It’s not the first EV on the market, not even the first model from Tesla, but the Model S is arguably one of the most important electric vehicles in automotive history. It is the first EV to receive “Car of the Year” awards from several renowned car magazines, including Motor Trend.
More important than the awards, the Tesla Model S is the first electric vehicle to prove superiority over traditional internal combustion rivals. We’re not only talking here about power, acceleration, and range but also practicality, spaciousness, and drivability. And, of course, the advanced technologies and smart design solutions that are almost synonymous with the name ‘Tesla’ make the Model S a dream to drive.
Concept, Design and Features of the Tesla Model S
It took Tesla several years to develop the Model S, and only officially announced their new luxury EV sedan/liftback codenamed ‘WhiteStar’ in 2008. A prototype was presented a year later, and after a few more pre-production versions, the new electric sedan/liftback was finally launched in 2012. The Australian version arrived over a year later for the 2014 MY.
The Tesla Model S is a large family sedan/liftback, and with nearly 5 metres in overall length, it evidently provides a super comfortable ride. Franz von Holzhausen, a former Mazda designer, penned the exterior’s sleek styling. With that modern, premium look came tons of smart design solutions.
Back in the day, most electric cars didn't have their own platforms. Instead, they were based on internal combustion cars, where the engine was simply swapped with the electric motor. That was not the case with Model S, which was designed as an electric car from the ground up. Such a design approach has brought many benefits, including more efficient usage of interior space.
Speaking of the Tesla Model S interior, you may notice a minimalistic approach, with a clean dashboard design and no physical controls. Pretty much everything is operated via touchscreen. Also, the absence of any engine component under the bonnet allowed an additional cargo area, commonly known as frunk (a ‘front trunk’ if you may), with a respectable volume.
- Wheelbase: 2,960 mm
- Height: 1,445 mm
- Length: 4,970 mm
- Width: 1,984 mm
- Weight: 1,961-2,250 kg
- Rear track: 1,700 mm
- Front track: 1,662 mm
- Ground clearance: 139 mm
The Model S features relatively typical lithium-ion battery packs, which have changed through the years. Initial models featured a battery with a capacity of 60kWh, while the latest versions have batteries with a capacity over 100kWh, offering a significantly longer range.
What’s more interesting about this car is that the battery is placed between the axles under the floor. While this may seem common in today’s automotive industry, that wasn’t the case back in the day. At the time Model S was launched, most manufacturers preferred installing batteries in trunks.
Such a design approach provided significant improvements. As the batteries are heavy, placement under the floor provided a much lower centre of gravity. The centre of gravity is at 460mm and, to give that more context, that is on par with super-agile sports cars, such as Lotus Elise. In other words, this vehicle handles way better than you would probably expect.
Another benefit from such a battery placement is that its cage provides additional rigidity, making the passenger area safer than internal combustion cars.
The Tesla Model S is a comfortable car with engaging handling, thanks mainly to its advanced suspension setup. This model features an air suspension, which is adjustable and self-levelling. Besides numerous advanced components, this suspension also features Bilstein shocks, which are adjustable and can be controlled by the driver.
The ground clearance automatically goes down at highway speeds, and the fun part is that the driver can also raise the vehicle to improve comfort on pavements or even deal with light off-road challenges.
Tesla Model S Versions
This car has been in production for a pretty long time, and just like any other model from this manufacturer, it went through numerous updates. Therefore, it's no wonder that there are several versions on the road, with different layouts, power, battery capacity, and range.
60, Tesla S initial version
The initial version of the car was introduced in 2014, with a 60-kWh battery capacity and a single electric motor that features a max output of 235kW and 441Nm.
- Model years: 2014-2017
60D, Tesla S dual-motor
The dual-electric motor version uses the same 60-kW battery but with the max output increased to 245kW.
- Model years: 2016-2017
P85, Tesla S first performance trim
This is the first version with the ‘Performance’ badge. It features a rear-mounted electric motor with a copper rotor, with a max output of 310kW and 601Nm.
