In-depth reviews

Tesla Model S review

"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"

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.4 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Astonishingly quick
  • Impressive technology
  • 400+ mile range

Cons

  • Not the best to drive
  • Very expensive to buy
  • Limited choice

It could be argued that Tesla has done more to shape the electric car market than any other brand. Considering the independent company started off with the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster, it’s remarkable the Model S was only the second Tesla to hit the market.

While the low-volume Roadster attracted praise for its explosive acceleration, it fell rather short on day-to-day practicality. The Model S strikes a rather more useful balance of space, comfort and luxury, while formidable performance is still on tap. And thanks to ever-improving battery technology, the Model S can offer very impressive range on a full charge. Since it first arrived, the Model S has been constantly updated, both with over-the-air software updates and more substantial mechanical upgrades. It doesn't look likely to go anywhere soon either, with Tesla instead confirming it will seek to revamp its existing saloon into the foreseeable future.

The limited driving range of electric vehicles is one factor that has curbed their popularity against conventional petrol and diesel cars, but the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus model has the longest range of any pure-electric car, and this is bound to increase its appeal against its premium saloon car rivals, such as the BMW 7 Series 745e and Mercedes S-Class 560e plug-in hybrid models and premium electric models like the Porsche Taycan. Tesla also boasts its own well-established ‘Supercharger’ electric charging network, and is able to wirelessly transmit software updates for its cars – with the potential to boost their electrical efficiency without you knowing it.

Unlike many electric and hybrid cars on the market, the Model S has the advantage of being designed as an EV from the ground up, so there are none of the compromises in comfort and passenger or luggage space that often result from converting a petrol or diesel car to run on electricity. Rather than just being a sophisticated box of gadgets, the Model S is also very strikingly styled. It appeals on an emotional level as an object of desire and is therefore highly sought-after. Straight after launch it began to appear outside upmarket addresses, sharing driveway space with Ferraris and Porsches.

The UK Tesla Model S line-up currently consists of two models. The 100kWh battery pack Long Range Plus and Performance models, offering up to 405 miles of range in the former and, in the case of the Performance, a scarcely believable 2.3-second 0-60mph acceleration time when ‘Ludicrous Mode’ is engaged. In early 2020, a wireless update added ‘Cheetah Stance,’ which puts the car into an optimal setting for launches from a standing start. If you can resist using all that acceleration, a 396-mile range is promised. The less performance-focused Long Range Plus is the first EV to offer a range of over 400 miles on a charge, and its 3.7-second 0-60mph time should still be swift enough for most.

It’s a shame that the latest front-end styling has rather detracted from the visual appeal of the Model S, but the car has been kept at the cutting edge of technology. This is clear to see when you get inside – a huge 17-inch display, portrait-orientated like a tablet computer, dominates the dashboard and controls much of the car’s standard equipment, including its ‘autopilot’ semi-autonomous driving mode. This won the Best Autonomous Drive category at our 2016 Car Tech awards, with the judging panel remarking it was “streets ahead” of similar systems.

The rest of the Tesla’s interior is plush and well appointed, although not to a standard that takes it beyond its luxury competition, which includes the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ. Against all these, the unique design of the Tesla puts it at an advantage for interior space.

Reliability has been impressive, too – the Tesla Model S was number one in our 2016 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey and came fifth out of 150 cars for reliability, but too few owners responded for it to appear in our 2020 survey. Safety isn’t a concern either – the Model S was awarded the full five stars after crash-testing by independent experts at Euro NCAP in 2014.

As zero-emission luxury transport solutions go, the Model S is a practical, enjoyable and reliable choice – if you can afford it. It's biggest rival arguably comes from within, because the newer and cheaper Tesla Model 3 will offer many owners a similar experience for far less money.

See how this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric

Recommended

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Porsche Taycan vs Tesla Model S: rivals comparison
Porsche Taycan vs Tesla Model S header
Electric cars
19 Apr 2021

Porsche Taycan vs Tesla Model S: rivals comparison

London Congestion Charge exempt cars
Volvo XC60
Best cars
12 Feb 2021

London Congestion Charge exempt cars

New Tesla Model S and Model X ‘yoke’ steering wheel is legal in the UK
2021 Tesla Model S Plaid - front view
Tesla
5 Feb 2021

New Tesla Model S and Model X ‘yoke’ steering wheel is legal in the UK

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2021
Vauxhall Corsa
Deals
7 May 2021

Best new car deals 2021

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Best first cars
VW Up! - front
City cars
10 May 2021

Best first cars

More on Model S

Tesla announces new finance package
Tesla Model S hatchback
3 Oct 2014

Tesla announces new finance package

Electric car maker Tesla offers to buy Model S back for 50 per cent of new value after three years
Tesla Model S now with unlimited warranty
Tesla Model S hatchback
20 Aug 2014

Tesla Model S now with unlimited warranty

The top-spec Tesla Model S 85kWh now comes with an eight-year, unlimited miles warranty
World exclusive – Tesla Model 3
Tesla Roadster cabriolet
15 Jul 2014

World exclusive – Tesla Model 3

We have a world exclusive on the Tesla Model 3, an electric-powered rival to the BMW 3 Series

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Tips and advice
10 Nov 2020

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?
Tips and Advice
23 Mar 2020

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
24 Feb 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Best cars
10 Mar 2020

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
1 Feb 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Hot hatches
9 Apr 2020

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks