Tesla Model S
2017 Tesla Model S Overview
Pros & Cons
- World-class performance
- Longest range of any EV
- Advanced infotainment and technology
- Good cargo space
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Notable for 2017
- Increased driving range across the lineup
- Model S 70 no longer available
- New 100D model
- Base Model S 60 phased out
Tesla Model S Rankings and Research
The 2017 Tesla Model S ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Large Cars category. Currently the Tesla Model S has a score of 9.4 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 36 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.
2017 Tesla Model S Pictures
2017 Tesla Model S Review
The 2017 Tesla Model S isn't just the torch bearer of the electric car movement, it also ranks highly in the luxury large cars class. Its high position is mostly due to excellent performance scores, but it also garners positive recommendations from critics due to impressive tech and an attractive interior.
Is the Tesla Model S a Good Car?
The Tesla Model S turns 5 years old in 2017, and it continues to be as revolutionary as the day it was introduced. It’s equal parts sports car, luxury car, and technological marvel. The Model S also disproves any notion that electric cars aren't exciting, as it delivers breathtaking performance. Acceleration off the line is incredibly quick no matter which model you choose, and handling is sporty yet refined. The Model S also cements its status as a top electric car with the longest driving range currently on the market. Interior accommodations are comfortable and upscale, with high-quality materials and advanced technological features. It's a hatchback, so it features good cargo space, and it can seat up to seven with the addition of rear-facing seats under the hatch.
Should I Buy the Tesla Model S?
If driving an electric or alternative-fuel vehicle is important to you, no one does it better than Tesla. The 2017 Model S boasts the longest driving range of any car available for purchase, and you can take advantage of Tesla's nationwide network of Supercharger stations. If performance, luxury, or style are at the top of your list, the Model S has you covered there too.
While still somewhat of a niche car, the Model S has a wide range of prices that allow it to fit most segment shoppers' budgets. The base Model S 75 starts at $69,500, which is in line with other luxury large cars like the Audi A7. The A7 ($68,800) also ranks highly and is comparable to the Model S in nearly all aspects, aside from the fact that it has a gasoline engine. Rivals like the Porsche Panamera ($85,000) may seem too expensive at first glance, until you consider that there are three performance-oriented Model S trims that start at around $90,000 and run north from there. You can also get the Panamera as a hybrid for about $100,000.
If you're not sure you want to pull the trigger on such a big investment, you might consider purchasing a used Model S. In addition to buying through private third parties, you can buy through Tesla, which offers certified pre-owned models. For a glimpse at the history of the Model S and things to consider when looking at a used model, check out our Used Tesla Model S Buying Guide.
We Did the Research for You: 30 Pieces of Data Analyzed
Choosing whether to buy the 2017 Tesla Model S is a big decision – that’s why we’ve done the hard work for you. We took 30 pieces of research and data from around the automotive industry and crafted an expert overview. Our reviews aren’t based on our own opinions, but rather summarize the consensus opinions of professional auto journalists, and we incorporate other factors like crash test data and EPA estimates.
The Tesla Model S was introduced as a new vehicle in 2012, and it has received minor changes on a fairly regular basis since then. This overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2012 through 2017 model years.
Why You Can Trust Us
U.S. News & World Report has been helping consumers make educated buying decisions about cars, trucks, and SUVs for nearly a decade. Our research and editorial staff has a combined 75 years of experience in the auto industry, and we put that expertise to work for you. We don’t accept any expensive gifts, trips, or incentives from car companies, so our reviews stay completely impartial. Additionally, all ads on our site are handled by a third party.
How Much Does the Tesla Model S Cost?
The 2017 Tesla Model S starts at $69,500 – that’s with the standard 75 kWh battery pack. Higher trims come with larger batteries. Other models include the Model S 90D ($87,500), Model S 100D ($92,500), and the high-performance Model S P100D ($134,500). Rear-wheel drive is standard in the Model S 75, but it can be equipped with all-wheel drive for an additional $5,000. A fully loaded Model S P100D can approach $160,000. Until Tesla sells 200,000 vehicles, most buyers will qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Once the sales quota is hit, that amount diminishes over the course of a few years. Buyers may also qualify for additional state and local incentives.
For more about the Tesla Model S' standard and optional features, check out the “Which Model S Model is Right for Me?” section below.
