Tesla Model S review 2019

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

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • - Incredible performance
  • - Long real-world range
  • - Practical

Cons

  • - Disappointing build quality
  • - Expensive to buy
  • - Not very involving to drive
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model Review

Elon Musk —the brainchild behind Tesla— first started his enterprise into an electric future in 2008, with the first model being an electric version of the Lotus Elise sports car, the Roadster.

His second attempt was the Model S, a truly ground-breaking electric car. First unveiled in 2012, it wasn’t until the start of 2014 when the first examples arrived on British shores.

Known for its smart but outlandish looks, the Model S soon became a hit with those wanting a long range in their electric car (more miles between charges). The firm would build up its own network of ‘Superchargers’ which are rapid chargers across the UK, designed for Tesla drivers only.

Available with a number of power packs, each with different performance and electric ranges, the Model S soon became the benchmark for batter electric vehicles, particularly where miles between charges was concerned.

The dashboard adopts the minimalist look, with a huge central touchscreen being integral to using most of the car’s functions.

Latest model

With any Tesla, as soon as it’s plugged into one of the manufacturer’s charger, it can instantly receive over-the-air updates in a similar way to how your smartphone regularly needs updating.

But the first and last major facelift to the Model S was in 2016, four years after the model entered production.

The most notable difference was at the front, where the Model S was fitted with a new grille-less front bumper, which helped to bring the car’s styling in-line with the firm’s Model X crossover and smaller Model 3 saloon.

Other adjustments include a higher-capacity onboard charger, which would help to reduce charging times. A new air-filtration system was also available as an option, with a claim that this system could remove over 99 per cent of exhaust pollution and other contaminants from the Model S’ cabin air. New interior finishes were also made available.

Value for money

The Model S is not designed to be a cheap car, so with a starting price of £70,850, it’s far more expensive than a similarly-sized petrol or diesel Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. Those admittedly can’t offer the same degree of performance as the Model S.

To buy a Model S, your main motive cannot be saving money, because that’s offset by the high list price. Rather you should invest in the Model S if you want commit to driving something that is not going to destroy the planet, it’s a lifestyle choice over anything else. Particularly when the performance-orientated P100D version costs from £127,750, it’s definitely fair to say that it’s a car for those with deeper pockets.

That said, standard equipment is impressive, as all models come with air suspension, LED lights all around, access to online services through the car, a huge touchscreen and access to Tesla’s software updates.

On the whole, Teslas have held their value well. The cheapest for sale at the time of writing was £35,000, which was an early 2014 car with over 100,000 miles on the clock— quite a lot for a four-year-old electric car. Around £40,000 will pay for a car with a more attractive 50,000 miles. Such is the demand for Teslas, nearly-new models can be quite hard to come by, although you can likely save around £5,000 off the price of a new one by buying a nearly new example.

Looks and image

‘Gamechanger’ is a term that’s often overused, but the Model S is just that. It has definitely shaped electric cars, and it’s remarkable the brand image Tesla has managed to create for itself in just 10 years. The Model S’ styling treads a fine line between conservative and bold and doesn’t look as outlandish as other electric models. The smart LED headlights, broad range of wheel designs and new grille-less front end makes the Model S look sharp and modern, although it looks rather American in design (ultimately because it is a California-built) which won’t appeal to all.

The interior is undoubtedly a highlight of the Model S, largely the enormous 17-inch central touchscreen, which controls just about everything to do with the Model S. It’s a portrait screen that’s similar in design to a big tablet. Tesla hasn’t tried to cram everything onto the home screen, which means the virtual buttons are a good size and easy to operate, even when on the move. That said, it’s just a bit unnecessary, as it’s always quite handy to have some normal dials to turn to control functions such as the air-conditioning. The interior quality is also not quite as you expect, with Teslas being criticised for its questionable quality checks in the past. It features premium leather upholstery, but there’s certain plastics that you wouldn’t expect to find on a £20,000 hatchback, never mind something with a price upwards of £100,000

Driving the Model S is a slightly different experience to other cars you might have driven.

The most notable aspect is the huge amount of performance from all version. Even the standard powertrain can manage a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds, which is sports car quick, while the most expensive P100D version manages it in an astonishing 2.5 seconds making it faster than most supercars. Electric cars have no gearbox, so acceleration is truly effortless.

But while the performance is addictive, it’s not a particularly fun car to drive. The Model S is a heavy car because of its batteries, and the steering is rather lacking in feel. It’s also a deceivingly wide car in person, which means fast B roads and corners have to be taken with a bit more caution than you might do normally. But on the whole, there’s limited body roll as the batteries are all mounted in the chassis and excellent traction due to its four-wheel-drive. The ride is fine providing you stay with the smaller 19-inch alloys, but the 21-inch wheels result in a fidgety ride on British roads, even with the fancy air suspension.

