Building a car is difficult. Building a good car even more so. Tesla is a company that doesn’t do things by halves, so having made enough cash selling its modified electric Lotus Elise, it has jumped in with two feet and decided to go straight into the very competitive executive car sector with its first attempt at designing a car on its own. Oh and its all-electric too.
The result is very interesting indeed. The Model S can be specified with four different battery/performances packages and comes in rear wheel drive or four wheel drive configurations. With the biggest 100 kWh battery pack it covered 393 miles on the official NEDC test but even in entry level form with the ‘smallest’ 75 kWh pack it managed 304 miles. Straight away it is clear that the Tesla is a very different proposition to most electric cars.
The performance is very strong; with 325 lb ft of torque available instantly, acceleration is rapid; in the 100 kWh model with 713 lb ft it’s startling. Refinement is also a strong point with a very hushed cabin at legal speeds and good ride quality. The fact that it is cloaked in an attractive and original looking body, with a unique looking dashboard and a massive 17-inch touchscreen control panel, just adds to the feeling that Tesla is ahead of the game.
One of the many clever design features of the Model S is the placement of the very large battery pack in the floor of the car. This means that the weight is slung low and frees up a massive amount of space inside. Boot space is incredible with 744 litres with the rear seats up, 1645 litres seats down and an extra 150 litres in the front boot. It comfortably fits 5 adults and you can even get rear-facing ‘jump’ seats for two children in the boot, making a 5+2 seating configuration.
The Model S shows what can be done with a blank piece of paper and vision. There are weaknesses, despite having a low centre of gravity and near 50:50 weight distribution it can’t hide the 2.1 tonne kerb weight or its physical size (2.18 metres wide) which in combination with steering which offers plenty of (artificial) weight but no feel does limit the desire to explore the high limits of grip.
Truly revolutionary cars don’t come around too often but Tesla has delivered at the first time of asking. The massive battery does add a lot of weight, which means that the S uses almost twice as much electricity as the most efficient electric cars, but even using normal electricity it delivers low CO2 emissions and it unlocks a range that allows the vast majority of drivers to consider the Tesla as their only car. Just don’t try recharging it from empty to full using a standard socket.
With low company car tax, no VED, no congestion charge and fuel costs of about £4 per 100 miles, running costs are very low whilst the interior, boot space and performance are simply on a different level to the established petrol and diesel competition. At first glance it might look expensive but given the performance and unique features the price is competitive with German saloons. The Model S is a serious wake up call for the competition and provides a very nice headache if you are in the market for a fast executive saloon.
Official range: 304 miles.
Tesla range estimate: (20 oC) at 55 mph = 334 miles, at 70 mph = 236 miles (-10 oC) at 55 mph = 246 miles at 70 mph = 194 miles
Official electricity consumption: 211 Wh/km
Battery pack: 75 kWh (gross) Lithium-ion , 8 year 125,000 mile warranty
Recharge time: 240v charge 28 hours. 7.4 kW 32A/240v home charger 11 hours. High Power home charger 3.5 hours (requires twin charge option). Optional rapid charge capability for Tesla Supercharger infrastructure = 200 mile range in 30 minutes.