If a car dealer told you that you could buy one machine which offered large boots front and rear, featured a 17-inch internet-connected touchscreen media system, could accelerate to 60mph as fast as a Porsche, gave you the option of four-wheel drive and was powered solely by electricity –letting you travel up to 300 per charge – you’d think they were mad. However, the Tesla Model S gives you all of this in one sharply-styled package.

We thought that this sounded too good to be true, so we decided to take the Model S on a 1,450-mile road trip across Europe to find out exactly what living with this electric car is like day to day, and to visit Norway, a country where the Model S is the bestselling car. Yes, you may have to typically find around £60,000 for the privilege of owning a mid-spec version like ours, but considering the car’s size, equipment tally and power – and the fact that its closest rivals weigh in at around £52,000 to £62,000 and leave you with fuel and car tax bills – the Model S can’t relaly be considered bad value. Especially as you can charge the car – for free – at one of Tesla’s increasing number of ‘Superchargers’.

Fast acceleration and 300-mile range

We got behind the wheel of the Model S P85 – which can sprint to 60mph in a rapid 4.2 seconds, yet has a claimed range figure of 312 miles – with the plan of driving from Tesla’s showroom in Crawley all the way to Tesla’s flagship Norwegian dealership in Oslo. Pulling away in the Model S the first thing that strikes you is how easy it is to drive. Those who aren’t keen drivers can revel in the fact that you can select forward or reverse like an automatic, without even having to worry about a handbrake, as selecting ‘Park’ activates the brakes automatically. You can even drive the car mostly using one pedal, as lifting off the accelerator activates ‘regenerative braking’ which adds charge back to the battery and causes the car to slow quickly.

Meanwhile, keen drivers should enjoy the instant power from the electric motor and the startling acceleration that it offers. With no internal combustion fireworks going on under the bonnet refinement levels are very high, with just a subdued hum from the motor when you work it hard. On our route we negotiated town centres, rural roads and derestricted German autobahns, managing all of these without fuss, stopping at Superchargers along the way to keep the battery topped up – travelling up to 173 miles between free charges.

Can be fully charged in 75 minutes

Though the real world range on our testing appeared to hover around the 200-mile mark (with the cold temperatures presumably causing the car to be less efficient), this is still comfortably ahead of all other mass market production electric cars, and further than most drivers ever travel in one sitting. Suffice it to say, the Supercharger network saw us safely from Crawley to Oslo, even allowing us to skip the odd charger. Topping the batteries up may add time to longer journeys – a full charge from empty takes 75 minutes – but, even so, the Model S seems like a plausible everyday car, especially for those who can top it up overnight at home.

The Model S’s stats may sound like science fiction, but buyers who can afford the £60,000 price tag will find a machine that drives as well as cars from more established luxury car brands, offers cutting edge technology and very usable real world range . Though BMW has created an appealing electric car in the form of its i3 and Nissan’s Leaf has proven popular with buyers, the Model S is the only electric car that an average driver could use year after year, without regularly worrying about running out of charge, paying a significant premium over petrol and diesel rivals or suffering distinctly underwhelming roadholding and a cheap feeling interior as with the Leaf. The Model S’s specifications may sound too good to be true, but based on our testing you can believe the hype this time.

Picture: Jonathan Fleetwood

Chris Lloyd


February 20, 2015