Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Two models to choose from – both quick and efficient
  • Performance from both models is highly impressive
  • Jumping back into a petrol or diesel car is difficult

Ever since the model tidy-up in 2019, the Tesla Model S range has been easy to navigate – and you get the choice between Long Range and Perfomance models. The Long Range model has a claimed 375-mile range, maxes out at 155mph and has a 0-60mph time of 3.7 seconds. The Performance takes you up to 162mph and the 0-60mph time drops to a scarcely believable 2.4 seconds. Range is reduced, though, by 10 miles to 365.

Both models feature Dual Motor four-wheel drive with two motors as standard, one in the front and one in the rear. Torque is independently controlled between the front and rear wheels, and that gives this big, heavy car a very planted feel in most driving conditions.

This stability is a result of sophisticated independent traction to both the front and rear wheels by using dual motors. The Model S Performance (nee Model S 100D) gives you the famed Ludicrous and Ludicrous+ performance modes.

An over-the-air software update in April 2020 brought more power for Performance models, enabling faster sprinting off the line and better repeatability, so you can launch from a standstill more times in a row.

As well as improving peak power, Model S owners were also given better high-speed performance and a simpler to use user interface when it comes to activating Ludicrous+ mode (the fastest way to get a Tesla off the line).

Finally a new ‘Cheetah Stance’ function was added, dropping the ride height of the front wheels when launch control is activated.

For anyone who's yet to drive an electric car, getting into a Tesla Model S will be a revelation – its torque is instantaneous, with impressive acceleration borne from there being no need to wait for engine revs to build. You want to go faster, just push the pedal and watch it go – both from a standstill and while on the move.

Buying a used Models S: explaining the old models

The different models are identified by the kWh ratings of the batteries. The entry-level model was the 60, producing 325hp and 440Nm of torque. Sprinting from 0-60mph takes 5.9 seconds, while top speed is 120mph. More performance was available from the 85, with power up to 370hp, although torque was unchanged. The jump allows for a modest increase in top speed to 125mph, while the 0-60mph acceleration time drops to 5.4 seconds.

Tesla Model S (2019) handling

Next was is the P85, the ‘P’ signifying the installation of a high performance drive invertor. The result was a power increase to 425hp, with torque jumping to 600Nm. The 0-60mph was 4.2 seconds and top speed increased marginally to 130mph. Next up was the P85+ with the additional Performance Plus pack. While it has the same power and torque figures as the P85, performance is slightly increased due to the car’s stiffened suspension and 20mm wider rear tyres. There top-of-the-range model was the P100 and P100D, which came with 100kWh of battery power – these are now the basis of the current two-model line-up.

Unusually, the further up the Tesla Model S performance hierarchy you went, the better the claimed range was. While the 60 has a claimed range of 240 miles before needing a recharge, the 85 and P85 are said to go 312 miles before needing plugging in. That marginal efficiency increase on the P85+ took that model to a claimed 315 miles.

Handling

  • Once you're used to zero engine noise, you'll love driving it
  • It's a big car and feels it on tighter roads
  • Despite that, handling is excellent, with plenty of grip

Discerning executive car buyers expect their cars to be good to drive, and while it’s not class-leading, Tesla Model S handling characteristics are nonetheless impressive. It's difficult not to allow your impressions to be dominated by its tyre-shredding performance, but you do get used to the acceleration on offer, and it almost starts to feel normal after an extended run.

So far, we’ve only tested the firmer-sprung Performance model, which Tesla describes as ‘European’ handling. We'd definitely agree with that, although there's no escaping the sheer size of this car on smaller roads. Get past that, and it feels somewhat like a decently set-up model from BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz. While body roll is kept to a minimum, it doesn’t crash and get unsettled over every rut in the road – impressive for the company's first serious effort.

Like so many other luxury saloons these days, the Model S is available with adaptive air suspension, giving a supple, forgiving ride quality. It also allows the Tesla to adapt on the move, lowering at higher speeds bringing it closer to the ground and further benefiting handling.

Similarly, the suspension can be lowered via controls on the touchscreen, as well as being raised to traverse rougher ground and higher than normal speed bumps.  Further elements that aid the quest of good handling for the Model S are the fact its heavy batteries are all located nice and low, helping give it a very low centre of gravity. Further, the weight balance is almost split 50/50 front and rear, making it a neutral handler.