Although the Model S wasn’t the first car Tesla ever produced, it is the first main car they produced at scale. Tesla recently sold their 200,000th Model S, with the first nine units in Australia delivered in Sydney on December 9, 2014.
Visually, there have been two distinct variants of the Model S – the first generation, pre-facelift model (which this guide covers) and the facelift version that’s currently on sale, covered off in our guide to the facelift Model S here.
With its sleek good looks, its huge cargo capacity, industry leading technology, range and autonomous driving capabilities the Model S is a fantastic car. It’s also undergone dozens of minor and major tweaks and upgrades over the years resulting in it now being able to do a 0-100 km/h sprint in a ludicrous 2.7 seconds.
Drive Zero Car Guides are written for people trying to get a feel of the electric car landscape in Australia. We only wrote guides for battery (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electric vehicles that are confirmed to be on sale in the market in Australia now, or are coming soon.
Our goal is to summarise as much as you might want to know about the different considerations for each of these electric cars and who they may be useful for. That said, we’re not qualified car reviewers, so full reviews of these models, we’ve included the best links and video for reviews that we could find.
The different versions of the Model S
Prospective buyers need to understand that Tesla is always updating their cars. While it’s often done instantly via their OTA software updates, they also do a number of hardware updates too.
Unlike traditional, older car companies that have “refreshes” every 3-5 years or so, Tesla iterates much more quickly. They upgrade motors to make them more efficient and powerful. They upgrade self-driving hardware to enable new abilities. They change options around, making some included in the base price or introducing newer ones. These updates often happen multiple times each year.
As such, there aren’t really distinct versions of the Model S as there’s been so many of these little tweaks over the years.
However there was one point where they performed a number of these updates all at a similar time. In April 2016 they refreshed the front fascia section (taking away the black plastic grill), they added adaptive LED headlights, a HEPA cabin air filtration system and many other tweaks. As this was a much more significant change it’s generally accepted that there are two versions of the Model S.
The 1st gen is the original Model S that can easily be identified by the big black front bumper section. The 2nd gen is more refined and has a uniform colour front section. You can see the two side by side below. So for this car guide we will be covering the older model which is the 1st Generation Tesla Model S.
What makes the Tesla Model S so special?
To begin with the Model S is an amazing all round car. It can seat 5 adults and two children, it has class leading storage space, it was one of the first all electric cars and still has the longest range of any electric cars out there.
On top of being one of the best family sedan cars out there it’s also the fastest accelerating production vehicle period. Not many cars are both quick and practical to own but the Model S excels at both. The Model S P90D variant is able to accelerate to 100 km/h in just 3.0 seconds.
This car accelerates faster than a 6.3L, V12 2013 LaFerrari and can also carry 5 adults and tons of luggage! It is also built using what is now a very common “skateboard” design where the batteries sit down the bottom middle and the motors are set in between the wheels. This gives the Model S a very low centre of gravity, significantly more stiffness and a much more even weight distribution than traditional petrol cars.
As a result the Model S has great cornering abilities for its size and weight. While not all 1st Gen Model S cars featured dual motors as shown in red above, there are a number of variants you can buy that do have it for extra quick acceleration and better handling.
Tesla Model S key details
The 0-100 km/h time isn’t the only thing the Model S has going for it. Depending on which variant you purchase, it can have a range of between 340 to 528 km’s. This means it has the range to cater for us Australians that have to drive hundreds of kilometres just to get to the other side of the same city.
