Although the Model S wasn’t the first car Tesla ever produced, it is the first main car they produced at scale. Their first car, the original Roadster, was only ever made by hand and there are about 1500 of them. In contrast the Model S is still made today and Tesla recently sold their 200,000th one. The first nine units were delivered in Sydney on December 9, 2014.
With its sleek good looks, it’s huge cargo capacity, industry leading entertainment, 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
To start with it needs to be understood 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 quicker. They upgrade motors to make them more efficient and powerful. They upgrade self-driving hardware so enable new abilities. They change options around, making some included in the base price or introducing newer ones. These updates often happens multiple times each year.
As such there aren’t really set versions for the Model S as there’s been so many of these little tweaks over the years. You wouldn’t say it’s gone from the Model S 3rd gen to the Model S 4th gen just because they now sell them with a panoramic roof as standard.
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 current model which is the 2nd 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. Motor Trend tested the Model S P100D variant with a NHRA rolling start to 100 km/h and recorded a score of 2.36 seconds!
This car accelerates faster than a LaFerrari and also can 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 give 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 fantastic cornering abilities for its size and weight. All current new models also feature dual motors as shown in red above giving it all wheel drive for extra quick acceleration and better handling.
Tesla Model S key details
But it’s 0-100 km/h time isn’t the only thing the Model S has going for it. With a range of between 490 to 613 km’s 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 75D||Tesla Model S 100D||Tesla Model S P100D|
|Price||Base Price: $112,050|
On Road (NSW): $129,445
|Base Price: $139,500|
On Road (NSW): $166,910
|Base Price: $196,200|
On Road (NSW): $244,310
|490 km (NEDC Range)||632 km (NEDC Range)||613 km (NEDC Range)|
|0-100 km/h||4.4 Seconds||4.3 Seconds||2.7 Seconds|
|Battery||75 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||100 kWh Lithium Ion Battery||100 kWh Lithium Ion Battery|
|Drivetrain||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.|
|Table last updated March 2018|
You can go and order a Model S through Tesla’s Australian website here. They also have a number of dealerships and show rooms all over Australia where you can stop by and check out the car in person if you want.
The Model S comes in three variants currently, the 75D, 100D and P100D. The “D” stands for Dual Motor or AWD and the number represents the size of the cars battery. 75 for 75 kWh and 100 for 100 kWh. 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.
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 designer can put in 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.
There are 7 current paint choices ranging from the included Solid Black to Metallic ones that add $1,400 and finally Multi-Coat ones that add $2,100 like the very striking red above.
The gorgeous glass roof comes standard but can be upgraded and you have three choices of wheel types from standard 19″ wheels up to 21″ Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine Wheels for an extra $6,200.
On the inside they have 5 difference interior colour combinations as well as a Carbon Fibre trim extra if you want it. One of the more striking interior colours is Tesla’s White Premium faux leather that is apparently even more stain resistant than the other colours. Reports have been positive that even with the everyday grind they still manage to stay white and look fantastic.
There’s also many other additional extras such Enhanced Autopilot ($6,900), Full Self-Driving Capability ($4,100) and the Premium Upgrades Package ($6,900) which includes things like:
- HEPA medical-grade air filtration system
- Custom audio system
- Sub-zero weather package
On top of these extras that you can buy all Model S 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
- Smart air suspension with GPS memory
- Front and rear trunks with 864 L of storage
- Power lift gate
- Key less entry with self-presenting door handles
- Ambient interior lighting
- OTA software updates
- WiFi and Internet connectivity
- Maps and navigation with free updates for 7 years
- 400 kWh of free annual Supercharger credits
- Power folding, auto-dimming and heated side mirrors
- Three position LED turning head lights
- High definition backup camera
- Hands free talking with Bluetooth
- Voice activated controls
- FM and Internet streaming radio
- Twelve way power adjustable, heated front seats with memory and driver profile
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. Starting at $112,050 and not even including any on road costs in that price, it can balloon out to almost double that price when you chose the P100D variant.
Depending on which state you’re in the car will cost a different amount once you drive away. As an example, below are the drive away costs for someone living in NSW and 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
Keep in mind though Tesla are always updating and changing the Model S configuration and pricing. USD/AUD currency fluctuations, changes to the size of the batteries or other updates are frequent and happen many times a year. As such, to get the most accurate pricing for your configuration and your state it’s best to use their online configuration page here.
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 recent as otherwise they will likely be talking about things that have already been fixed, changed or added to the standard package.
