Tesla Model S review


What is it?

Tesla’s first mass-market all-electric car was launched – would you believe – way back in 2012. In EV-years, that’s a very long time ago indeed. Advances in battery technology and the like mean electric cars have come on leaps and bounds since then, yet somehow the Model S still does the business.

Or at least, it did the business. Along with the Model X SUV, the Model S hasn’t actively been on sale in the UK since early in 2021, and in May 2023 the company announced that would remain the case “for the foreseeable future”. Oh.

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So the four-door, five-seat saloon – which established Elon Musk’s California-based company as a force to be reckoned with alongside the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi – can’t actually be bought in right-hand drive any more. Only the Model 3 and Model Y for us, then.

That’s a real shame. While the Model S might have a fairly conventional silhouette, what lurks beneath is far from it. Two electric motors draw power from a 100kWh battery pack, driving all four wheels through a single-speed transmission.

Doesn’t sound that radical…

Bear with us. The drivetrain lives in a kind of skateboard, with the body bolted on top. This keeps the centre of gravity nice and low (battery packs are heavy old things, and the Model S has a much bigger one than most other mainstream EVs), which aids handling and means there’s loads of storage space in the cabin.

Nope, my mind still isn’t blown.

Wait for it. Performance is… significant. A quick YouTube search reveals thousands of videos of these things beating Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens, Porsches and so on away from the lights. The fastest Model S Plaid Track Package (which we have a separate review for) adds a third motor into the mix and claims 0-60mph in 2.11 seconds. Even the bog-standard Model S does the same in 3.1 seconds.

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…okay, that’s impressive.

Told you. All told the Plaid Track Package churns out 1,020bhp and 1,050lb ft. Makes the standard car’s 661bhp almost feel tame.

Sounds like I’ll manage.

You sure will. It’s addictively fast, whatever the spec – and that’s bad news for range, which Tesla puts at 405 miles for the entry-level car and around 373 miles for the Plaid Track Package. So at least you’ve got more distance to play with than most other electric-car drivers.

In reality, the Model S ought to run for over 300 miles on a single charge. And if you do find yourself running low, owning a Tesla gives access to a network of high-speed chargers called ‘Superchargers’ that can top you up in minutes, not hours. There are more than 40,000 stations worldwide, including more than 1,000 in the UK at the time of typing.

READ MORETesla Model S and Model X won’t be sold in the UK or Ireland “for the foreseeable future”

Charging costs vary as some Teslas include an annual allowance of free charging, but if you’re paying in the UK you’re looking at 69 pence per kilowatt-hour, meaning a full charge will set you back nearly £70. An easy way to slash this cost is by charging at home: assuming your tariff is capped at 34p/kWh a full top up will set you back about £35; possibly less if your provider gives you a special deal where overnight rates are lower. 

Want to know what the best electric cars are? Click here for the top 20

Our choice from the range

Tesla100kWh Dual Motor Performance Ludicrous 5dr Auto£131,250

What’s the verdict?

One of the most appealing EVs in the world, one that almost single-handedly forced mainstream manufacturers to embrace electricity

There’s no denying the Tesla Model S is a mightily impressive achievement, and from a company whose only previous credit was a Lotus Elise-based roadster. A huge, useable range, decent handling, stunning acceleration and plenty of tech make it one of the most appealing EVs in the world, one that almost single-handedly forced mainstream manufacturers to embrace electricity before they were ready to. What a pity it’s no longer sold in right-hand drive countries. C’mon Tesla, we want the Model S back.

The Rivals

Polestar 2

£39,845 £68,845

Porsche Taycan

£70,690 £143,579

BMW 5 Series

£25,807 £65,725

Continue reading: Driving

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