Tesla Model S new car review

£86,990 - £101,990
7.5out of 10

10 Second Review

Tesla's Model S is the brand's original EV, an electric large luxury fastback with around 400 miles of range. In this improved form, it's now sleeker and more sophisticated and has almost supercar-style acceleration. In its current form, the car has been updated with a completely new interior and there's now a choice of either 'Dual Motor' or 'Plaid' AWD variants with 100kWh battery outputs. Here's what the future looks like - and it might just be cause for celebration.

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Detailed ratings

Luxury Full Electric Cars
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Would it be too much to call Tesla's Model S a 'game changer'? We don't think so. Back in 2012, this car launched what is now the world's best known automotive EV brand on an unsuspecting world. It shocked the established brands into getting on with the electric era. And it was a luxury executive EV benchmark that others aspired to for nearly a decade, originally engineered with a goal of creating the best car in the world. You'd think though, that after well over ten years on sale, it'd be time for a completely new design to face a flood of fresh rivals. Instead, what we got in 2023 was this heavily revised version of the original. Will that be enough for Tesla in this segment? That's what we're here to find out.
This wasn't the first Model S update - the earlier one happened in 2016 when the car lost the original version's fake grille. But it's by far the most significant change to this Tesla yet - as you'd hope, after a decade on sale and with several hundred thousand examples pounding global roads: not that you'd know that from the remarkably subtle exterior differences between this current-era car and the original. But look a little closer. There's a completely redesigned cabin; the body structure's different, the suspension's been re-engineered and the complicated confusing range of single motor versions have long been dropped, with the Dual Motor variants that remain now using a larger and completely different 100kWh battery pack.
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Range data

Insurance group 1-505050
Max Speed (mph)155200
0-62 mph (s)3.11.99
Electric WLTP-Rated Driving Range (miles)373373
Boot Capacity (l)7931645
Power (ps)6611020
Torque (lb ft)14201420


Driving experience

In both its guises, the Model S is very fast indeed. But abruptly striking speed in a luxury sporting EV like this has a very short shelf life of admiration. It wows you on the test drive and in the first few days of ownership, but then on public roads becomes something of an irrelevance - or even an irritation. What are the longer-lasting driving virtues you'd ideally be seeking from a big six-figure luxury segment EV contender like this? Well we'd be looking for hushed refinement, a smooth step-off the line, an emphasis on mid-range rather than start-off acceleration and, around the turns, something of the handling agility of a smaller car. In both the standard Dual Motor and top Plaid forms that make up this updated range, the Model S delivers all of these things and more. But there's now the disadvantage of the left hand drive-only format that the US brand now mandates for our market.
Given the size and width of this car, that can make dealing with corners at speed on narrower British roads something of a confidence test. Particularly in a car with this much power. We can't imagine why the standard Dual Motor version wouldn't be quite sufficient for anyone shopping in this segment. Its AWD system uses a motor on each axle, together developing 661hp, allowing for an uber-rapid 3.1 second 0-60mph sprint time and a very un-EV-like (limited) top speed of 155mph. But there's another, wilder option. If like Elon Musk, you're the kind of person for whom too much is never enough, then only the top tri-motor Plaid version we tried will do. An extra motor added onto the rear axle boosts total power output to an astonishing 1,020hp, with a scarcely believable 1,420Nm of torque on tap. And as a result, Tesla claims a 0-60mph time of just 1.99 seconds, which (should you be able to replicate it) would make this the world's fastest-accelerating production car.
Ride quality in this updated design is massively better, even on this test car's big 21-inch wheels, a crucial improvement because for all its speed, this is a luxury conveyance first and foremost. To achieve this, Tesla's standardised air springs and completely redesigned the suspension, changing it from a four-link to a more sophisticated five-link set-up. Not so sophisticated is the steering set-up. The optional provision of this steering yoke suggests a sophisticated drive-by-wire system but that's absent, as is much sense of feel from the rack through the corners, no matter which of its three provided settings you select. Also strangely unsophisticated is the braking set-up (which can't combine friction and regen braking); and the energy harvesting system (which can't be varied in strength like it can be with rivals); there's just a single 'one-pedal' option.
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Design and build

