UK-market version of Tesla’s electric saloon remains brilliantly executed in all but a few ways

What is it?

The ground-breaking, game-changing, preconception-smashing Tesla Model S, finally available in right-hand-drive form to UK buyers. It’s been a long time coming. Autocar regulars will know how highly we rate it, having taken in our full road test – and our video review – last year. Both are laced with superlatives – which are richly deserved by what is probably still the most convincing electric production car the world has ever seen.

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Apart from the steering wheel being on the normal side, there are a few other detail changes to report on, implemented since our road test last year. Nothing too significant – and unfortunately, nothing that addresses the few reservations we had about this car back then, either. But importantly, also nothing that ultimately takes the shine off what remains an absolutely outstanding execution – and one of the most appealing premium cars available at any price.

What's it like?

Mostly, the same as it was. Stripped back to its essentials, the Model S is a mid-sized executive saloon with a hatchback boot – into which Tesla will fit two extra rearward-facing ‘jump’ seats on request. The fact that it also has a large carpet-lined boot under the bonnet makes the car remarkably practical – discovery of which would also surely make even the most disinterested passenger begin to suspect that this isn’t the typical luxury conveyance.

The car has a gigantic lithium-ion battery pack under the floor, and a three-phase electric motor packaged between the rear wheels. As standard – and for a smidgeon over £50k – you get 302bhp and 60kWh of battery capacity, the latter probably being enough for a real-world range of about 180 miles. Go for the ‘Performance’ version and those numbers rise to £69k, 416bhp, 85kWh, and about 220 miles. For another £14k, Tesla will provide the ‘Performance Plus’ version with its sport-tuned, height-adjustable air suspension, performance wheels and tyres and various other go-faster touches  – in which spec we road-tested the car last year, and were provided with a car again for this subsequent test.

Such a big battery means, as well as taking longer than the average EV to discharge, the Model S takes its time to charge. Tesla’s UK-market offering includes a seven-pin ‘Mennekes’ style cable that’ll plug into the kind of wallbox that the likes of British Gas or Chargemaster will fit at your home, but not your regular three-pin indoor socket. In our experience, a full charge from the former takes anything up to 14 hours. 

The first of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ three-phase rapid chargers for the United Kingdom are now in the planning phase, however. Capable of a full charge on an 85kWh car in less than an hour, they will be built in just-off-motorway locations on arterial routes out of London towards Bristol, Birmingham and Dover. 

Back to the car. As explained, Tesla’s changes to the Model S comprise mostly of software updates for the many and various primary and secondary systems, and detail changes to the interior. 

That interior looks a bit smarter and more contemporary, with a new instrument binnacle surround, new fascia trims, and neater stitching on the leathers covering the seats and panels. The cabin’s a comfy and agreeable place to be, and its crowning glory remains that huge central touchscreen through which you control pretty well everything besides going, stopping, steering and indicating. The Google Maps sat-nav system on it remains frustratingly slow to refresh – because it’s downloading mapping all the time via a 3G data modem.

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Tesla’s added a voice control solution called Rdio, which is supposed to allow you to control the nav and audio systems with simple spoken commands. We couldn’t make it work at all. 

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Meantime, there remain one or two slightly frustrating shortcomings on the inside of this car that you don’t expect to put up with. Oddment storage is thin on the ground (still no door-pockets, Tesla – really?). And fit and finish is pretty slapdash, too; the top of the dashboard flexes like it’s slowly becoming unstuck. However, the right-hand-drive execution of the car is good; the pedals and wheel are where they should be, and the central touchscreen has been reconfigured for RHD convenience. 

One of the software updates for the Model S, Tesla says, was to ‘refine’ throttle response. Never felt like it needed much refining to us. But if it was immediate before, it’s now unbelievably sharp. Whether you’re at a standstill or coasting along at urban speeds, the Model S surges forward with absolutely instant muscular potency – often before you’ve even realised yourself that your right foot is already moving. And still, there’s almost no noise accompanying that incredible, burly response – which makes it all the more brain-scrambling.

