The Tesla Model S has catalysed something of a revolution. Almost under the radar it has brought self-driving, extended EV range and the hottest design on the roads to British shores.
While there have been exotic EVs before what makes the Model S different is its huge relative range – up to around 250 miles on one charge.While direct comparison to ICE cars are tricky – how do you work out MPG and CO2 when there are no gallons to measure, not emissions to measure? – you can expect to pay around a quarter of what you’d shell out on fuel, with a full charge good for around 250 miles.
There are two distinct Model S variants. Prices start at £49,900 for the 60kWh version, capable of a 5.9-second sprint and 242 miles, rising to £69,080 for the 85kWh Performance, which does 312 miles and hits 60mph in 5.4 seconds. Two more variants beyond that push the car’s stats into supercar and luxury grand tourer territory – frankly they’re in a category all on their own.
The Model S interior is a work of art – a synthesis of Apple, Ikea and Stanley Kubrick – set to revolutionise car design in the way that iPhones rewrote the rulebook for telephones and telecommunications. There’s a wow factor here but it’s not especially user friendly if you’re driving and want to change the temperature in the car. While that observation is somewhere between churlish and practical, its importance becomes obvious if you want to do affect some sort of chance while driving. The vast iPad-like touchscreen is how most of the Tesla’s controls are accessed. Standard it includes climate control, leather trim, a reversing camera and internet connectivity for Google Maps and DAB.
Unconvinced You’ll like this. The Model S has an Autopilot function that allows the car to steer itself within a lane, change lanes with one tap from the driver and manage speed. When you’re done it will parallel park itself. That self-driving car we keep talking about is here.
There’s no ignition key, neither a handbrake nor gearstick. There’s no noise as you pull away but there is fearsome acceleration here. It’s a riot of confounded expectation – of what we’ve come to expect from driving. It drives pretty well but the suspension doesn’t quite feel matched to handling the power, nor to British roads.
Charging is always the elephant in the room with EVs. If that’s a sticking point for you the Model S won’t change your mind. For a full charge you’ll need between 15 and 30 hours, depending on the supply you’re using, unless you have a home charger from Tesla. There are a number of supercharger points around the country the company has installed too.
Whatever your preconceptions and gut feelings regarding electric cars there are some statistics it’s impossible to argue with. The Model S attract zero per cent benefit-in-kind tax as a fleet car – a potential saving of up to ten grand versus a petrol-engined equivalent from BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Audi for a top-rate tax-payer. Throw in zero annual Congestion Charge and you might find yourself beating down the dealership’s door.
But this isn’t a car for workings-out and chewed pens though. You’ll probably want one – like you want a new phone – whether you think it makes sense or not. That is perhaps the great power of the Model S.