Driving

Tesla Model S review

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Tesla Model S
6 Jan 2017 11:0 | Last updated: 21 Aug 2018 16:26

In this review

Driving

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Being an electric car, the Model S is incredibly quiet in comparison even with the best luxury limousines. When you’re stationary, there’s no noise at all, and it remains vibration free when you pull away. What's more, you get seamless acceleration unpunctuated by gear changes; because electric motors deliver their maximum torque – or pulling power – from zero rpm, there’s no need for multiple gears.

So it’s undoubtedly quieter and smoother than its rivals, and with all that torque available right from the off, the response and rate of acceleration from a standing start is superior, too. Even the entry-level 75D feels phenomenally quick (0-60mph takes just 4.2sec), but it’s the effortless delivery of that pace when you’re in the flow of traffic that makes the 75D so relaxing to drive. That’s why it’s our pick of the range.

Indeed, you could argue that the range-topping P100D is a bit too fast for the road. Up to motorway speeds, it will literally out-drag supercars, let alone a Porsche Panamera Turbo, and safely using that level of performance on the road is virtually impossible.

Slowing down takes a little more getting used to, because the strong regenerative braking that helps charge the batteries causes the Model S to decelerate quickly as soon as you lift off the accelerator. But once you have adapted, it's actually quite welcome; in general traffic, in effect you drive the Model S using one pedal only, unless you’re coming to a complete stop. The brakes themselves are strong but, like in most electric cars, don’t have a completely natural, progressive feel.

What about range? Well, there are many factors that reduce an electric car’s range, including cold outside temperatures, using lots of power-zapping functions such as the heater or air-con, long periods of constant, fast motorway driving (with no ability to regenerate electricity during braking) and simply accelerating hard everywhere. The point is, in the real world, you are unlikely to achieve the ranges quoted, but even the 75D has one of the best ranges of any electric car and should do around 200 miles between charges.

The Model S provides a pretty comfortable way to travel. On standard air suspension, the ride is impressive, as long as you avoid the big 21in wheels. Only scruffy urban roads tend to unsettle it; even then, it stays on the right side of compliant. It’s equally adept on motorways, too, making it a fine long-distance cruiser.

When you find yourself on a motorway, you can make use of Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot system (assuming you’ve chosen to specify it). This not only maintains a pre-set speed and keeps the Model S a safe distance from the car in front, but takes care of the steering as well - even changing lanes when asked if it spots a safe gap in the traffic.

You do still have to keep your hands on the wheel and your attention on the road, because Enhanced Autopilot can choose to hand back control quite suddenly, but it’s surprisingly effective at making long journeys less tiring. We’d go so far as to say it’s the best semi-autonomous driving system currently on the market.

The Model S even handles well for something so big and heavy, with modest body roll, plenty of grip and loads of traction from its four-wheel-drive system. That said, those looking for a true sporting GT car will find the Panamera displays far greater agility, with more accurate, feelsome steering and a better-balanced chassis.

 

Tesla Model S
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OUR PICK
MODEL S
There’s only one trim level, but it’s pretty well equipped. You get air suspension, a powered tailgate, keyless entry, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, heated and power-folding d...View trim
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