Despite all the changes that have gone on under the skin, at first glance Tesla's kept Model S visual updates to a minimum. From the side, the updates are subtle, though an original owner would appreciate that the proportions are now more muscular, especially at the rear. Wider arches give the car a squatter stance and house staggered performance wheels that keep the car planted - with 19-inch rims on the standard Dual Motor variant and big 21-inch alloys on this top Plaid version, which are wrapped in super-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. The silhouette's sleeker too - Tesla now claims this to be the most aerodynamic production car on earth, with a drag coefficient of just 0.208Cd.
After the very gently evolved exterior, it's something of a surprise to take a seat inside and find an interior completely that's different from that of the earlier cabin in almost every way. Not least in the way that it now makes you sit on the wrong side of the car, thanks to Tesla's new-found refusal to build this car in right hand drive form. Not a single component is shared with the original Model S, not even this huge 17-inch centre screen, which is now landscape rather than portrait in format. One change we'd expected that hasn't happened is that there's still a separate instrument screen ahead of you; on smaller Teslas, drive instruments are confined to the near side of the central monitor. But the real cabin talking point here, if your car's been fitted with it, is the freshly-added yoke that can optionally replace the kind of conventional wheel that many customers will still want on this car. It gives this Model S a 'Thunderbirds'-style that suits the futuristic vibe the designers were clearly looking for.
Which is intended to compensate you for the lack of the kind of wood, metal and stitched door and dashboard leather that you'd usually expect to find on a luxury saloon commanding a near six-figure asking price. Yes, build quality's a bit better than it used to be, the vegan leather feels quite realistic and there are a few strips of carbonfibre in the top Plaid version, but you don't feel spoiled in the way you should be by a car of this price. In true Tesla fashion, it's very minimalistic - even more so now that the brand has done away with the column stalks previously provided for indicating and gear changes. Instead, the Model S guesses your intended direction of travel and requires you to confirm its prediction by tapping the brake pedal. Or you can just use a provided slider on the side of the centre screen. As for the wipers and indicators, well they're now controlled with capacitive buttons on the steering tiller - the car uses its cameras and a steering angle sensor to know when to cancel the indicators. Which seems a very complicated way of fixing something that didn't really need to be fixed.
As we said in our 'Driving' section, we're not sure we'd bother with the option of this steering yoke, but we do like the redesigned TFT instrument screen you view above it. Tesla hasn't taken the opportunity EV architecture offers of providing a completely flat floor under the centre screen. Instead, there's a high centre console, forward of which is an angled compartment with twin wireless charging mats. The reorientated 17-inch landscape monitor just above which used to look so vast no longer seems quite as huge in an era of infotainment set-ups like the enormous Mercedes Hyperscreen layout. As before, it does without a lower rotary controller, but showcases a very good Google Maps navigation system, a web browser and a Blind Spot display. Plus it can now be tilted towards either passenger and has better super-sharp graphics, though annoyingly Tesla still refuses to build in 'Apple CarPlay' or 'Android Auto' into it.
Back seat space reveals comfortable room for three adults. Headroom's good, even for six-footers, but the rear seat squab is set quite low in relation to the floor, which doesn't deliver an ideal seating position. Out back, there's a huge 793-litre boot, extendable to 1,645-litres. Plus there's an 89-litre 'frunk' compartment beneath the bonnet.
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Market and model

With a left hand drive-only offering, Tesla wouldn't have made any sales headway with this car at all if it hadn't attached reasonable value pricing to it and, by and large, that's what we've got. At the time of this test in early Spring 2024, the US brand wanted around £87,000 for the standard Dual Motor version; or around £102,000 for the top Plaid version we tried.
It's worth mentioning that at the time of this Review, it wasn't possible to custom-order a Model S in the UK. Instead, you had to go to the Tesla website and pick from an 'Inventory' of completely new cars, though there's a reasonable number to choose from. If you buy one of these, you'd better hope that Tesla doesn't re-start right hand drive Model S production in a couple of years because if it does, the retained value of your left-hooker is obviously going to fall through the floor
If having considered all of that and tried a Model S to make sure you're not put off by the left hand drive format, if you're still interested, you'll want to know about standard kit - and about the specification options, so let's look at that now. The specification bit isn't too difficult. At the time of filming, there were just two exterior paint colour choices ('Solid Black' or 'Deep Blue Metallic') - and three interior colour shades (most of the inventory cars come cabin-finished in either cream or all-black trim). You can choose between the Yoke steering wheel we've been trying here - or stick with a conventional one. And wheel choice is between 19 and 21-inches, with the bigger rims fitted to the Plaid, but also available for the Dual Motor version.
Standard of course is the usual high level of Tesla media tech, accessible via the car's huge 17-inch centre touchscreen. This is your access point for a built-in 22-speaker 960-watt audio system, Google Maps navigation system, a web browser and streaming services, plus you can access various apps like Spotify, though Tesla still refuses to build in 'Apple CarPlay' or 'Android Auto'. As usual with infotainment screens these days, this one continually updates itself over-the-air. Which means you'll be getting into this car one morning and finding it able to do something it couldn't do yesterday.
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Cost of ownership

Owning a Model S is different from conventionally powered vehicles. There's no petrol bill and service is minimal. The annual service fee covers an annual inspection, replacement parts like brake pads and windscreen wipers, 24 hour roadside assistance, system monitoring, remote diagnostics, software updates and new features sent through the touchscreen. It's possible to charge the battery 10-80% in 30 minutes at 250kW using Tesla's 'supercharger' but as with most elements of this car, it requires a change in your way of thinking.
The car responds best to nightly recharges, but will happily sit for a couple of weeks at an airport while you holiday without losing significant charge and the battery pack has no 'memory effect'. Over longer stationary periods, the batteries will slowly lose their charge. If left at a 0% state of charge for period of time, you may need a battery replacement. The batteries are guaranteed for 8 years with a full replacement billed at $12,000 USD. Tesla reckons that the 100kWh 'Dual Motor' model can go 394 miles on the WLTP test (it's 373 miles for the top 'Plaid' version), but a real world range is more in the region of 350 miles. AC charging takes 15 hours and 15 minutes from a 7.4kW wallbox, but you can replenish the battery in around 10 hours with a three-phase 11kW supply.
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Some cars are important. Others are significant. But only a very few are game-changing. Tesla's Model S is one of those - for so many reasons. Despite all of this, this much-improved version of this design will struggle for significance in our market because of the left hand drive-only format disappointingly adopted for this extensively revised design. If it wasn't for that, you might be prepared to overlook the issues that Tesla still has to address with this car; the lack of steering feel, the absence of a combined friction and regen braking system, the need for greater driver control over energy harvesting and a lack of the kind of overtly opulent cabin luxury you might expect at this price point. After all, there's also so much to like; the frantic power of this Plaid version, the enormous boot, the reasonable value pricing and the convenience of that industry-leading supercharger public charging network.
Overall, what hasn't changed about a Model S is that it still rewards those in search of something a little different in a car like this. These are people who realise that they won't find inspiration in the places they've already been. They understand that to move forward, you have to do something different - you have to go somewhere new. That's what Tesla has done, while the rest of the motor industry watched and hedged its bets. In doing so, this American brand created a car that has done nothing less than re-write the rulebook.
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