The ‘Performance Plus’ version of the car tries to match that other-worldly powertrain to a properly sporting chassis, but it only succeeds in part. The air suspension is a touch hyperactive over a choppy surface, and feels skittish at times and short on wheel control. The electromechanical power steering, meanwhile, remains inconsistent; overly heavy at the extremities of lock, short on centre feel, and generally big on friction and short on feedback. Both work okay, but neither’s what the car deserves. 

And both foibles could be addressed as part of a decent mid-life facelift on the car; perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect Tesla to have sorted them in an early model-year update. But the fact remains that they’re present, and they make the car feel a little unfinished. 

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Should I buy one?

Don’t hold back on account of a couple of minor quibbles. The Model S offers an unusual mix of performance, luxury and ultra-convenience, low-cost motoring that absolutely nothing else on the market can get close to. Assuming its operational range is sufficient, the car will feel like a liberation from the normal bugbears of day-to-day life on the road: buying fuel, and putting up with a noisy, thirsty and relatively truculent combustion engine in heavy traffic. The Model S zips through traffic absurdly easily.

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We’d recommend either steering clear of the ‘Performance Plus’ chassis modifications, or waiting for later in the car’s life to buy the sporting version, though. Truth be told, we suspect this car will always make a more convincing alternative to a BMW 760i than an BMW M5. Either way, if you want the definitive performance version of this definitive electric car, it isn’t ready yet.

Tesla Model S P85+

Price £83,480 0-62mph 4.2sec Top speed 130mph Economy 283Wh/mile CO2 na Kerbweight 2108kg Engine 3-phase AC induction motor Power 416bhp at 5000-6700rpm Torque 443lb ft at 0-5100rpm Gearbox Single speed reduction gearing

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Keef Wivanef 16 June 2014

Well if you are silly enough to buy a Terdsla...

Then you probably won't mind buying new tyres every week.

Topic: Negative Camber - Cover destroyed! (Read 2416 times)
Hero Member

Posts: 620
Negative Camber - Cover destroyed!
« on: Thursday 24 April 2014, 9:49 o'clock »
The shift from winter to summer tires yesterday at the hotel and see that the tire is almost completely worn through on the inside of the tires (rear wheels). The tires (Nokian R2 20 '255/35) was worn, but never imagined they would be so wrong It was lucky that we got safely home from Bergen to Grenland weekend. Dry not to think about what could have happened if the tire exploded 100 km / h on motroveien Tire dealer who changed the tires felt that this clearly dealership to cover when the reels have a powerful negative camber rear. I have noticed that car seemed slightly higher than advancing behind, and yesterday I measured about 1.8 cm difference in the space from the screen to the wheels (2 cm behind and 3.8 cm advancement), and the angle of the rear tires is significantly larger than promote. Could it be defective or improper calibration of air springs behind? Also feel that the car is oversteering very much. Have passed the 18.000 km on the counter and not notice much of this earlier, but with summer tires so this feels unpleasant. I do not want to drive so much with the car until repaired, in danger of summer tires and wear the same manner. Anybody have comments on what could be wrong? What should I do? Should Tesla cover the cost of new tires because tires are unevenly worn due to negative camber? ???

Keef Wivanef 15 June 2014

Best car ever in the history of the planet........ ?

Junior Member

Join Date
Nov 2012
Bay Area, CA

Main Battery and 12V battery failure in the middle of the intersection.
So I was driving my model S home on Friday evening with plenty of range left. I get to the intersection and right before I get there I hear a lound thump from the rear end and the service lights come on.
12V battery failure and call tesla service.
The car stopped right in the middle of the intersection. Luckily it was only 3 way stop and light traffic. I would hate to have had this happen on the freeway. The car had to be loaded on a flatbed and taken to the service center in fremont. Saturday Morning arrives and I get a call saying that the main battery had failed and needs to be replaced with a refurbished pack and i'm driving a loaner this week.

