Tesla Model S hatchback - Interior & comfort
The Tesla Model S feels both spacious and luxurious inside
The Tesla Model S manages to pull off the trick of being both elegant and bristling with technology. And because there are few mechanical components underneath to rob interior space, there’s a light and airy feeling you don’t often get in cars of this size – helped by the glass roof.
Tesla Model S dashboard
The Model S uses an attractive mix of leather, zinc and wood – with the latter being sourced close to Tesla’s California factory in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of transporting it long distances.
All models feature a huge 17-inch colour touchscreen that controls almost all functions. Because it’s so big, the icons are large, which makes it easy and intuitive to use on the move. In fact, the only buttons on the Tesla’s dashboard are one for the hazard-warning lights – a legal requirement – and another to open the glovebox. While this gives the fascia a very clean look, the lack of physical buttons for some key controls can be frustrating, because pressing the touchscreen while driving can be tricky. There are also steering-wheel mounted controls for some major functions.
The fit and finish of some of the interior materials in the Model S also leaves something to be desired – especially when you remember the car can cost around £100,000 once optional extras are included in the price. While more conventional in design, the Jaguar I-Pace feels better built inside.
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By touching icons (or swiping a finger, smartphone-style) you can operate the headlights, open the full-length sunroof or check the car’s charge status. The images on the screen even reflect the colour and wheels of the car for a personalised and cohesive look.
Internet connectivity means you can access online radio, and the Model S has one of the smartest looking sat-nav displays on the market. It uses Google Maps, so can be set up to provide a satellite image as well as clear line graphics.
The Model S wants for very little additional kit. Equipment highlights include satellite navigation with seven years of updates, internet connectivity, remote-control apps for your smartphone, a rear-view camera and power-adjustable heated leather seats.
Matching the novelty of 'Ludicrous Mode', the climate-control system’s outlandishly named 'Bio-Weapon Defence Mode' enables extremely capable HEPA air filtration that's claimed to remove over 99.7% of all allergens and bacteria from the air inside the car.
Many of the car’s features are continually updated using the internet connection. Because so much of the Tesla is controlled by software, rather than physical components, the possibilities for wireless upgrades are many and varied.
To streamline production, Tesla has gotten rid of most optional extras for the Tesla Model S. Instead, many of its features are now standard, including a tinted glass roof, a premium audio system and a winter pack that includes heated seats all-round, a heated steering wheel and heated washer nozzles. Autopilot also comes as standard, that works like advanced cruise control and can steer, accelerate and brake the Model S within its lane.
As mentioned, Tesla options are fewer than before, but still allow a degree of personalisation. For example, you can choose from one of five colours: white is free, while black, blue and grey cost around £1,450 and Tesla's distinctive Red Multi-Coat shade is £2,500. Standard and painted 19-inch wheels are offered, along with a 21-inch alloy wheel upgrade costing over £4,000.
Above Autopilot functionality, Tesla also offers 'Full Self-Driving Capability', allowing the car to practically drive itself, including through town and dropping you off at your door before finding a parking space - when it's fully implemented. These features are being rolled out as they're developed and depending on local laws, so it's best to check with a Tesla dealership which capabilities will be available in the UK before stumping up almost £6,000 extra.
As you'd expect with a car that looks as futuristic as the Model S, Tesla has packed it full of hi-tech equipment. The feature that grabs your attention more than anything is the huge 17-inch portrait touchscreen. You can control pretty much every part of the car from this screen, and it's very slick and easy to use, thanks to large icons and crisp graphics.
The screen looks like a tablet, and it acts like one too. You can add various apps to the system, including Spotify, a calendar, car analytics apps and more. You can get an app for your phone too, so you can see how much charge the car has and if the doors are locked. You can even sound the horn and flash the lights to help find it in an unfamiliar car park.
The satellite navigation uses Google Maps, so it's incredibly easy to input a destination and follow directions via the large central screen or a second one situated in the instrument cluster.
The Model S comes with a suite of driving assistance and safety systems that you'd expect to find on a thoroughly modern car looking to the future. The headline piece of kit here is the Tesla Autopilot system. It's the most complete autonomous system in any car available today, and it'll drive you along without you needing to do a thing – it'll even change lanes for you on the motorway, and park for you when you get to your destination.
It takes a little getting used to, but the system is so well integrated that it makes you more confident the more you use it. The system was "streets ahead" of its rivals according to the judges at the 2016 Car Tech Awards, where it won the Best Autonomous Drive award.