Vehicle Style: Large prestige electric sedan
Price: $142,591 (depending on region)
Powertrain: 310kW electric motor with 85kWh battery pack
Driving range claimed: 502 kilometres
If Tesla’s all-electric Model S sedan offers a glimpse of the future, then the future is looking bright.
And we’re not the only ones to think so. The Model S has been selling up a storm in the USA, with nearly 30,000 cars sold in that market since it launched in 2012.
European sales take the total figure to just under 40,000 cars. With Tesla now rapidly expanding its sales network into new markets, that number is only going to grow.
One of those markets is Australia. Local pricing for the Model S range has already been announced, and enough people have slapped down deposits to see this year’s allocation entirely sold out.
A sizable number of those buyers have never even seen the car 'in the flesh', let alone driven it. We, however, have.
Though we only had a limited time with the Model S, it was enough of a taste to tide us over until the official media launch later this year.
So what’s it like? In short, it’s like nothing else we’ve ever driven.
We’ve experienced electric cars before - the first car this scribe ever reviewed, in fact, was a crusty all-electric Daihatsu Charade built by the CSIRO - so we’re familiar with the virtues of all-electric propulsion.
Namely, their ability to provide peak torque from zero rpm, near-silent running and the capacity to run on cheap electricity rather than ever-pricier petrol.
But the Model S offers so much more. For one, it’s got an interior that’s not just luxurious, but spacious, comfortable and packed with cutting-edge technology.
For this review, we drove the top-shelf P85 model, which packs an 85kWh battery and a 502km driving range.
Its electric motor churns out a handy 310kW, and Tesla claims a BMW M5-rivalling 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds.
For the full list of features, check out our Model S Price and Features article.
All Model S variants are sumptuously trimmed and comfortable. But the interior holds some surprises: due to the absence of engine, transmission and driveshaft, there’s no centre tunnel.
That means the centre rear-passenger gets a clear floor for their feet, and a seat that’s just as wide as their companions to either side.
Oh, and the centre seat is heated on the P85. A nice touch.
There’s a smattering of Mercedes-Benz switchgear around the steering column and on the window switches (Merc parent Daimler holds a 10 percent stake in Tesla, and an engineering alliance exists between the two companies), but everything else is bespoke.
This isn’t just luxurious for an electric car, it’s luxurious for a prestige car. In terms of quality and visual presentation, it leapfrogs competitors like the BMW 5 Series and feels more like an Aston Martin Rapide.
ON THE ROAD
And to drive? Well, let's just say that electric propulsion is ideal for a luxury car.
It’s blissfully silent, with only the distant rolling rumble of the tyres occasionally intruding into the cabin. There’s a small amount of drivetrain whine, but it’s barely audible.
The Model S has quite aggressive regenerative braking which converts motion back into electrical energy. You will feel it the moment you lift-off before braking. But if you want a more natural free-wheeling feel, it can be dialled back.
In traffic, the regen-braking means you only need dab the brakes when coming to a complete halt.
After a short stint through traffic, we found the freeway where we could explore its dynamics a little more comprehensively.
The Model S P85 we drove is capable of sprinting to 100km/h in just 4.4 seconds, but its rolling acceleration is equally as impressive.
Firewall the accelerator while cruising at 60km/h, and you’ll arrive at triple-digit speeds in the blink of an eye. Acceleration is perfectly linear, incredibly abundant, and seemingly ceaseless.
One more on-ramp, another burst to 100km/h and we were on our way back. The drive was brief, but the impression was powerful - the Model S is a bona-fide luxury sedan capable of shaming a great many sports cars.
The fact that it doesn’t consume a single drop of petrol adds to an already considerable list of 'pros'.
The price? Starting at $97,245 for the entry-level Model S 60 (if bought in the ACT) and peaking at $142,591 for the P85 we drove (if bought in WA), the Model S variants are no more expensive than the equivalent BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
In the case of the P85, it looks something of a bargain when compared to the likes of the M5 and E 63 AMG. Littles surprise then that around 90 percent of orders in Australia are for the Model S 85 and Model S P85.
Our first taste of the Tesla Model S was short, but sweet.
Rest assured, we’ll have a more comprehensive report on this game-changing car in the near future.
NOTE: Australian photos to come.