Tesla Model S review – supercar-like acceleration for an electric luxury saloon
The Model S exudes the benefits an electric car has over fossil-fuelled alternatives; Supercharger network makes it more usable than ever
We’ve been led to believe that the internal combustion engine is old-hat and that electric cars will be the future. Not that long ago, that would have been a dire and scary proposition, but electric cars have gone through a renaissance and now some are even becoming desirable. This change of reputation is, in part, thanks to Tesla and its venerable Model S; a premium, fast, and usable electric saloon car.
It’s been sold in various guises over the years with model names such as the P75 and P100D but in its latest incarnation there are two models to choose from; the standard dual-motor variant and the Plaid. Unfortunately, these newest editions – with their revamped interiors and improved performance – are only available in left-hand drive in the UK, which is a shame.
The Model S combines such incredible performance with an effortless driving experience making it an astoundingly effective machine for covering ground. With a maximum real world range between 373 and 394 miles (depending on which spec you choose) and an expanding network of supercharger points that allow the Model S to top up its battery in a remarkably short space of time, it's also one of the most usable electric cars on the market.
When it comes to pure thrills nothing else about the Model S can match its ability to accelerate (although we're yet to try the Nurburgring record-breaking Plaid equipped with the Track Package). That’s mostly because it’s such a remarkable party piece, but equally the Model S isn’t a car that comes alive in a corner or allows a driver to really get under its skin.
Tesla Model S in detail
- Performance and 0-60 time - All models of the Tesla Model S can safely be described as brisk. Opt for the fastest Performance model and initial accelerative performance matches that of many hypercars.
- Engine and gearbox - The Model S’s electric motors drive an axle each, ensuring both grunt and traction are superb.
- Ride and handling - Despite a hefty kerbweight, the car’s centre of gravity is low helping the chassis stay composed.
- MPG and running costs - Its range is good enough for the vast majority of journeys and with no fuel costs the Model S can be a cheap car to run.
- Design - Some will say the Model S looks a little conservative, but we like that Tesla has avoided trying too hard.
Prices, specs and rivals
Tesla has been quiet about Model S availability since the facelifted version was announced in 2021, and the silence was broken this year with the news that the car would no longer be offered in right-hand drive form. Pricing is somewhat of a mystery too, although we do know that the Plaid costs from £125,000, with the dual-motor version expected to undercut this considerably. You get sensational performance for your money, though, with the triple-motor Plaid hitting 60mph from rest in 1.99 seconds with a one-foot rollout. The Plaid's 373-mile range figure is impressive too, and the less powerful base car extends this by an extra 21 miles. For comparison, the range-topping Porsche Taycan Turbo S can achieve up to 291 miles. Dynamic ability, however, is where the Porsche really excels...
Despite the Tesla’s hypercar-like performance, its high price makes it far from rival-free across its price spread. Alongside the aforementioned Porsche Taycan, the Tesla's chief competitors come in the form of the Mercedes EQE and BMW's recently announced i5. Neither can match the Tesla's blend of performance and range, though – in AMG EQE 53 guise, the Mercedes generates 616bhp and provides 280 miles of range, with BMW's flagship i5 M60 offering 593bhp and up to 320 miles from a single charge. Still, the numbers only tell part of the story, and the Tesla will need to stand up in terms of its dynamics and build quality to see off the competition.
If you’re drawn to the all-electric lifestyle but don’t quite have the cash to drop on a Model S, the Model 3 could well be the model for you, acting as a cheaper, more compact alternative.