Review

Tesla Model S hatchback

Price  £58,335 - £106,035

Tesla Model S hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Astonishingly quick
  • Impressive interior
  • 300-mile range
Cons
  • 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.”

The Tesla Model S is the car that led to the innovative North American manufacturer making its greatest impact on the electric car market. Launched in 2012, the Model S immediately became the benchmark for virtually all electric cars. It holds the advantage of having been designed from the ground up to be electrically powered, rather than being an adaption from an existing, conventionally-powered car.

Tesla is quickly becoming a household name, as synonymous with the electric car as Hoover is with vacuum cleaners. Part of the company’s success has been built on constant innovation; the Model S has been continuously updated to ensure that it remains at the very forefront of the market.

When it was launched, the Tesla Model S wowed buyers and industry experts alike with its space-age technology and by offering a 340-mile maximum range that made it far more useable than most previous electric offerings. What’s more, it appealed on an emotional level rather than just a practical one, thanks in no small part to its sleek look and impressive performance.

The range-topping P90D can be specified with a ‘Ludicrous Mode’ that unlocks 0-62mph acceleration in a scarcely believable official time of 2.8 seconds. This makes it a car which has not only impressive environmental credentials, but more straight-line speed than most supercars you care to mention.

The Model S may not look as futuristic as it once did – the later updated front end with its rather characterless Tesla Model X-inspired blanked-off grille was of questionable success – but the technology has been kept resolutely on the cutting edge. This is well expressed by the huge 17-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen tablet-style display that controls many of the car’s features. It looks fantastic, though it has to be said that some German rivals still have the edge in terms of other interior materials.

The Model S is a spacious car that is unique among saloons of its size in that the boot can be equipped with a pair of rear-facing occasional child seats. This is made possible by the compact nature of the car’s batteries and electric motors and give it a seven seat capability.

The Model S is available in two versions in the UK, the variant names relating to the battery capacity of the car in kilowatt hours and hence offering differing maximum range figures. The entry-level 60kWh version has rear-wheel drive and is named the 60, or has four-wheel drive as the 60D.

The 90kWh variant is available as either a four-wheel drive 90D or performance-oriented P90D. The various models range from seriously fast – the 60 will do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, to almost unbelievably fast in the case of the P90D.

Tesla sees the Model S as a rival for medium executive cars like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and the Jaguar XF – and it can easily match these for size, equipment and fit and finish. It also soundly thrashes them for performance, even if it is of a different character.

A drawback of the Model S is that it won’t travel as far on a single charge as its rivals can on a tank of diesel, and some people do worry about reliably finding a charging point away from their own garages. In most cases, however, a 300+ mile capability between charges should be plenty for most journeys.

The next issue is that the Model S still looks rather pricey next to more conventional rivals. Our favourite is the entry-level 65, which costs around £54,000 once the Government plug-in car incentive grant has been deducted. This gives you a 248-mile range and the potential for 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. It’s not cheap, but Tesla does offer some finance packages to make it more affordable.

Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ system has been much-discussed and is available on the Model S; using the car’s array of sensors, cameras and radars, it offers a near-autonomous driving capability, able to control its own speed on fast roads but also lane changes if you tell it to do so by flicking the indicator.

To increase flexibility there are a number of ways you can keep the Model S charged.
You can simply plug the Tesla into a household mains socket, or have a faster-charging wall box installed in your home. There’s also an increasing number of public charging points dotted about the country. Tesla Model S owners also enjoy free use of the company’s ‘Supercharger’ rapid-charging stations, too. These can provide up to 170 miles of range in a half hour charging session, although at present there are only a limited number of these around the country.

There aren’t any fears about safety either – the Model S received the full five stars commendation from the crash-test experts at Euro NCAP.

Whether the Tesla Model S stacks up as an alternative to the executive establishment depends on budget, but also on what your daily drive is like. For someone who spends all their time on the road, you could argue that there still isn’t sufficient infrastructure to support a purely electric car. However, for those with an average length commute, the Tesla is an exciting choice.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.5 / 5

The Tesla Model S is costly to buy, but extremely cheap to run day-to-day

Engines, drive & performance

4.5 / 5

The Tesla Model S is fast and unusual to drive, whichever version you choose

Interior & comfort

4.5 / 5

The Tesla Model S feels both spacious and luxurious inside

Practicality & boot space

4.5 / 5

Class-leading space inside, plus the Tesla Model S reduces range anxiety

Reliability & safety

4.4 / 5

The Tesla Model S uses Mercedes and Toyota parts, so should be reliable

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4 / 5
"The Model S is good to drive, comfortable and well specced. It represents the convergence of digital and automotive tech, with its brilliant infotainment screen, while staying practical. It’s pretty well built and offers super-saloon performance plus a range as good as any conventional rival. But entry-level models only have a 160-mile range and aren’t as quick."
4 / 5
"The Tesla Model S is a ground-breaking new electric car that's both desirable and capable. If the Model S is a sign of things to come from Tesla, then the future looks very bright."
What owners say 
4.6666666666667
4.7 /5 based on 3 reviews
100%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend

Owner rating:

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Last updated 
8 Aug 2016
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