The advantages of the Tesla Model S’s powertrain become as plain when you begin to explore the cabin as they are every time you drive past a fuel station. The extravagant freedom from convention is almost worthy of a concept car.
You’ll find evidence of it the first time you open both bonnet and boot and see the cargo volume that’s split between them: an estate-trumping 1795 litres. Only a pure EV could deliver packaging like it.
But you’ll be even more struck by the enormous touchscreen on the centre of the fascia. Like an extra-large iPad turned portrait, it’s used to control everything from the air conditioning to the selectable ride height of the air suspension.
It also relays information about battery charge, energy consumption, the sat-nav and the audio system and, at a stroke, eliminates the need for individual buttons for the sunroof, demister and charging port door release. In some cases, this convergence adds complication to what ought to be simple processes. But mostly it seems light years ahead of ordinary cockpit functionality.
The sat-nav system is a ‘buy one get one free’ deal. The primary system operates via the instrument binnacle and it’s low on detail but reliable and easy to use. The secondary system can fill the entirety of that 17-inch touchscreen and relies on a decent 4G connection to access Google mapping. This can make programming a bit slow when you’re out in the sticks, but it works brilliantly where there’s good mobile coverage.
As a part of this technological masterpiece, Tesla has endeavoured to incorporate numerous autonomous systems, which it aptly names Autopilot. It allows the luxury electric car to steer within a lane, change lanes, adapt its speed to traffic and scan for and parallel park automatically.
You also get an AM/FM/DAB tuner but no CD player, and you can stream music via Bluetooth or USB. The radio accesses internet radio, and the web browser offers endless amusement value – where the data connection allows. Audio quality is good.
Specify the optional Tech Pack and you get Bluetooth, wi-fi and a permanent 3G data connection, which feeds information into the sat-nav, web browser and audio system. It will even connect to your home wi-fi network when updating its firmware for a faster transfer speed. Bluetooth connection takes less than five seconds.
Overall, the Tesla's interior is comfortable and attractive, with a few caveats. The seats should be more supportive and oddment storage more generous. Headroom is a bit tighter than we’d like, although it is still sufficient for all but the tallest occupants.
Material quality could be better. The veneers and accent trims on the fascia look pleasant from a distance but don’t stand up to close inspection. That could have been because our test car was a prototype, but whatever the cause, it’s a quibble in a roomy, bold, fresh and singularly modern cabin.