- EV with a realistic range
- On-board technology
- Spacious, flexible cabin
- Wow factor
- Doesn’t feel as premium as conventional rivals
- Buyers’ reluctance to go electric
- Limited availability of superchargers
- Slow to charge off three-pin plug
Although its svelte looks hint at luxury rather than revolution, the Tesla Model S is poised to shake up the executive saloon market now that it's finally arrived in the UK.
So, what's all the fuss about? That enormous 17-inch touchscreen in the dashboard? Its unusual 5+2 seating arrangement with two rear-facing child seats in the boot? No. The Model S' unique selling point is that it’s purely electric. There’s no engine, no hybrid - a fully electric vehicle that Tesla claims is capable of 260 miles of real-world driving.
What sets the Tesla Model S apart?
Tesla’s Model S has been on sale in North America since 2012 but is now available in right hand drive form, with European assembly in the Netherlands.
Due to the Model S’ pure EV nature, the cabin is incredibly spacious with a flat floor allowing easy and comfortable access to the middle seat. Open the large tailgate and you’ll find a 774-litre boot which can be equipped with the rear-facing child-seats as an option. Folding the back seats reveals a cavernous 1,645-litre capacity.
Because there’s no engine up front, the ‘bonnet’ reveals another 150-litre boot, so even driving seven-up there’s more usable luggage space than many people-carriers can muster.
The light and airy interior is dominated by that huge screen which controls almost all of the Model S’ infotainment and ancillary features like climate control, seat heating and driving modes. Most of the conventional switchgear, of which there's little, is borrowed from Tesla’s technical partner Mercedes-Benz.
Four-version Tesla Model S line-up
Four models make up the Tesla Model S range: 60, 85, P85 and P85+. It sounds a little confusing but essentially isn’t.
The 60 has a 60kWh battery, with a 302bhp motor and a theoretical range is 240 miles.
Progress to the 85 version (85kWh battery) and you’ve got 362bhp at your disposal (torque output mirrors the 60). Not only is it a little quicker than the 60, its maximum range increases too, to a claimed 312 miles.
With the addition of a high-performance drive inverter to the P85, the same battery is mated to a 416bhp motor producing 600Nm of torque. Range remains the same as the 85’s, but the P85’s performance credentials don’t go unnoticed with red brake callipers and a vestigial carbon fibre spoiler on the edge of the tailgate.
Topping the range is the P85+, fitted with the Performance Plus pack. Tesla describes this as a European sports saloon set-up and as such has adaptive air suspension and 20mm wider rear tyres and 21-inch wheels, marginally boosting both performance and range.
All versions of the Tesla Model S feature an automatic single-gear transmission, sending power to the rear wheels and produce no CO2 emissions from the car itself.
Simple to recharge
Charging the Model S is as simple as connecting a mobile phone. The slowest option is a normal three-pin plug, followed by a Type 2 connection, which is becoming commonplace for EVs. Typically found in motorway services and in domestic wall-boxes, charging typically works out at 23 to 68 miles of range per hour.
You are more likely to achieve 68 miles of range per hour with the dual-charging wall-box Tesla is making available for home installation in 2015, but for the quickest solution a network of ‘superchargers’ will be strategically installed around the UK, again before the end of 2015. These are free to use and give a range of 170 miles in just 30 minutes. The supercharging equipment is standard on all 85 versions and optional on the entry-level 60.
Place your Model S order today and you'll be waiting around four to five months for delivery, such is the demand for the car. Launch prices (with the £5,000 government EV grant deducted) start at just under £50,000 for the 60.
Read the full Parkers Tesla Model S review and see if this automotive revolution will rock the established premium manufacturers.
What owners say about this car
This is simply the best car I have ever owned and driven - including an AM DB7 vantage volante. It... Read owner review
I've always liked the idea of going green but range has always been a concern. Not so with the Tesla. Read owner review
Went for a test drive in the Model S and knew I wanted one straight away. Its quiet and fast... Read owner review