The Model S’s key advantages, Tesla says, derive from the fact that it uses electric motors rather than an internal combustion engine. The body structure is mostly aluminium, with boron steel tubes reinforcing the pillars and crash structures.
Up front, where you might otherwise find that piston engine, there’s a small electric motor and gearbox, some steel cross-members and an abundance of deformation space to protect occupants in the event of a frontal collision.
A significant proportion of the torsional rigidity comes from the liquid-cooled lithium ion battery pack, which is mounted under the floor and made up of nearly 7000 laptop batteries.
Sharing technology with the electronics industry means that Teslas benefit from the same scale and pace of development that, say, laptops enjoy.
An example of that bore fruit when Tesla introduced a part-silicon anode to the cells last year, creating an extra 5kWh of capacity for the range-topping cars.
The battery shares its cooling circuit with the main electric motor, gearbox and power inverter. That drive motor, rated at 496bhp in the P90D’s case, is slung between the rear wheels.
With the front motor rated at 255bhp, you might imagine a peak output of up to 750bhp, but the power inverter’s peak flow of 1500A is enough for ‘only’ 525bhp and 713lb ft – the kind of reserves for which many luxury saloon makers rely on V8 and V12 petrol engines.
Batteries aren’t light, of course, and neither is the Model S. We measured this one at 2220kg, which is about 20% heavier than a like-for-like mid-size executive saloon. The major masses are located low in the structure, at least, preventing that weight from manifesting in certain elements of the handling.
Suspension is all-independent, via front double wishbones and rear multi-links. Coil springs are standard; height-adjustable air suspension is an option even on range-topping cars.