Much is asked of the Tesla’s chassis, and, given the way it thrusts about the place, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder if Tesla has invested in some outlandish way of overcoming drag, gravity and mass.

But sadly, its control of the wheels remains far more conventional than the method used to turn them. The optional ‘Smart’ air springs deployed on our test car are as sophisticated as the P90D gets, giving the car the ability to adjust its ride height on command – or even automatically if you choose – but never quite providing superlative handling or comfort.

Optional air suspension aids the Model S’s commendable harnessing of its 2220kg kerb weight, but ride refinement remains compromised

That it manages to do neither brilliantly is partly because it still strives ambitiously to do both. With Tesla’s line-up being so small, the Model S attempts to fulfil the obligations of both a luxury saloon and a five-door performance car, and because there is so much weight and power to manage, the compromise is a tricky one.

Kudos to Tesla, then, that the P90D continues in the established vein of offering an agreeable, obviously hefty driveability that rarely feels overawed by its huge potency or unreasonably strangled by the effort of harnessing it.

The car is ably assisted in both respects by its near-perfect weight distribution and the advantages of all-wheel drive. Considering its mass, its command of pitch and body roll is also deeply impressive, and much more so than its ability to iron out secondary intrusions.

The air suspension manages the latter satisfactorily but not with the finesse that a similarly priced Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Jaguar XJ might.

The shortfall is as noticeable as the Model S’s key driver involvement deficit, its adaptive-feel steering being better at communicating reassuring sturdiness than contact patch friction.

Ultimately, though, none of this significantly dents the appeal, and not least because the same steering, in Autopilot mode with your hands deposited nearby, will have a fair stab at doing your job for you on the motorway – including changing lanes (via use of the indicator).

It’s easily the finest such system currently available and a clear indication of where its maker’s R&D money gets spent.

The Model S isn’t made for the track. It doesn’t take too many laps for the battery to get too hot (cue a huge-sounding fan), resulting in a temporary dialling back of the power. Nevertheless, while it lasted, the car’s respectable and secure on-road handling transferred to circuit driving respectably.


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Dynamically, the defining feature remains the colossal, ground-hugging weight beneath your feet. But everything around it — the all-wheel drive, the 50/50 weight distribution, the stringent body control — is aimed at keeping the mass in check. This it does admirably.

Its dual motors, and the always-on stability control, are inclined toward safety-first, understeer-based assurance (as they should be), but that doesn’t generally prevent the P90D from carrying big speeds into corners.

Suffice to say, the car was more than two seconds quicker than the rear-drive Model S we tested three years ago. 

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