Tesla Model S review
|Car type||Official range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||368-379 miles||6hrs (0-100%, 16.5kW)*||38mins (10-80%, 200kW)**|
*with three-phase domestic electrical supply **from v3 Tesla Supercharger
Introduced in 2012, the Tesla Model S remains almost without rival several years later, and arguably holds the title of the first truly ‘desirable’ electric car. Capable of the kind of acceleration usually reserved for supercars, the Model S also boasts one of the longest ranges of any electric car on sale, as well as optional 'Autopilot' technology that allows a degree of hands-free driving.
Many trim levels have been sold since launch, although only two are available today: Long Range and Performance. Tesla says the Long Range delivers a claimed range of 375 miles; the longest of any electric car on sale today. Acceleration from 0-60mph takes 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 155mph.
The Performance is even quicker, with a 0-60mph time of just 2.3 seconds. It now includes the ‘Ludicrous Mode’ package – previously an £8,700 option – as standard, along with an over-the-air update introduced in April 2020 that further improved acceleration, making it one of the fastest-accelerating cars in the world. Its maximum range is slightly lower than the Long Range, at 365 miles.
Prices for the Tesla Model S start at around £81,000 for the Long Range rising to over £95,000 for the Performance. A number of costly optional extras are available on both trim levels, pushing the price of the Model S even higher. As for charging, you’ll be extremely hard-pushed to top up the Model S off a normal socket. Tesla provides a cable to allow you to do that, but you’ll need almost two whole days to fully charge the car using this method.
Tesla also provides a ‘blue’ adaptor capable of charging at 7.4kW, which allows you to plug into a dedicated home wallbox (from companies such as Chargemaster or Pod Point) and most public fast chargers. This will deliver a full charge in around 15 hours.
The best solution is to install a Tesla wallbox at home. These cost £460 and can charge the Model S up to a rate of 16.5kW, which translates to about 50 miles of range per hour on charge – but only if your home has three-phase power.
On the road, the Model S is enthralling to drive thanks to its instant acceleration. In ‘Ludicrous Mode’ in the Performance, the acceleration on offer is nothing short of stunning, although any spirited driving will have a noticeable impact on the range.
The Model S is also reasonably comfortable and the ride is compliant, and while there’s no engine noise to speak of, you do hear more wind and road noise as a result. But on the whole, it’s a relaxing car drive, especially when you engage some of the now-standard Autopilot features.
Inside, Tesla has stuck with a minimalist design and the dashboard is dominated by a 17-inch touchscreen that controls everything from the sunroof to the climate control. Overall, the quality of materials is very good, although there are some plastics that feel a little cheap.
The Model S scored five out of five stars in its Euro NCAP crash tests in 2014, earning an 82% rating for adult occupant safety, 77% for child occupants, and 66% for pedestrians. Tesla also sends over-the-air software updates periodically, which in the past have fixed potential faults and even unlocked extra performance from the electric motors.
Even now, the Tesla Model S has few true rivals, although you may also want to look at the Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi e-tron as alternatives. As SUVs they don’t boast the same sleek looks as the Model S, and if an SUV is on your radar, there’s always the Tesla Model X.
For a more detailed look at the Tesla Model S, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.