- Lightning quick
- Cheap to run
- Head-turning looks
- Interior still needs work
- Long time to recoup fuel savings
The Tesla Model S is back and badder than ever. Ben Griffin took the Dual Motor P85D version for a spin ─ and ended up with a case of whiplash.
How do you make the already rapid Tesla Model S even faster? Simple: Add another electric motor. Opt for the top-spec P85D (the Performance+ model is no more) and you get 691hp and all-wheel drive. Just let that sink in for a second.
Suffice to say, this luxury cruiser can embarrass a number of supercars, plus it has up to seven seats, making it one of the fastest, most practical and most economical cars. But is doubling up worth the money?
There is very little difference between the Dual Motor Model S and the now redundant P85+. The design borrows styling cues from a number of executive and luxury saloons, including those from Aston Martin and Maserati. That’s no bad thing; the Model S is a real head turner.
The interior is relatively sparse, which suits the futuristic feel of the car but will leave those used to top-end BMWs and Mercedes cars pining for a little extra luxury. It is, however, extremely comfortable and the 17-inch touchscreen used to control almost all car functions is a nice, unique touch.
This particular version of the car gets a strip of Alcantara on the dashboard, making it less plasticy and more sporty. Comfier, more supportive seats, meanwhile, help remind you and your passengers you’re sitting in something special.
Because of the electric powertrain, the Model S P85D Dual Motor has both front and rear boots so you can fill it with a lot of stuff, even if the extra front motor in the Dual Motor setup eats away about a third of the 150-litre front trunk.
Rear boot space is 744 litres, making it the largest in its class by some margin. With the £2,500 optional rear-facing seats fitted, the Model S becomes a seven-seater and, again, no other car in its class can make that claim.
The extra seats are tiny and only really used by children or tiny adults, but fold them down and rear space grows to 1,645 litres, making it more spacious than just about any other saloon car.
There is no transmission tunnel running down the centre of the cabin, so there’s no central storage box – just an exposed area in which to carry small objects, but everything placed here is prone to sliding about. There are also no door bins and the cup holders are on the small side, so hoarders will need to look elsewhere.
Performance & handling
Although it has nearly 700bhp, the Model S P85D is incredibly easy to drive. It cruises around serenely and most of the time you’ll only need one pedal to drive it, as the aggressive brake regeneration means you only have to lift off the accelerator to lose speed.
If driving the P85+ hard was like initiating the warp drive, the Dual Motor is like being sucked into a black hole. Honestly, it’s the sort of acceleration that squeezes your chest and pushes your nose into your head.
The all-wheel-drive and instant torque of its electric motors means you can go from 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds. Even the world’s most powerful saloon, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, is slower over a quarter-mile.
The feeling through the steering is a bit numb, but it’s a heavy car and so you tend to feel inclined to make up speed through the straights. Push it hard and it behaves sensibly, while the extremely potent brakes bring it to a halt rapidly.
The ride is smooth enough for UK roads yet firm enough to feel sporty, and the complete lack of engine noise makes it an almost unrivalled motorway cruiser – aside from the battery’s quick depletion above legal limits.
Economy & environment
The P85D Dual Motor has an 85kWh battery, which Tesla claims is good for north of 300 miles if you take it steady. We found the original Model S fell short of that, mainly because our total inability to resist driving fast.
In theory, clever optimisations and a powertrain that is only all-wheel drive when it needs to be should ensure the range is similar at sensible speeds, but only time will tell. Our spirited drive saw the range plummet to 70 miles or so using all 691hp every time we left the lights.
With Tesla’s Supercharger fast-charger network growing, it is entirely possible to cross the UK with reasonably little waiting around in between charges. Long distance travel still requires a bit of planning, however, and may potentially lead to the occasional feeling of range anxiety.
The cost of recharging will vary depending on your electricity tariff, but you can expect to top up for around a tenner from a normal socket.
CO2 emissions, meanwhile, are zero. Smoking a cigarette while driving is more polluting. Sure, carbon dioxide is emitted during the car’s manufacturing process, but the Model S certainly doesn’t pollute the air around the roads on which it is driven.
It’s worth noting Tesla’s Powerwall gadget, which lets you store solar energy in a wall-mounted battery at home, can charge your car. This can only give you a maximum of 10kWh of juice (you’ll have to top up the remaining 85kWh from the grid), but every little helps.
Equipment & value
The Tesla Model S P85D starts from £79,900, so it’s not cheap. But all things considered, there’s nothing we can think of that can match this car’s performance, practicality and low running costs.
Given the high price, it is, however, strange you need to pay another £2,100 to enable the Autopilot features, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping with steering assist, self-parking and automatic high/low beam.
At P85D spec you obviously get the largest battery and therefore the largest range, but the £55,000 70D and its 275 mile range will be ample for most. 0-62mph takes 5.2 seconds in that car, so it’s no slouch either.
The Tesla Model S scored the highest safety rating in the US and on this side of the pond it secured a full five-star seal of approval from Euro NCAP.
It helps all Model S cars have been updated to include a number of new safety systems, including lane departure warning. Really, the least safe bit is how fast it can gain speed. Pedestrians will also never hear you coming so take it easy in busy urban areas.
The Tesla Model S was a car that let you have your cake and eat it and the P85D Dual Motor does that and then some. The interior may only be slightly better, but who really cares about having door bins when anything you put in them would disintegrate under the sheer acceleration?
This is an expensive car, but when you can leave a Mercedes AMG behind there’s more than enough justification to chuck your pennies at it. Even more so if you care about the planet.
We’ll reserve final judgment until we give the right-hand drive UK car a full road test, but for now it’s looking like the Model S just got significantly more impressive.
|Model Tested||Tesla Model S P85D|
|Engine||Electric dual motor|
|Power||691hp (221hp front, 470hp rear)|
|Acceleration||0-60mph in 3.1 seconds|
|Range||300 miles (NEDC)|
|Emissions||0g/km of CO2|
|Charge time||Depends on charger|