Tesla Model S Versus the Competition
The 2017 Tesla Model S is unlike most other cars: It bucks traditional stereotypes of electric cars by delivering near-supercar performance, while simultaneously being more efficient and capable than most other electric cars. In fact, two of the cars that shoppers often compare to the Model S come from the same brand. The Tesla Model X is also an all-electric vehicle that boasts a similarly thrilling driving experience as the Model S, while adding the utility of an SUV. There are few, if any, other electric cars on the market that are either at the Tesla's price point or that deliver such an impressive performance. However, gasoline-powered rivals can be more convenient because you don't have to worry about charging. While details are still scarce, consumers are buzzing about the future brand-new Tesla Model 3. Tesla is positioning the Model 3 as their first affordable, mass-market vehicle, with an expected price tag of around $35,000. For more see, Everything You Need to Know About the Tesla Model 3.
Which Is Better: Tesla Model S or Audi A7?
The Audi A7 is an excellent vehicle and, along with the Model S, ranks highly on our list of luxury large cars. While the A7 certainly has a lot going for it, the Model S emerges as the overall better car. Pricing is similar between the two rivals. The A7 starts at $68,800, while the base Model S is $69,500. There are no hybrid or electric options with the A7, and though it delivers excellent performance, it can’t match the Model S'. The A7’s horsepower ranges from 333 in the base model to 605 in the high-performance RS7. The Model S also slightly beats the A7 in ride and handling, even though the A7 is still balanced and somewhat sporty. Interior quality is slightly better in the A7, as it boasts elegant materials like standard leather upholstery. Passenger space is about the same between the two, with both suffering from somewhat cramped rear headroom as a result of each car’s sloping roofline.
Which Is Better: Tesla Model S or Porsche Panamera?
The Porsche Panamera earns nearly unanimous critical praise; we even had a hard time identifying downsides in our review of it. Choosing between it and the Model S will likely come down to preference but could be swayed by your budget or how important the Model S’ all-electric function is to you. The Panamera starts at $85,000, a far reach from the $69,500 price tag of the Model S. Unlike the A7, though, the Panamera is available in a plug-in hybrid version for about $100,000. Though it can't compare to the Model S' range, it still manages a decent 20-22 mile range on electric power only. It should come as no surprise that a Porsche boasts excellent performance, and the Panamera’s powerful lineup of engines (even in the hybrid) rivals that of the Model S. The Panamera also has athletic and comfortable handling like the Model S. The Model S earns a slight advantage when it comes to overall utility. While the Model S can seat up to seven, the Panamera only has four seats. You’ll also get significantly less cargo space in the Panamera.
Model S Interior
How Many People Does the Model S Seat?
The standard Model S seats five people. Most passengers should be comfortable wherever they sit, with a few caveats. The front seats are a little low to the floor, but you can stretch your legs out with ample legroom. Space is also fairly good in the second row, but the Model S' fastback sloping roof design means that taller passengers might want some more headroom.
You can also bring back some old-school station wagon nostalgia with the optional addition of two rear-facing jump seats in the cargo hold. While suitable only for children, these expand the Model S seating capacity to seven. Tesla outfits these seats with full five-point harness seat belts, and they're attached to a second frame and a reinforced aluminum bumper for safety. You may get some strange looks from neighbors or other nosy onlookers in a crowded parking lot, but it's a cool way to get more utility out of what's otherwise a hatchback sedan. When not in use, the seats fold completely flat into the floor, and even in that configuration, it doesn't result in any less cargo space than a standard Model S. This option comes at a hefty price, though: an extra $4,000.
Model S and Car Seats
There are two complete LATCH car-seat systems on the rear outboard seats of the Model S. The middle seat features a top tether anchor. Unlike some other luxury cars that have their lower LATCH anchors conveniently hidden behind small plastic flaps, the Model S' anchors are located in the seat cushion. These can be hard to reach, and there's little room to maneuver your hands around the anchors. On the positive side, the tether anchors, located on the back of the rear seats, are easy to find and you won't confuse them for other parts of the seat.
Model S Interior Quality
The 2017 Tesla Model S has an impressive and elegant cabin. Nearly all surfaces are soft to the touch, and you can opt for premium materials like Alcantara dashboard accents and leather-wrapped armrests. Other accents are available, like ash wood trim pieces or carbon fiber highlights. Everything is solidly put together, and the car stays insulated from most outside road and wind noise, resulting in a serene ride. You also don't have the noise from a traditional engine seeping into the cabin because the Model S runs nearly silent. The lack of traditional powertrain mechanics, like a large shifter, opens up the cabin space between the front seats and the center console to make the interior feel more open and airy. This can be further enhanced with the addition of a sunroof or panoramic glass roof.
For as nice as the interior is, you won't get certain amenities that you might expect at this price point. Leatherette seating is standard, but you'll have to pay thousands more for real leather upholstery. The Audi A7, on the other hand, comes with standard leather and offers premium leather as an option. The A7 also offers ventilated and massaging front seats, which are also optional in the Porsche Panamera but not available at all in the Model S.
