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BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Car Review

Tesla Model S

£ N/A
810
Published: 24 Jan 2015
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Arguably the biggest step forward for EVs since the Prius, Tesla shows cylinders may have had their day

Good stuff

Scintillating acceleration, interior design, ride quality

Bad stuff

Not the most enthralling to drive

Overview

What is it?

Tesla’s first mass-market all-electric car was launched – would you believe –  way back in 2012. In EV-years, that’s a very long time ago indeed. Advances in battery technology and the like mean EVs have come a very long way since then, yet somehow the Model S still does the business. It stills feels fresh – to drive and live with.

This four-door, five-seat saloon is the car that established Elon Musk’s California-based company as a force to be reckoned with, a company whose products deserve to stand alongside the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

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The Model S might have a fairly conventional silhouette – but what lurks beneath is far from it. Well, it was in 2012. Two electric motors draw power from either a 75 or 100kWh battery pack, driving all four wheels through a single-speed transmission.

The drivetrain lives in a kind of skateboard, with the body bolted on top. This keeps the centre of gravity nice and low (battery packs are heavy old things, and the Model S has a much bigger one than most other mainstream EVs), which aids handling and means there’s loads of storage space in the cabin.

Performance is… ample. A quick YouTube search reveals thousands of videos of these things beating Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens, Porsches and so-on away from the lights. The fastest Model S, the P100D, claims 0-62mph in less than 2.5 seconds, and even the slower, cheaper 75D does the same in 4.2 seconds.

It’s addictively fast, whatever the spec – and that’s bad news for range, which Tesla puts at 304 miles for the 75D, 393 miles for the 100D and 381 miles for the flagship P100D. But that’s on the old NEDC cycle, and therefore a bit unrealistic.

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In reality, the 75D ought to run for over 200 miles on a single charge. And if you do find yourself running low, owning a Tesla gives access to a network of high-speed chargers called ‘Superchargers’ that can top you up in minutes, not hours. There are more than 10,000 stations worldwide.

Prices run from just under £80k for the base 75D, right the way up to £130k for the balls-out P100D. Monthly payments can seem pretty expensive too – just remember you’re not paying for fuel, road tax or congestion charge…

Our choice from the range

What is the verdict?

The future is here and it's amazing. The Model S is a true game-changer.

There's no denying the Model S is a mightily impressive achievement - and from a company whose only previous credit was a Lotus Elise-based roadster. A usable amount of range, decent handling and plenty of tech-y appeal, the Model S has made the mainstream manufacturers sit up and take notice. 

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