2015 Tesla Model S Review

The Citroen Car club had its monthly meeting at the Tesla showroom this month, and Tesla were offering short test drives to club members as part of the meeting.   The Tesla is one of the few modern cars that interest me, so I jumped at the opportunity.   In my view, the Tesla is the first ‘green’ car that is a great car as well as being green.   Nobody bought a Prius because it was a great car, they bought it because it was supposed to be green.   The Tesla is a great car despite it being electric and I think the first electric car that can compete with the internal combustion engine on equal terms.    In Australia, it actually isn’t particularly green because of our dependence on coal, particularly the brown variety and our Prime Minister that eats it for breakfast, but that will change over time, and the Tesla shows a glimpse of the future.

Styling – 8/10

I like it.   I think the low ‘fastback’ sedan works very well, and Tesla have done much better than similar (and more expensive) models such as the Mercedes CLS that looks squashed, or the hideous Porsche Panamera.    They have managed to make what is quite a large car look sleek and stylish.   It also looks better than the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes E-Class which are similar from a price and size point of view.   For such an aerodynamic car it also avoids looking like an egg, which is commendable.

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Interior – 6.5/10

There is a lot to like about the Tesla’s interior.   In particular the large LCD display (like an over-sized iPad) that gives you easy access to all the functions of the vehicle including sat nav, entertainment, options of the car such as steering and suspension settings and so on.   In the rear, there is no central drive shaft tunnel, so the middle passenger does not have to be an amputee.    However, there are a few things that let the car down.   There are a few areas where the fit and finish let it down such as around the rear hatch where the welds are visible, the seats are a little firm, the steering wheel too thick and the visibility (both front and rear) is poor.   The low roof and A-pillars restrict forward visibility and the rear window is tiny.    The poor rear visibility is made up for by an excellent reversing camera.   Given how much cargo space there is, I would have mounted the rear set slightly further back to provide more rear legroom.   I also think it is disappointing that Tesla are not going to comply the jump seats you can get in the USA for Australia.   Overall I was comfortable driving it, but I have driven cars with a better driving position.

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Practicality – 7/10

This is the first practical electric car.   You get a car that has 400-500km of range, and Tesla are installing plenty of fast charging points in the major cities of Australia, plus frequent stopping points between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.   The cargo space is immense and despite the low roofline, you can fit 5 large adults in this car, although I would not want to go on a long trip with 5 people.     There are some great touches like the satellite navigation that is linked to the current range of the car so it can tell you if a journey is too far and redirect you to a charge point, modes where you can schedule the recharge for off peak hours and so on.   Some people will like the electric opening rear tailgate, but I found it slow and would prefer to do it manually.

Performance – 10/10

For a family saloon that weighs in a 2.2 Tonnes, this car is a rocket ship.   The torque off the line is immense and there is no lag at all from when you put your foot down to when the car launches itself forward.

Driving and Handling – 7.5/10

For a big heavy car, the handling is impressive.   You feel the weight of the car, but it is surprising nimble for its size and heft.   The suspension is on the firm side, in keeping with the cars performance, but body roll and squat/dive are minimal and the car feels sure footed at all times.   The brakes were good, but I was expecting  them to be better – the pedal was very sensitive, but they were not sports car like.    The dashboard display was a bit busy, but it is probably possible to change that.   Because of the electric motor, you have unlimited torque and no need for gear changes.   Unlike for example a contemporary Mercedes that is constantly changing into one of its seven gears.

Value for Money – 8/10

I think this car is much better value for money than a 5 series, especially when you add the running costs into the equation.   Tesla also have a buy back scheme, so depreciation should also be better than average too.

Overall – 47/60

This is a great car, and a car I would be happy to drive every day.   It is stylish, practical and offers incredible performance.   They are going to sell a lot of them.

Sidebar:   Tesla also mentioned two new models that are on the way.   A smaller car that aims to compete with the BMW 3 series, which is supposed to be around half the price of the model S, and an SUV that is based on the S underpinnings.  I’m looking forward to seeing the small car, it sounds like it could be great value for the money.   The SUV sounds like a yuppie mobile gone mad.   Lets see, take the Model S, raise it and put big wheels on, so you spoil the aerodynamics and ride, and offer basically the same space.   Then again, the BMW X6 is equally stupid and they seem to sell alright.

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