2014 Tesla Model S: How Does It Stack Up In Australia? Photo:
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Tony O'Kane | Jun, 02 2014 | 19 Comments

Tesla announced pricing for its Model S range last week, with the base Model S 60 available from $97,245 drive-away.

That's the kind of pricetag that gets people sitting up in their chairs. Why? Because being able to drive off in a cutting-edge all-electric large luxury sedan for less than six figures is simply astonishing.

The Model S 60 lines up against diesel and hybrid large sedans from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti, but the flagship Model S P85 is comparable to the mighty BMW M5 and Benz E 63 AMG.

So how do the key stats stack up? Let's start at the bottom, shall we.


Tesla Model S 60

With a 60kWh battery pack and 225kW of power and 430Nm of torque, the Model S 60 zips to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds.

Kerb weight is a relatively porky 2108kg, but we can blame the heavy battery pack for that.

Its natural rivals are the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 ($119,900), Mercedes-Benz E 300 Bluetec Hybrid ($109,400), Lexus GS 450h ($112,100) and Infiniti Q70 GT Premium Hybrid ($90,400).

All but the Infiniti cost markedly more than the Model S 60, and none of them are all-electric. For many, that's a selling point that could make the Model S appealing even if it were more expensive than these other contenders.

These rivals to the entry Model S do have selling points of their own, though. For example, the BMW, Lexus and Infinti are slightly faster - and the urge to buy 'green' can often be less powerful than the need for speed.

The ActiveHybrid 5 and GS 450h get to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, while the Infiniti bests them all with a 0-100km/h time of 5.5 seconds. The efficiency-oriented E 300? A leisurely 7.5 seconds.

The Tesla Model S is the only one that uses no petrol though, with none of the German or Japanese competitors boasting a plug-in capability.

When it comes to emissions-free motoring, the Tesla is the only option in the premium market.

However the Model S 60's achilles heel is its range. You'll only be able to travel for 390km on a full charge, while the hybrids can keep going for over 1000km.

There are also a number of efficient diesel models that sit below the ActiveHybrid 5 and E 300, as well as those in the Audi A6 range, but none are as closely matched to the Model S 60 on performance.

So the Tesla is keenly priced, emits no greenhouse gasses, will cost peanuts to run and its performance doesn't lag far behind that of the BMW, Lexus or Infiniti.

But if you need to travel more than 390km at a time, you'd better pack an extension cord.


Tesla Model S P85

At the other end of the Model S Spectrum is the P85. "P" for "Performance".

Tesla itself describes the P85 as a rival to the BMW M5, while the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S is another logical competitor.

The P85 can hit 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, thanks to its 310kW/600Nm electric motor. The BMW M5 has 423kW and 680Nm, but is just 0.1 seconds faster to 100km than the Tesla.

Where does that leave the E 63? Well, the big-power Benz crosses the line 0.1 seconds ahead of the M5, but with 430kW and 800Nm surging from its 5.5 litre twin-turbo V8, it's not hard to see why.

In terms of range, BMW claims the M5 can travel for up to 808km (average economy of 9.9 l/100km) while the E63 should go for 940km before refuelling (10.0 l/100km), but achieving either of those figures is next to impossible.

Tesla claims a 502km driving range for the Model S P85, which, in the real world, is about on par with what the big-power Germans can achieve.

With performance and range being roughly equal, it comes down to price.

The M5 and E 63 retail for $229,900 and $251,400 respectively, but the Tesla can be yours for just $134,295 including on-roads (if you live in the ACT. For full drive-away pricing, have a read of this).

(Tesla claims its Australian pricing, which is not too distant from its pre-incentive pricing in the US, is to give us a fair go. The company's luxury rivals have historically attributed their own pricing to taxes, specification differences and the challenges of operating in a smaller market.)

That's a car with M5-equalling performance, for less than a new BMW M3. Advantage: Tesla.


So what do I choose?

A big part of the appeal of an M5 or an E 63 is the noise and theatrics that come with a high-output V8. It's unlikely that everyone with a German uber-sedan to sell up and slap down a deposit on a Model S P85.

Similarly, those shopping for a GS 450h will likely have range on their mind, and won't want the inconvenience of having to plan their journeys around the Model S 60's 390km range.

There's also the question of options. The Tesla doesn't come with luxury staples like sat-nav or parking sensors as standard, whereas such equipment is standard-issue for most of its competitors. Still, when adjusted for spec the Tesla remains very compelling.

For a car as cutting-edge as this, the Tesla Model S is incredibly affordable. It's a taste of the future that can be enjoyed in the present, and its keen pricing model only makes it more enticing.

That said, price sheets and spec tables only tell part of the story. We'll be driving the Model S later this year to find out what other charms it has to offer, so stay tuned.

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