Tesla Model S review – engine and gearbox

The Model S’s electric motors drive an axle each, ensuring both grunt and traction are superb

Evo rating
Price
from £79,980
  • Remarkable and addictive acceleration, low running costs
  • Regenerative brakes make it difficult to really connect with the car

Every Model S has a pair of electric motors, one mounted on the rear axle and one mounted at the front to make them four-wheel drive. The two motors in the Performance model give more than a hint as to why it’s so accelerative, combining to produce around 592bhp.

Because the Tesla Model S doesn’t have a regular engine it doesn’t use a traditional gearbox with multiple ratios and some means of selecting them. Instead, the drive from the high revving electric motors is sent through a reduction gear, which converts high motor speeds to more appropriate wheel speeds. The motors provide enough torque at any revs and are able to spin at a larger variation of speeds than an internal combustion engine, there is no need for a gearbox.

The savage acceleration of the Model S means you don’t long for the noise and drama of an internal combustion engine. But in an age where engines that have had all their character lobotomised by turbochargers have become the norm, that’s perhaps not a huge surprise. Ten years ago, when saloon cars had big burbling V8s or screaming V10s the Tesla’s effective but clinical approach might not have been quite enough to distract die-hard enthusiasts.

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