For example some go on about how much the glass roof costs as an added extra even though Tesla now includes it as standard. These videos can still be useful to learn general information about the car but some details can be off. Also ensure they are referring to the 2nd Gen model that has the new front fascia.
First off we have a Cars Guide review from 2017. It’s presented by Peter Anderson (who also writes here on Drive Zero) and who has already road tested 2 other older Model S variants, so he knows what he’s talking about and how the car has evolved over the years.
If you’re after a review of the Model S by someone who is far more in love with petrol cars and to see what their opinion is there is this one below from Chris Harris of the UK Top Gear. They pit it in a number of drag races against a Porsche 911 R.
It does seem a bit of an odd competition given the Model S P100D is a 5 seater sedan that clocks in at 2,240 kg while the Porsche is a 2 seater sports car weighting about 1,370 kg! The Model S still roasts it every time except for once after they’re already going at over 200 km/h and the Porsche eventually catches up. They then go onto do a more traditional review looking at other parts of the car.
Finally there’s also this interesting comparison between the Tesla Model S, Mercedes AMG E63 and a HSV GTSR all filmed and tested on Australian roads.
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. While the battery size has changed over the years currently you only have two options. A 75 kWh one or the bigger 100 kWh one.
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 Model S has either a 490 km, 632 km or 613 km NEDC range depending on which model you purchase which 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.
You can get all the information on where they are and how they work here. 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.
As the Model S is their more luxurious model you also get 400 kWh of free annual Supercharger credits. Given Tesla currently charges $0.35 per kWh at its Superchargers that’s $140 of free juice every year. If you drive modestly that will get you around 2,000 km’s before you’ll need to start paying for Supercharger use. If you know of someone who owns a Tesla already you can also get a referral code from them which allows you to get unlimited free Supercharger use with a new Model S purchase.
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.
Their seats have had an overhaul from a few years ago and many report them as being much more comfortable now. They also have cup holders, plenty of centre console space and phone holsters for quick and easy storage of your mobile.
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, interior lighting and WiFi and 4G 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. With the Premium Upgrades Package you get even more unique features such as a HEPA air filtration system which removes at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from cabin air. The Bioweapon defence mode also creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants.
What other features does the Tesla Model S have?
Being a Tesla it of course 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 Model S also includes the option to buy their Enhanced Autopilot upgrade.
The features involved are meant to be similar to an aeroplanes autopilot which is where the name originated from. Enhanced Autopilot or “EA” is a paid for upgrade that costs $6,900 AUD (or $8,300 AUD to upgrade after the car has been delivered).
With this extra upgrade you unlock additional features. These include having your Tesla match speed to the car in front of you. It will keep within a lane (often called Autosteer) and also change from one lane to another without requiring any driver input.
The system can also exit the freeway you’re driving on when you’re approaching your destination. It’ll also self-park itself which many other cars do already. On top of all these features there’s also “Summon”. This allows it to go in/out of a garage or parking spot while you’re not even in the car.
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. Currently Tesla is saying that due to high demand for the vehicle there is a 4-5 month delivery wait time in the US however looking at their Australian online order page it is stating a ~2 month delay for all models.
The Model S can be speced up to be the fastest accelerating production car ever made. It’s also a very comfortable, 5 seater sedan with a super quiet and smooth ride. Its technology is second to none plus it is one of the safest cars in the world.
As an example of this safety one teen took her father’s Model S out for a bit of a joy ride with 4 of her friends in Germany. The joy ride ended with all 5 occupants being launched almost 30 metres into the air and crashing at full speed, decimating the Model S. None of them died and in fact they were all able to exit the vehicle on their own. Their injuries were “serious but non-life threatening”.
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
Beyond safety there is even more aspects of the Model S that we haven’t discussed as there are just too many. The infotainment system could be another 2,000 words of text on its own with its revolutionary size, design and OTA software updates. We also haven’t even really touched on the fact that it has the longest range of any electric car in the world.
Servicing of the Model S is also more and more being done by mobile service repair centres meaning they come to you at work or home. There is even a huge online following that uses Tesla Model S and X cars to go camping with as you can put all the seats down, lay out a bed and sleep inside it. As it has no combustion engine in it the huge battery can keep the cabin nice and warm all night long while you look up through the glass roof at the stars.
The Model S truly is a remarkable car that has changed how many around the world view electric cars for the better. They have torque and immediate response like no combustion-engine based car ever can. They have huge volumes of storage available and have dozens of other benefits like remote monitoring, remote climate control and cheaper fuel costs and maintenance.
The Model S is a combined effort of vision and engineering that should be applauded.