It has all-wheel drive, rapid acceleration and a suggested driving range of nearly 400-miles. Find out what we think of the Model S 100D after a week living with it
What do we have here?
Tesla has revolutionised the way people see electric mobility. Whether it’s the fresh styling, redesigned interiors, extended driving range or rapid acceleration.
The Model S, a five-door luxury hatch, is the vehicle that brought this technology to the mainstream, although at a price.
Supplementing the Tesla range is the luxury Model X SUV while a smaller Model 3 is about to arrive in the US.
Available in 4 specifications, the Model S range starts with the entry-level 75 which gets just the one electric motor powering the rear wheels. The rest of the range - 75D, 100D and P100D - all get two electric motors, one on each axle to provide all-wheel drive.
The dashboard is dominated by a 17in colour touchscreen that’s angled towards the driver. With a clear high definition display, it houses the controls for the major car functions including the climate control, settings, trip computer, music and navigation.
It also has built-in wifi providing access to the internet and allowing over-the-air software updates.
We’re testing the 100D which costs £94,935 before any government incentive. Our test car came fitted with red multi-coat paint (£1500), 21in silver turbine wheels (£4500), black interior (£3300), carbon fibre décor (£250), premium upgrades package (£3500), premium sound (£2500) resulting in a £110,430 asking price.
How does it drive?
To get into any car, slip it into gear and drive off is often a simple task that’s taken for granted. You need to locate the ignition or starter button, dip the clutch or press the brake in conjunction with pressing the starter button, release the manual or electronic handbrake or even foot brake in some instance.
In the Tesla, however, there is no on-switch, no hand or foot brake. Simply get in, press the accelerator and you’re away.
Despite all the advancement and futuristic technology, it’s incredibly easy and simple to drive. Move the Mercedes sourced gear selector on the steering wheel column into drive and you won’t need to touch it again until you no longer want to go in a forward direction.
No gear shifts are required as there is, essentially, only a single gear. A realisation that much of the time you only need to use the accelerator due to the regenerative braking, which decelerates the Model S when you take your foot off the accelerator, is further evidence of how easy it is to drive.
But this isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s the Starship Enterprise in George Jetson’s flying car. That’s not a reference to the futuristic self-driving aids as these were disabled in our press test car.
It’s a reference to the presence of a warp drive attached to the accelerator. At almost any speed, if you sink the right pedal then the landscape blurs like stars passing the Bridge of the Enterprise as it streaks across the universe.
Unlike much else you’ll have experienced, the G-force will push your head back on to the head rest, forcing your arms to straighten as you increase your grip on the steering wheel under the illusion you’ll end up in the boot if you don’t.
It also accelerates consistently with no peaks or troughs as it streaks towards the horizon. Whether you want to make quick or stately process, the 100D always does it in a controlled manner.
With all the wheels being powered, the grip is tremendous, particularly considering the amount of surge on tap. Only in the wettest of conditions will you feel any sort of squirm as maximum traction is sought.
Despite its size and weight the Model S handles handsomely, minimising the majority of body lean through the bends allowing you to explore the amount of grip available.
If you do enter a corner too hot, then the Model S will understeer. However, this is quickly rectified with a touch more steering input or backing off the accelerator.
And the steering is well judged. At low speed, it’s light in feel making it easy to navigate around town. As speeds rise, so does the steering resistance meaning remains trustworthy when you push on. It’s also fast to react and remains consistent in feel, although, there’s no feedback.
The Model S has an impressively supple ride, dealing with the majority of lumps and bumps on UK roads. The sharpest ones do make an impact mainly due to the large wheel-arch filling 21in alloys wheels.
With its electric propulsion, the interior mostly remains whisper quiet. On the there is a little wind noise and on account of it being so silent, you’ll hear any interior rattles.
What's it like inside?
Like you’ve walked into an Apple store as the 17in control panel dominates the dashboard.
The instrument panel is a digital screen and contains a simple but well-designed display with graphics beautifully illustrated. On the left-hand side is a display showing energy usage over the past 30 miles. In the middle, when on the move, shows the car’s positions on the road with any other vehicle detected around it.
On the right-hand side is the range to empty, outside temperate and any upcoming navigation instruction - that’s replaced with the current music when nav is not required.
The materials feel modern and classy without the luxurious feel of what a Mercedes S-Class or Maserati Quattroporte might offer.
The seats are well designed, comfortable and supportive without being too tight meaning those who may have added a few pounds should also sit comfortably. It’s electrically operated and has plenty of adjustment, there’s also electrically operated lumbar support.
In the lowest setting, you still feel quite high but are left with decent headroom.
There’s no storage in the door but there's plenty between the seats. Under the display is a large anti-slip shelf. Between the seats is a deep bin under a sliding cover with two cupholders. Behind and under a rotating panel is a second compartment with USB ports and a socket for your phone to sit on.
Slide through the wide opening afforded by the frameless doors and sink into the comfortable and luxurious leather seats. You sit high up and the full length fixed panoramic sunroof spills plenty of light inside.
There’s plenty of leg and knee room and just enough head room for this reviewer at 5’9”.
There’s no door bin for storage, drop down armrest or central storage but you do get two USB connectors and a large flat floor meaning three should fit in comfortably.
The electrically operated hatch can be opened off the key fob and provide a large opening into the boot. The boot lip is low but there is quite a drop to the flat and long boot floor.
For better access, you need to manually fold back the parcel shelf, there’s a storage cubby down one side and a large underfloor compartment for the charging cables.
A huge bonus is the second boot, aka Porsche 911, at the front of the Model S which features a deep well.
Charging – we charged the Model S twice during our week with the car.
The first charge, using a Tesla supercharger, took the range from 238 miles to 319 miles in 50 minutes.
We then drove 183.5 miles which reduced the range from 319-mile range to 92 miles. Therefore, we used 227-mile of range for 183.5 miles travelled.
Charge number two, also using a supercharger, took the range from 92 miles to 313 miles in a 1 hour 10.
All Model S variants fall into the top 50 band for insurance.
It gets a four-year 50,000-mile warranty along with an eight-year warranty for the battery and drive unit.
The Model S is an enjoyable car to drive, offers a comfortable ride and has a modern yet luxurious interior.
It is expensive to buy but this is no doubt a premium product with future generation technology.
All the benefits of electric power with so few of the draw backs mainly due to the impressive real-world range.