Space and practicality

Thanks to the Model S’s clever packaging, it’s a practical and versatile model.

The absence of a transmission tunnel means that there’s a completely flat floor in the rear, resulting in plenty of legroom, while even the full-length glass roof doesn’t impede much on headroom. Throughout the cabin, there’s plenty of storage spaces, too. In its standard guise, the Model S has two five seats, but the American manufacturer offers two extra child-only seats in the boot as a £4,000 option. These are rear-facing seats, and designed for small children only.

As for boot space, the Model S actually has two boots—one at the front and one at the back.

The rear boot is huge, and offers an impressive 744 litres of space, or 1,795 litres if you fold the rear seats down which is seriously impressive, and is more than a lot of estate cars can offer. You also have a 150 litre boot in the front to play with, which could be useful for storage, but you would struggle to fit much more in than that. Though it’s an added bonus which other conventionally-powered rivals don’t have.

Safety is also an aspect where the Model S excels as it received an impressive five star Euro NCAP safety rating. Tesla is also a frontrunner with driver aids, too, as the Model S is fitted with an advanced autonomous emergency braking system and collision avoidance kit. An optional Autopilot system costs £4,900 new, or £6,800 if you want it retro-fitting to a used model. This system essentially features adaptive cruise control, but can keep within a lane, change lane and park and exit parking spaces without any driver input, and is a trend setter for autonomous cars.

Power and range

Three power options are available on the Model S—75D, 100D and P100D. Each of the numbers apply to the kilowatts of the battery on each car.

The 75D is capable of a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 140mph, with an electric range of 304 miles. The 100D is not much faster, with a top speed of 155mph and 0-60mph time of 4.1 seconds, but its range is much improved, with Tesla claiming an astonishing 393 miles between charges which is more than quite a few petrol and diesel models.

The performance enthusiasts out there should opt for the P100D, just for its sheer acceleration figures. A 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds is astonishing for a car of its size, with an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. This is claimed to be able to do 381 miles between charges.

Tesla has its own dedicated network of chargers known as Superchargers, so even long distance journeys are easily possible with the Model S.

Every models comes with all-wheel-drive, too.

Running costs

Once you’ve paid the initial upfront cost, it all gets better from there. A lot of owners simply charge up at their home or workplace which helps to cut costs. Access to Superchargers is also a fantastic incentive to buy a Tesla model. Certain used models come with an unlimited amount of credit to access these, but buyers of newer models have to pay to access these. Those purchasing new Teslas get a limited number of free credits to use on them.

Despite the Model S being a zero-emission car, a new government road tax policy means that the Model S will still cost £310 per year to tax for five years after the car’s initial first registration. The Tesla also sits in the highest insurance rating — group 50.

Things to look for

All Tesla batteries come with an eight-year, unlimited mileage warranty, while the car itself comes with a four-year 50,000-mile warranty, which indicates that Tesla drivers tend to do less miles each year than other manufacturers.

Regular software updates can also solve minor problems with cars, too, and are useful for both the manufacturer and customers. Owners are usually incredibly positive about their cars, with the firm being seen as a hero brand by many Model S drivers.

Rivals

The Model S doesn’t have any direct rivals in terms of similarly-sized electric saloons as of yet, so its closest rival is likely the Jaguar I-Pace, the British firm’s new electric SUV. Other similarly-sized rivals to the Model S include the Audi A7, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes CLS and Porsche Panamera, while the new Audi E-tron SUV could also be considered as a competitor for Tesla, as well as Mercedes’s upcoming EQC.

Depreciation

As we’ve mentioned earlier, strong demand for the Model S has kept values high. Used models are considerably cheaper than new, while nearly-new models undercut new prices by around £5,000. These also beat the three-month waiting list (at the time of writing) for a factory-ordered Model S.

Which Model S to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

Standard Range AWD 5dr Auto

Most MPG

Standard Range AWD 5dr Auto

Fastest Model (0-60)

Performance Ludicrous AWD 5dr Auto

Summary

  1. Incredible performance
  2. Access to Tesla’s own range of ‘Superchargers’
  3. Fantastic real-world range
  4. Laden with tech
  5. High list prices…
  6. Although offset by cheap running costs
  7. Superb practicality
  8. Good reliability record
  9. Few real rivals
  10. A truly game changing electric car, even six years after going on sale

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