- Model years: 2014-2015
An upgraded version that came as a replacement for 60 and 60D models. It features a 70-kWh battery and an increased max range of 385km. You may count on the same dual-motor setup as in the 60D, with a max output of 245kW.
- Model years: 2015-2016
85D and P85D
These two versions came as a replacement for the P85. The 85D features electric motors on both axles and a slightly increased max output of 315kW. The max range goes over 400km.
The P85D is a more powerful variant of the setup, with a total output of 345kW. This version needs 3.2 seconds to hit 100km/h, while the top speed is 250km/h.
- Model years: 2015-2016
90D and P90D, Tesla S Ludicrous
This version came in 2015, and it was the first Model S offered with the optional Ludicrous mode. Tesla never announced the combined output, but we know that the rear engine is good for 375kW, while the front engine puts out 193kW. As a result, the 0-100km/h time is just 2.8 seconds.
The 90D is an upgraded version of the 85D model, with the same max output but a bigger 90-kWh battery and longer range.
- Model years: 2015-2017
100D and P100D
In 2017, Tesla introduced new versions with bigger batteries and even more power. The standard 100D model features a 100-kWh battery and a dual motor setup with a combined output of 330kW and 1000Nm. It was the first EV that can make more than 500 kilometres on a single charge.
The P100D is, on the other hand, a high-performance version that features a max output of 439kW and 1.248Nm of max torque. Such an impressive output made it one of the fastest production cars in the world, with the 0-100 time in just 2.3 seconds. The official max range is 507km.
- Model years: 2016-2019
Tesla S Long Range, Long Range Plus, and Performance
Starting from the 2020 model year, Tesla has a new naming policy. Instead of naming models after battery capacity and other specs, new models are available in three variants – Long Range, Long Range Plus and Performance.
Tesla doesn’t offer battery capacity numbers anymore but instead advertises the max range of each version. Therefore, the Model S Long Range features a 600-km range, while the Long Rang Plus can make nearly 630 kilometres on a single charge. On the other hand, the Performance model is good for about 560 kilometres without recharging.
Tesla didn’t offer power numbers, but most unofficial DYNO tests show a max output of 400kW for the Long Range and Long Range Plus models, while the Model S Performance puts out 588kW.
- Model years: 2020 (Long Range), 2020-Present (Long Range Plus and Performance)
Tesla Model S Plaid
A new version has just been released, and it comes as the Tesla Model S Plaid. The new model comes with significant improvements in various aspects, including the refreshed interior. However, the most important upgrades are those regarding performance. There are completely new electric motors, with carbon-wrapped rotors and way more power. The max output is rated at 760kW and 1.424Nm of torque.
Motor Trend tested this version and managed to hit 60mph (97km/h) in 2.08 seconds.
Tesla Model S or Model 3: Which One Is Better?
This is a really tough question, considering that we are talking about two completely different classes of vehicles. The Model S is bigger, more advanced and far more luxurious. After all, it is way more expensive. The cheapest Tesla Model S goes around $133.000.
On the other hand, the new Model 3 is available already at around $53.000. That significant price difference comes from the fact that the Model 3 is smaller, less luxurious and significantly less refined. It is a simpler vehicle with a simpler suspension setup and a less luxurious interior. Regardless, its performance is more than satisfying. Handling is pretty agile, while the most capable versions can hit 100km/h in less than 3.5 seconds. Also, most versions can make 500 kilometres without recharging.
So, if you are looking for a great value, the Model 3 would be a very smart choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a prestigious luxury car with world-class acceleration and performance, the Model S is definitely worth it. Both models are great cars, and it all comes to your preferences (and your budget). A good thing to know is that there are currently four Tesla dealerships in Australia.
Buying a used car may also be a smart choice, as the Tesla Model S Australia price of used models starts at around $50.000. If you plan to sell your Model S, you can advertise on our website and find more interested buyers.
By Nebojsa Grmusa