Warning: NSFW wheelarches. Blistered bodywork. Slammed stance.
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So, in the week Tesla announced its fastest Model S ever, you’ve driven the slowest one. How come? Because this Model S 60D was our first chance to sample the lightly facelifted Tesla Model S, which you’ll spot thanks to the deleted nosecone (there’s now just a Model X-style moustache) and all-LED adaptive headlights. Fortunately, there’s more to this Tesla Model S review than that. So what else is interesting? Tesla badly needed an entry-level model. The Model 3 is coming, roared on by the 400,000 or so deposit-holders who’ve pre-ordered the new 3-Series-sized EV. But it won’t be ready until at least 2018, so the cheaper, less powerful 60kWh Model S has arrived to keep interest up and cash rolling in. It’s actually a 75kWh in disguise, with the extra battery capacity available as a sort of optional tune-up extra after purchase if you’ve got the required £7,850.
Ouch. Besides that, how cheap are we talking? It’s still a big 5-Series sized luxury saloon, so I’m not expecting philanthropy. The asking price for a 60kWh with rear-drive is £53,400, and does 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. This ‘D’ version with dual motors and all-wheel drive adds £4,400 and subtracts 0.3 seconds. Yes, that’s a mountain of money. But Tesla has got stuck into the murky world of monthly payments in an effort to take more chunks out of the mainstream posh saloon market. The result is you can get a Model S on a PCP deal for £395 a month, if you avoid ticking options. That’s competitive with the likes of a BMW 330d, and when you factor in far cheaper servicing and running costs, plus free Supercharging and zero road tax, the 60kWh Model S starts to look awfully tempting. Enough accountancy. Why would I be seen in the slow Tesla? Because it isn’t slow. In fact, it’s extremely quick. Up until now the only Model S versions I’d driven had been the fastest at the time; first a P85, then a P85D, and most recently a P90D with Ludicrous Mode, which is to-date the only car I’ve ceased accelerating in because it was making me feel genuinely nauseous. So I wasn’t expecting much from the P60D’s 324bhp. Not when it’s saddled with 2.1 tonnes to haul. Fact is, even this baby Tesla is an obscenely fast car, purely because of the instantaneous nature of the performance. I know you must be bored of reading about electric motors hitting max power from the get-go by now, but honestly, the way this supposedly base-spec Tesla rockets from 0-30mph would destroy a red-blooded super-saloon like an M5. This makes it a terrific urban car, despite the usual Model S girth. More numbers if you please. The 0-62mph is ‘only’ 5.2 seconds, which looks a bit limp when the P100D is set to halve that, and yes, beyond 70mph (where applicable of course) you are aware of the relative lack of power compared to Tesla’s other offerings. It’s not Ludicrous speed. But it’s still Naffing Fast speed. And quiet. Top speed is 130mph and claimed range is 253 miles. On standard 19-inch wheels rather than the sexier 21-inch turbine jobs, this Model S was more comfortable than other examples I’ve tried. £2,220 on adaptive air suspension doubtless helped… So it’s well-priced, well comfy and well fast. What else is new? It feels expensive inside. Tesla’s obviously been stung by criticism of the Model S’s tinny trim and synthetic-feeling leathers not living up to the prices demanded, and has responded. This test car was largely the best-assembled, nicest finished Tesla I’ve encountered, besides a faulty lid that stopped the main cubby hole remaining open. Of course, there are new toys too, chief among which is a worryingly titled ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’. Eh? Tesla says, and I quote: “The [BDM] filter is 100 times more effective than all other premium automotive filters removing at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from cabin air.” So it ought to protect you from fumes if you’re gridlocked on a hot day. In practice, it does indeed stop diesel stink from the van in front being sucked into the cabin, but it’s not detectably any more impressive than any other posh saloon air-con I’ve tried. If city-based Tesla owners start living until they’re 150 we’ll revisit this. Likewise, the P100D won’t require this kit because it can presumably outrun anything. Ever. Overall, a good Tesla then? Correct. It’s starting to feel very ‘complete’ now, the Model S. Of course there are niggles. The instrument screen wantonly displays irelelvant information, AutoPilot remains imperfect (why does it need to sit so left-biased in the lane?) and there’s the cubby hole lid’s appetite for fingers. However, there’s all the performance we could realistically need, sensible and accurate range, an overall deeper sense of quality and what many EV-curious folk have been crying out for: a more competitive, accessible finance option. The 60D won’t become your new darling of YouTube drag races, but it’s the best all-round Model S yet.