Anyone else experience major failures like this? Kind of scary for the car to stop mid driving.

Signature P85 with ~21k miles

AndM 15 June 2014

Keef- publicist for Dinosaur inc- shall I tell you about my BMW?

How it blew its swirl flap into the cylinder and how the dealer misdiagnosed and thus wasted 3K of my money caused by BMW skimping on a 5 cent part and BMW DID NOTHING EXCEPT TELL ME TO GET F"&)@!. So after 35,000 cars, there maybe a few Tesla's with a problem. GM, Toyota, et al, would be pleased to have a reliability record like that. Dah.
And about tyres, if one has so much power and torque at the wheels as the Tesla P85 does and 2100 kilos to corner and stop, then yes it will use tyres, especially sticky sports tyres. What part of your brain finds that hard to work through? All of it by the sounds of things. so thanks for your contribution. It only points out you are a morn. Now piss off.
Keef Wivanef 16 June 2014

Revenge of the Eloonites

Eloon is mixing up the Kool-Aid!

"Re: Bad brakes
« Reply # 23 on: Sunday 23 March 2014, at 20:50 »
Quote Nuvolari:
"Do exactly the same. brakes feel bad and I have to press hard for effect. Additionally victory brake pedal if I keep pressure on the pedal" I have exactly the same on mine, but do not think the brakes are bad even though they are different and require more power one my old Mercedes, but when they are wet, I notice a big difference. However, I am concerned by the phenomenon Nuvolari writing about. On a normal car, this is a common test to check if the brakes are in order and take pressure test on the brake lines. This is the one common test is taken at workshops and vehicle inspection and its own purposes. The pedal should not fail and sink inward when you press hard on it. It is normal driving ban on a car, if it happens. It does this on my car and it only takes about 4 seconds before it reaches the bottom. Just try them all. I have demonstrated this for Tesla on Skoyen and they were surprised. They tested this on several cars they had built with the same results and could not say anything except that it was as it should be. Seems a little strange, for about four years MOT wild do not find it, if not there would be some special specifications Tesla then. Have been "out" for the pedal a couple of times when standing and waiting at a red light in the downhill. Recommend everyone to test this on the Tesla's. Go out, "start" the vehicle and depress the brake pedal firmly. Find out what's happening. " 

Did your BMW have a braking system in which the pedal goes down to the floor?
Did BMW tell you that was perfectly normal and that you don't need to worry about it.
Does the warranty on a BMW exclude cover for body corrosion.

Oh sorry..... what am I saying?
The Terdsla is PERFECT in every way and Eloon is the reincarnation of Mother Theresa.
As for myself, I am just a stupid Luddite in the pay of Big Oil and all the car makers.
(I am also a little teapot)
Thank you for your attention today.
Now go and perform an unnatural act upon yourself.

Keef Wivanef 15 June 2014

Oh what fun it is to drive a Terdsla!

05-11-2014, 02:16 PM #16
Raven5000 Raven5000 is offline

Join Date
Aug 2012
San Francisco, California, United States
Had my Model S for about 9 month (6,000 miles). Took it in for check up because of wheel vibration during braking. I was told by the technician that I may have up to 4 warped brake rotor. Because I have after market wheels, brake warranty is automatically voided. I was told it maybe caused by wheel nut under-torquing.

I always thought brake rotor warps because of excessive heat or spraying hot brake caliper with cold water.

Can aftermarket wheels/wheel nut torquing cause brake rotor to warp?

New wheel is more open and lighter compared to the original 21" turbine so excessive heat does not make sense (I have many years of experience with after market wheels; both with wheel construction and quality).

I remember braking the car hard one time, can this single event cause the caliper to warp?
This is total bull****! Ive never heard of using aftermaket wheels voiding a car warranty! Thats ridiculous! I can't wait till this happens to someone with oem wheels. Tesla has nothing but excuses! I wish I never bought my model s sometimes! Not cause the car is great but they don't take care of their customers. I can complain all i want to ownership and they do nothing!