|Tesla Model S||60/60D||70/70D||75/75D||85/85D/P85/P85+|
|Table last updated May 2018|
|Price||No longer sold as new|
|60 = 375 km|
60D = 351 km
|70 = 420 km|
70D = 442 km
|75 = 401 km|
75D = 490 km
|85 = 502 km|
85D = 528 km
P85 = 502 km
P85+ = 426 km
P85D = 480 km
P85DL = 480 km
|90D = 528 km
P90D = 509 km
P90DL = 509 km
|0-100 km/h||60 = 5.7 Sec|
60D = 5.4 Sec
|70 = 5.8 Sec|
70D = 5.4 Sec
|75 = 4.5 Sec|
75D = 4.4 Sec
|85 = 5.4 Sec|
85D = 4.0 Sec
P85 = 4.4 Sec
P85+ = 4.4 Sec
P85D = 3.3 Sec
P85DL = 3.0 Sec
|90D = 4.0 Sec
P90D = 3.3 Sec
P90DL = 3.0 Sec
|Battery||60 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||70 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||75 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||85 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||90 kWh Lithium Ion Battery|
|Drivetrain||60 = Front Wheel Drive, Single Motor|
60D = All Wheel Drive, Dual Motors
|70 = Front Wheel Drive, Single Motor|
70D = All Wheel Drive, Dual Motors
|75 = Front Wheel Drive, Single Motor|
75D = All Wheel Drive, Dual Motors
|85/P85/P85+ = Front Wheel Drive, Single Motor|
85D/P85D/P85DL = All Wheel Drive, Dual Motors
|All Wheel Drive, Dual Motors|
|Seats||4-door fastback sedan, seats 5 passengers|
|Vehicle & Battery Warranty||The Battery and Drive Unit for a period of 8 years (infinite kilometre). Limited vehicle warranty of 4 year, 80,000 km.|
You order a new Model S through Tesla’s Australian website here however the 1st Gen models of course aren’t sold now. Tesla do offer a number of 1st Gen models through their verified Used Inventory program here but you can of course also just buy them like any other used car.
They also have a number of dealerships and showrooms all over Australia where you can stop by and check out the car in person if you want, however these will likely be the facelifted models, not the original design.
The Model S 1st gen has come in many different variants over the years. From 60 to P85+ or 85D there are a lot to choose from. The “D” stands for Dual Motor or AWD and the number represents the size of the cars battery. 75 for 75 kWh and 90 for 90 kWh. You can currently buy a Model S in only three key configurations – the 75D, 100D and P100D.
The “P” in the top tier model stands for Performance and also includes many other upgrades to the car like bigger wiring and fuses to accommodate the increase in power draw of the larger motor. The “+” stands for Performance Plus and existed up until around November 2014, when Tesla switched over to the PXXD models.
If you’re curious about the difference between the P85 and the P85+, it is more to do with handling and a more sporty driving experience as they both have the same power, acceleration and range.
One thing most don’t understand with electric cars is that as the battery size increases the range isn’t the only benefit. The bigger the battery the more maximum power output they can give meaning the car can handle a more powerful motor, and the faster they can charge their battery to hold more range too – the last part of battery charging always takes the longest as the charge rate slows the fuller the battery gets.
While the new, 2nd Gen Model S currently comes in 7 paint choices, the 1st Gen one has a few different options depending on what you can find. Most of the original Model S are either Black, White or Blue but you might also find colours such as Red Multi-Coat, Pearl White Multi-Coat, Midnight Silver or Silver Metallic and even Obsidian Black Metallic instead of the base Black colour.
Black is by far the most popular however this isn’t too bad an option as it enables the front black plastic “grill” to blend in very nicely with the car colour. If you purchase a red or blue model, while not looking bad, it can create a bit of a colour clash.
Moving onto the wheel options, most seem to have the 19″ alloy wheels however there are a few out there that go right up to the huge, very awesome 21″ options.
Before adding the all-glass roof option that the current 2nd Gen Model S also offers, there were also a few different roof options which included: body coloured roof, a black painted roof, or the panoramic sunroof.
On the inside there are once again many different colour combinations that you might come across for sale, from a grey/black colour, to all black leather and even occasionally tan options as you can see above.
There’s also many other additional extras such as Autopilot and:
- Tech Package
- All Glass Panoramic Roof
- Subzero Weather Package
- Premium Interior Package / Premium Package
The Premium Package included fit and finish refinements such as leather seating, LED ambient interior lighting, Power Liftgate, Lighted Door Handles and LED Cornering Lights. The Tech Package included Autopilot features such as the many sensors that are required to do traffic aware cruise control or self parking tasks. These various features where often separate and then got bundled into big package upgrades over time.
In June 2015, new 4G LTE data connectivity hardware began being installed so if you’re looking to purchase a car near this production date do be aware the older models only had 3G connectivity.
