores.

The Model S has been manufactured at a massive ‘gigafactory’ in Fremont, California. It came in a range of guises, each varying in range and performance.

Without the Model S, Tesla would never have ben able to establish itself as the world-leader in electric cars. A Model X SUV and a Model 3 small-saloon have followed since the success of the Model S.

Latest Model

The Model S has sold in significant numbers globally since its launch but that didn’t stop the American manufacturer from updating it in 2016. Tying in with the release of the Model X, the Model S received minor adjustments to its front grille, along with a powertrain upgrade for the 75, 75D, 100D and P100D models.

The updated model also featured adaptive LED headlights as well as an upgraded standard charger, reducing charging times.

 

Value for money

The Model S is definitely priced towards the high end of the spectrum, although it is quite difficult to gauge how it compares in price to its rivals because it is such a unique proposition. The Model S starts at £64,700.

You do get a superb level of standard equipment, though, including a 17-inch touchscreen, smart air suspension, Wi-Fi and electric heated front seats. Tesla also offers a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty too. What you do need to bear in mind is the advanced battery technology which features in the Model S. Tesla was years ahead of the opposition with its batteries, and  many manufacturers are still struggling make pure EVs that have a range over 300 miles. The ‘basic’ Model S has a range of 334 miles, giving you an indication of how advanced its battery technology is.

Due to the Model S’ demand, used values have remained high, although there are still bargains to be had. A 2014 Model S E 85 can be picked it up for just over £40,000, although if you are wanting a low-miler, you’re looking more towards the £45,000 marker. Constant upgrades to the central touchscreen means that there are few differences between the first model Model S cars and brand-new ones. If you are looking for a facelifted 2017 car, they start at around £55,000 for a 75D, although our online search resulted in a bargain find of a 70D model for sale at £49,000. In short, it always best to check the classifieds as you never know where bargains may be found.

 

Looks and image

While the Model S is by no means a bad looking car, it is not exactly exciting to look at. However, the Model S does have fantastic road presence, especially when you compare it against largely bland German saloons. The interior is a stunning sight to behold though, as the 17-inch touchscreen completely overshadows the interior (in a good way) and helps it to look futuristic.

One of the Model S’ stand out features is the sheer performance. Even the standard model can get from 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds, while the range-topping P100D version manages to get from 0-60mph in just 2.5 seconds, the equivalent of hypercar performance. Few cars have the instant acceleration of the Model S, because of the instant torque from the electric motors.

Apart from the outright pace, the drive of the Model S is a little disappointing. It is very heavy because of the batteries in it, which does mean that when you get to the corners, you feel its weight. The steering also doesn’t have all that much feedback and it doesn’t have the grip levels which you get from a Porsche Panamera.

As for the ride, no version is particularly uncomfortable but if you choose a car with the better-looking 21-inch wheels, the ride can be a little firm but it is only noticeable on particularly rough roads. Air suspension comes as standard on the Model S too, and can even lower or raise the suspension to maximise the car’s range.

Space and practicality

The Model S is surprisingly practical for such a luxury vehicle. Because no space is required for a transmission tunnel or fuel tank, it maximises the space on offer too.

While the Model S is a five-seater, Tesla offers the option of having two further seats in the boot, although these are strictly meant for children. These rear-facing seats are quite expensive – costing £3,800 – although if you frequently require more than five seats, they are a worthy investment and only help to increase the usability of the Model S. Front and rear space is generous too, while boot space stands at an impressive 894 litres (for the five-seat version), inclusive of the 150-litres of boot space you get at the front too – where the engine would typically be.

Unsurprisingly for a manufacturer which has invested heavily in sophisticated autonomous technology, the Model S is a very safe car. It received a five-star Euro NCAP when tested in 2014 and has consistently impressed in further tests that have taken place since.  It scored impressively on adult safety (82 per cent) as well as 77 per child for child occupants and 67 per cent on pedestrian safety. Various autonomous driving aids also feature, further adding to the safety of it.

It is family friendly too, even if you don’t opt for the additional two seats in the boot. It is safe, roomy and even has three Isofix points in the rear seats, making it very appealing to families, and makes an interesting alternative to an upmarket SUV.

 

Engines

Tesla offers just three variations to the Model S currently – the 75D, 100D and P100D.

The 75D is the entry car into the Model S range, and comes with a 75kWh battery which produces 323bhp. The 100D has a 100kWh battery fitted and produces 371bhp, while the monstrous P100D is equipped with a 100kWh ‘performance’ battery, it also comes with a Ludicrous Speed Upgrade and kicks out an incredible 595bhp.

Running Costs

When it comes to running costs, the Model S absolutely excels. Being all-electric, you will never have to pay fuel prices, and with electricity being much cheaper than petrol and diesel, expect to see your fuel costs drop significantly.

The electric range of the Model S also blitzes its opposition, with the 75D, 100D and P100D having claimed ranges of 334, miles, 424 miles and 409 miles respectively. The only disadvantage about the Model S in terms of charging is the fact that Tesla no longer offers new customers access to its impressive supercharger network for free anymore – although you do still get an annual allowance. If you are purchasing a used Tesla though, bear in mind though that any Tesla bought before the start of 2017 still qualifies for free access to the supercharger network.

Unfortunately, the new tax changes which came into play at the start of April this year now mean that you have to pay tax on your Model S, even though it produces no emissions, because it is priced over £40,000. Therefore you have to pay a £310 supplement because of the value of the car is over £40,000.

 

Things to look out for

The Model S, so far, has been ranked very well in several reliability surveys, which is impressive for a manufacturer as new as Tesla. That’s not to say that it’s problem-free, however. Owners have reported problems with the batteries, and slight errors with interior quality, but other than that there is little else to mention in terms of reliability.

 

Rivals

Currently there are few options to the Model S, as there are not really any purely electric luxury rivals. There are some hybrids though including the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid, or the Turbo S -Hybrid – a rival to the P100D performance model. There is also the BMW 740e and the Mercedes S500e. However, upcoming cars that will rival the Model S include the Audi A8 e-tron and the new Land Rover Range Rover Sport Plug-in – named the P400e

Which Model S to Pick

Trims Explained

Despite three different powertrain options being available on the Model S, the 75D and 100D are specified identically, the only difference being the battery.

75D and 100D

These models come as standard with a 17-inch touchscreen which includes an on-board satellite navigation that comes with free map updates for seven years, keyless entry, a power tailgate, electric heated front seats and Wi-Fi connectivity and 400kWh of free annual Supercharger credits.

The 75D and 100D cost from £64,700 and £86,200 respectively.

P100D

The P100D adds a choice of a premium interior with any décor, as well as a Bioweapon Defence Mode that protects occupants from ‘offensive’ odours, a medical grade HEPA air filtration system and a premium auto upgrade.

In Summary

  1. Fully electric
  2. Quite expensive to purchase
  3. 17-inch touchscreen dominates cabin
  4. Impressive reliability record
  5. Superb range
  6. Some below par interior materials
  7. Five star NCAP rating
  8. Look on the used market for cars that have access to unlimited supercharging
  9. Can come as a seven seater
  10. Supercar rivaling performance