What Car? says...
If you thought electric cars were all environmental piety with zero fun attached, the Tesla Model S will quickly make you reconsider. Everything about it is designed to indulge you – from its supercar performance to the sleek looks and jaw-dropping technology.
What are its highlights? Well, even the cheapest Model S will accelerate from 0-60mph in less than four seconds. You’d also have to include its automatic driving modes and its infotainment touchscreen, which is so massive that it makes an iPad look like an iPhone.
We’ll consider all the important elements of the car, from the way it drives and how comfortable the interior is to how practical we found it and how many miles it's really likely to do on a full charge regardless of the claimed range. We’ll also take a closer look at whether all the clever tech lives up to the hype.
If at the end you decide the Tesla Model S is the car for you, just head to our free What Car? New Car Buying pages to find out how to make a big saving without any difficult haggling. There are plenty of new Tesla deals to peruse there.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
As with all electric cars, you get instant and seamless acceleration the millisecond you put your foot down. What comes afterwards is what marks the Tesla Model S out, though, because its rate of acceleration is way beyond what most electric cars (and most cars, for that matter) can manage. The entry-level Long Range model officially blasts from 0-60mph in just 3.7sec, while the pricier Performance model lives up to its name, posting an official time of 2.3sec.
The Tesla Model S Long Range also appears to live up to its name, managing 379 miles between charges in official tests, while the Performance covered 367 miles. That said, while we haven’t put either version through our Real Range test since the Model S was last updated, it’s worth noting that the best performing version of the smaller Tesla Model 3 managed 239 miles, compared with its official claim of 329.
Suspension and ride comfort
One major draw of the Model S is how much driving tech it comes with. Its Autopilot self-steering and adaptive cruise control system work really well on motorways, keeping you a set distance from the car in front as well as centred in your lane, even though bends. It’s surprisingly effective at making long journeys less tiring, even though you still have to keep your hands on the wheel and your attention on the road, because Autopilot can hand back control quite suddenly.
You can even upgrade the system so the Model S can park itself, change lanes semi-autonomously on motorways and be summoned via your smartphone at very low speeds. For example, if someone parks too close to you in a car park for you to open the doors and get in, you can simply drive the Model S out of the space using your phone.
Noise and vibration
Once you pick up the speed there’s more road noise on the motorway than you get in the Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC, but it’s quieter overall than the Jaguar I-Pace. Also, there's more wind noise than you'll hear in a Taycan.
The brakes are very smooth for an electric car. Most put energy back into the batteries when you hit their brakes, which can give a very inconsistent pedal feel, while the Model S’s brakes work just like a regular car’s. All of its energy recuperation comes simply when you lift off the accelerator, and the deceleration effect is so strong that you hardly need to use the brakes at all during normal driving.