On top of all these extras Model S 1st Gen cars come with the following laundry list of included features as standard:
- 5 Star ANCAP Safety Rating (Overall Score of 35.45/37 for the 2015 model)
- Six airbags
- Electronic stability and traction control
- Collision avoidance and AEB
- 17″ touchscreen control system
- Front and rear trunks with 864 L of storage
- Key less entry with self-presenting door handles
- OTA software updates
- WiFi and Internet connectivity
- Maps and navigation with free updates
- Hands free talking with Bluetooth
- Voice activated controls
- FM and Internet streaming radio
Tesla Model S Pricing
As mentioned above the Model S isn’t a cheap car. However it’s not meant to be, given that it’s aimed squarely at the luxury sedan car market. However buying second hand is always a great way to save a tonne of money with cars and it’s no different for Tesla’s.
As an example, as of writing this you could buy a 2015 P85D directly from Tesla’s Used Inventory program for $134,473 drive away (in NSW). While that’s obviously not a small amount of money that car likely originally cost in excess of $200,000 as it’s the Dual Motor Performance version that can do 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds!
Depending on which state you’re in a brand new 2nd Gen Model S will cost a different amount once you drive away. As an example so that you can compare the price to any second hand 1st Gen cars you find, below are the drive away costs for a brand new 2nd Gen Model S bought by someone living in NSW. These are figures before you start adding fancy paint colours, interior packages or the Enhanced Autopilot.
- Tesla Model S 75D = $129,445
- Tesla Model S 100D = $166,910
- Tesla Model S P100D = $244,310
While the Model S is obviously an expensive car, it compares quite well when compared to its competitors. Cars like the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A5 or other Mercedes-Benz E-Class variants can all be in this price range.
However they often offer slower acceleration times, higher maintenance and fuel costs, far older technology, navigation and in car entertainment systems not to mention none of the benefits of all electric power trains. No 100% torque at any speed, no regenerative breaking, no remote climate controls, car monitoring and other such features.
What’s the Tesla Model S like to drive?
As the Tesla Model S has been around for a number of years there are a number of different versions. As such when looking for reviews be sure to find ones that are done for the 1st Gen model. This is quite easy as you just need to make sure they are driving one of the older models with the black plastic “grill”.
First we have a Car Throttle review from 2015 where they go through a P85 model as well as many of the other special car settings. They even get the Model S to kick up a decent amount of smoke which doesn’t usually happen now that most of the variants are AWD models.
Next up we have a more Australian viewpoint from Drive.com.au. It’s a bit older being shot in 2014 but gives a good overview of what those older 1st Gen models were actually like. Do keep in mind though that there have been a number of software updates over the years so the infotainment systems will be quite different.
Hopping on board with EverydayDriver they cover one of the best points of any Tesla, the amazing acceleration. They also give you a taste of just how huge and roomy the Model S cars are with a demonstration of a family of 7 people fitting in the car.
Finally there’s also this interesting piece by car advice where they take a Model S P85+ on a 1,850 km road trip through America to see how it handles long distance trips.
Tesla Model S – Battery, Charging and Power
As a pure electric vehicle it’s important that potential owners understand the options for charging the Tesla Model S. The battery sizes have changed over the years and so you could be purchasing anything from a 60 -90 kWh battery.
For most of the time, drivers of EV’s charge exclusively at home overnight. Just like you would charge you phone, you come home, plug the car in and go inside. The next morning it has a full “tank” and you can drive where ever you want.
The range obviously varies with the size of the battery going from 351km all the way up to 509 km of NEDC range. This is certainly a huge range however always keep in mind that this is the range you get every morning. Each morning you wake up the car is fully charged so you almost never need to use charging station.
If you do end up driving for more than the total range in one single day – for example if you’re driving interstate – then Tesla also has you covered with their excellent Super Charger network. These are super fast charging stations that are dotted along main highways in between states and in major cities.
Currently you can charge to around 80% of a Model S in just 30 minutes. This is usually a good time for people to have something to eat, go to the toilet or stretch their legs as you would have been driving for a good 3-4 hours at that point.
One big advantage the 1st Gen Model S cars have over the current, newer 2nd Gen models is that it’s quite likely to come with free, unlimited Supercharger access. Unless you use a special referral code, the new 2nd Gen models only get 400 kWh of free annual Supercharger credits.
