Tesla Model S saloon
Price £63,235 - £97,335
- Astonishingly quick
- Impressive interior
- 300-mile range
- Not the best to drive
- Can be quite expensive to buy
- Limited number of fast-chargers
At a glance
“The Tesla Model S is fast, refined, well-equipped and practical. It also doesn’t come with as many compromises as some other electric cars.”
Tesla is a company on the up. A few years ago, it wasn’t even a car company and now it's at the forefront of pioneering electric vehicle technology.
Much of this success is down to the Model S – a highly impressive electric-powered executive hatchback that can travel up to 340 miles on a single charge. That's about the same as a small petrol-powered hatchback and enough to do most journeys with ease. Despite this impressive range, the fastest version of the Model S will do 0-62mph in under three seconds. This makes it quicker than many supercars – even the legendary McLaren F1. The range-topping P90D with the optional 'Ludicrous Speed Upgrade' can do 0-62mph in just 2.8 seconds when you put it into what Tesla calls ‘Ludicrous Mode’.
There are two basic versions of the Model S available in the UK: the 70 and 90 (the numbers relate to the car's battery capacity in kWh). The basic 70kWh version comes with with either rear-wheel drive (called the 70) or four-wheel drive (70D), while the more potent 90kWh model comes in standard (90D) or Performance (P90D) models. Both of these are four-wheel drive. Even the entry-level rear-wheel-drive 70 will do 0-62mph in around five seconds.
Tesla says the Model S is a rival for the likes of BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and the Jaguar XF – and it certainly compares well with these cars for size, refinement and equipment, and comprehensively beats them for performance. True, it won’t go as far on a single charge as those cars will on a tank of diesel, but for most people, 300 miles or so between charges will be plenty.
Uniquely for an executive car (thanks to the compact nature of the batteries and electric motors) the Model S can be specified with a pair of rear-facing child seats in the boot, making it into a proper seven-seater. There should be no safety worries, either, as the Model S was awarded the full five stars by the crash-test experts at Euro NCAP.
The Model S now offers near-autonomous driving capability, too: it can take you down the motorway and even change lanes by itself when you flick the indicator. This has been achieved by means of a software update that uses the car's existing array of sensors, cameras and radars.
There's a range of charging options, from simply plugging the car into a household socket, to getting a wall box installed in your home or using public charging points dotted about the country. Tesla owners also enjoy free access to the company's ‘Supercharger’ stations, which can give you up to 170 miles of range in around half an hour. There are, however, only a limited number of these around the country, while charging at home or at public charging stations will take a lot longer.
The Tesla interior is a fantastic place to sit, with a vast 17-inch portrait-orientated touchscreen ‘tablet’ controlling most of the car's features. The compact nature of the batteries and electric motors means there's loads of space inside, too.
While there's no doubting that the performance of the higher-end models is both addictive and astonishing, they are quite pricey. We think the best bet is the entry-level 70, which costs around £53,000 once the Government electric-car grant has been deducted. For this you get 260 miles of range and a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds, so it's by no means a slouch.
The Tesla Model S is costly to buy, but extremely cheap to run day-to-day
The Tesla Model S is fast and unusual to drive, whichever version you choose
The Tesla Model S feels both spacious and luxurious inside
Class-leading space inside, plus the Tesla Model S reduces range anxiety
The Tesla Model S uses Mercedes and Toyota parts, so should be reliable