In Depth

Tesla Model S: The Week reviews the electric saloon

The supercar-rivalling saloon is a thrilling – if expensive – take on the future of electric motoring with lashings of green credentials

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Tesla's Model S electric saloon has established a large and varied fan base since entering the market four years ago.

It has gained the respect of car enthusiasts around the world thanks to its supercar-rivalling acceleration figures, with its electric motors producing instant-torque that would embarrass almost all fossil fuel-powered cars in a race from zero to 60mph.

And with its battery-electric powertrain producing zero toxic emissions, the Model S is also a hit with environmentalists.

However, there are some who think the electric car concept isn't ready for the mass market. The Model S comes with a hefty price tag, while the developing charger infrastructure could be a deal-breaker for potential buyers.

To investigate whether it is a true contender for the high-end petrol or diesel-powered luxury cars on the market, we went behind the wheel of the electric saloon to see how it performed on the road.

To investigate whether the Model S is a true contender for high-end combustion-engined cars, The Week got behind the wheel of one to put it through its paces on the road. 

We opted for the P100D model, which sits at the top of the range at £131,000 and is widely known for its radical zero to 60mph time of less than 2.5secs, although we're not here to test that. 

The first thing you notice when you get inside a Model S is that there's no need for a physical key. It is locked, opened and switched on using a smartphone app. However, Tesla does provide you with a key that is shaped like the car itself. 

The Model S has a smart and minimalistic cabin, but the plastics and trim elements aren't quite up to the standard that the car's price tag would suggest.

This means it feels like any other £40,000 saloon to the touch – you'll find something far more appealing and luxurious from Mercedes or BMW.

That's not to say the Model S isn't stylish. The 17.3ins touchscreen display in the centre console makes it feel incredibly futuristic, removing the need for the endless buttons that appear on conventional cars. 

But the buttons that are present, such as the navigation controls on the steering wheel, have been taken from decade-old Mercedes vehicles – something you neither expect nor want from a £130,000 car. 

On the road, the car handles well and cruises along the motorway as well as any other family saloon. Some reviewers have said the car's ride quality is too stiff and that buyers may find it uncomfortable on harsh road surfaces.

While the suspension does feel firm, it's not uncomfortable. In fact, it provides great feedback of the road surface to the driver. This is helped by the brilliant steering, which feels as though it's directly attached to the front axle even though there's no physical connection – it's electric.

The same can be said for the pedals. Both the accelerator and brake are electronically attached to their respected system, but they give the same level of feedback you would expect in a regular car. 

The only aspect of the Model S that may take some getting used to is the optional regenerative braking system. 

When active, the car will gradually apply the brakes once you take your foot off the accelerator, which recharges the battery by harvesting the braking energy. While it sounds as though this would make for an uncomfortable driving experience, in reality, it's an incredibly smooth process that takes a matter of minutes to acclimatise to. The system can be turned down if you're not a fan of its effects.

There's no doubt that the Model S is a car you can live with every day. All versions offer battery ranges that rival most fuel tanks in conventional cars and Tesla will even take into consideration the best locations to stop and charge your car on long journeys.

The only apparent drawback is the Model S's lacklustre interior, which isn't up to the standard of other cars priced between £60,000 and £130,000. 

But that's only a small pitfall in what is otherwise a brilliant – albeit pricey – family saloon. It's not just good compared to other electric vehicles, it's a great car altogether. 

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