If you drive modestly that will get you around 2,000 km’s before you’ll need to start paying for Supercharger use. So even though they’re older cars, you could be better off in some cases.
Tesla also have their lesser known Destinations Charger Network which is made up of hundreds of already installed charging points all around Australia. These are at locations that are considered “destinations” such hotels or shopping centres. Charging at any Destination Charger is currently free.
What does the interior of the Tesla Model S look like?
The star of the show when it comes to the Model S interior is the in built 12.3-inch (31 cm) main dashboard display as well as the central 17-inch (43 cm) touchscreen control panel.
It’s with this central 17″ touchscreen that you do virtually everything in the Model S. From opening the sunroof to changing the AC Tesla have had their software built and refined over almost a decade now and it’s considered one of – if not the – most advanced infotainment system out there.
Beyond the main touch screen there isn’t much else up front. The entire design is an exercise in minimalism giving the whole car a very futuristic and even as some describe, spaceship like feel.
With the touchscreen you can access FM and online radio, USB audio devices, car settings, high def backup cameras, phone contacts and calendar details, a huge, full screen Google Maps interface, locations of charging stations and more.
The seats have two different versions, as they had an overhaul a few years ago and many report them as being much more comfortable now. The old seats were quite basic and many reviewers and owners reported that they didn’t give much support, didn’t look very nice – especially for such an expensive car – and also didn’t keep you in your seat while turning corners.
As a result Tesla went back to the drawing board and redid them releasing the newer looking ones that you can see below. They’re also referred to by many as the “Next Gen” seats so do be sure to find out which ones you’re getting if you decide to purchase a 1st Gen Model S.
One of the other main advantages of the Model S being electric is that the interior is extremely quiet. There are no olden day engines making a racket by exploding dead dinosaurs in the front or back so all you’re left with is some minor road noise.
There are many different cabin colours to choose from, a full sized glass tinted roof, hands free talking with Bluetooth, WiFi and Internet access built in as standard. In the back there is plenty of room for 3 adults as the floor is completely flat due to it having no transmission in the way.
While no longer available on the 2nd Gen model many 1st Gen’s have the Tech Package which adds things like Autopilot, self-parking, LED fog lights, automatic high beams, lighted door handles, power liftgate and traffic-aware cruise control.
What other features does the Tesla Model S have?
Being a Tesla, it has a rear and front trunk with loads of space. It also has a very unique key fob that looks like a miniature Model S. Besides being very cute it’s also practical too as to open the boot or front trunk you simple push that area of the mini car. As well as all the features we’ve covered already the 1st Gen Model S also includes the option to buy their Autopilot upgrade.
I would highly recommend reading the Drive Zero Tesla Autopilot Guide as it goes into significant detail with precise dates on when each Autopilot version came on board. This is important as if you’re buying a 1st Gen Model S that was delivered in, say, June 2014 it won’t actually have any Autopilot abilities.
As a rough guide though below are the dates of when each version was released.
- AP0: June 2014 to October 2014 – No AutoPilot
- AP1: October 2014 to October 2016 – MobileEye EyeQ3
- AP2: October 2016 to August 2017 – nVidia Pascal GPU + Full Self Driving
- AP2.5: August 2017 to Present – Slight upgrade
Depending on the cars production date you will get access to a different version with different abilities. The AP1 version for the most part no longer receives updates so be aware of this before you buy.
Summing Up – The Model S is a sedan like no other
The Tesla Model S isn’t cheap, but over 210,000+ have been sold globally since 2012, so it’s clear it’s a popular choice. When ordering a brand new, 2nd Gen version it not only costs you significantly more than buying second hand but also can take a number of weeks to be produced and delivered.
With 1st Gen Model S cars on sale from $90,000 to $200,000 there is certainly a wide range of options out there. It’s a very comfortable, 5 seater sedan with a super quiet and smooth ride. Its technology is second to none even in the older models plus it is one of the safest cars in the world.
While testing the Model S against safety standards in the US it literally broke the testing machine designed to crush it.
During a previous roof crush test used during validation, the machine failed while applying more than 4 G’s of pressure — the same as stacking four of the electric sedans on top of the car without the roof breaking – Tesla
The original Model S truly is a remarkable car that has changed how many around the world view electric cars for the better.