Model S Cargo Space
The Tesla Model S is a hatchback, so it has a lot of cargo space under its rear liftgate – 26.3 cubic feet to be exact, and that increases to 58.1 cubic feet if you fold down the second-row seats. Additionally, the Model S’ lack of a traditional engine creates a lot of space under the hood, which is turned into a front trunk (or "frunk"). This space gives you another 5.3 cubic feet of storage, which is good for a handful of grocery or shopping bags.
The Model S' cargo volumes are good overall, and a little more than those offered by similarly styled competitors. The Audi A7 has 24.5 cubic feet of space under its hatch, while the Porsche Panamera has 17.4 cubic feet. Folding the seats in the Panamera results in 46 cubic feet. That space declines in the Panamera E-Hybrid, which has 14.3 cubic feet of space and 42.8 cubic feet maximum.
Model S Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation
With all of its cutting-edge technology, the Tesla Model S might be more akin to a computer with wheels than a car with computers. At the center of everything is a stunning 17-inch touch-screen command center that looks and functions like a huge tablet. You can use familiar smartphonelike gestures, like swiping or pinching to zoom, with the system. It controls almost all functions of the car, from adjusting the climate and audio to opening the sunroof.
You'll also use it to control settings like the optional adaptive suspension, raising or lowering the car at your whim. If you regularly adjust the ride height to traverse something like a steep driveway, the car can learn where you have to raise or lower the car and automatically make that adjustment for you.
The Model S is constantly connected to the Tesla network, and the touch screen is your liaison with that too. Everything from security updates to unlocking additional options and features are regularly rolled out through over-the-air updates. You can also access your online account, where you can see any additional billing or credits for things like Supercharger usage.
Still conspicuously absent from Tesla vehicles are modern features like Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay. Available in nearly every other marque, these systems allow you to connect your smartphone to a car's infotainment system and access things like apps, media, contacts, and messaging, all through the touch (or display) screen. The Porsche Panamera comes with Apple CarPlay, while the Audi A7 includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Model S' interface does allow you to integrate things like your calendar into the system.
Model S Performance
Model S Engine: No Engine, No Problem
The 2017 Tesla Model S has high performance scores but not because of what's under the hood (since your grocery bags aren't getting this electric car moving). Rather, a large component of what makes a Model S thrilling to drive is the capacity of its four possible battery and motor combinations. The sizes of these battery packs correspond to the name of the Model S trim levels, 75 kWh, 90 kWh, and 100 kWh. For 2017, Tesla boosted the old Model S 70 into the new 75, and the old P90 model is now the Model S 100D. The 60 kWh model was also phased out entirely.
Hit the accelerator and you’ll seemingly fly off the line. That’s because electric motors enable a car to apply all of its available torque immediately, getting you going incredibly quickly. Traditional internal combustion engines take slightly longer to fire up and accelerate.
According to Tesla, the top-of-the-line Model S P100D can do zero to 60 mph in as little as 2.5 seconds. That’s with standard Ludicrous speed mode and launch control. In an independent, third party test, the P100D did that run in under 2.3 seconds. Tesla rates the Model S 90D and 100D at zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. With optional all-wheel drive, the Model S 75 does zero to 60 in as little as 5.2 seconds.
While few, if any, competitors can beat a Model S from a standstill, many of its electric advantages disappear as you continue to go faster. At highway speeds, rivals like the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera will probably have stronger acceleration. In fact, even the high-performance Model S P100D only has a top speed of 155 miles per hour, while the base model tops out at 130 mph.
Model S Range and Charging: Keep Going, Going, Going…
The Tesla Model S 100D currently has the longest range of any electric vehicle on the market. As of early 2017, that model received an update from Tesla that enabled it to travel up to 335 miles on a single charge. Other performance-oriented Model S trims also have incredibly long ranges: the Model S 90D can go 294 miles, and the P100D has a range of 315 miles.
A few other factors can affect range – driving at higher speeds results in losing some mileage, and colder outside temperatures have the same effect. You’ll also lose some range if you choose the optional 21-inch wheels over the standard 19-inch rolling stock.
Another way to measure the Model S’ proficiency as an electric vehicle is in mpg-e, which is meant to compare the efficiency of alternative-fuel vehicles with traditional gasoline cars. Mpg-e differs slightly between Model S trims. The base 75, for example, gets 103 mpg-e, while the top-level P100D gets 98 mpg-e. Those values are very good among all electric vehicles. For more, see Decoding MPG-e.
There are many different charging options for your Model S. Every car comes with plug-in chargers for standard 120-volt wall outlets, 240-volt outlets, and a J1772 adapter for public charging stations. For faster charging speeds, you can have a proprietary Tesla Wall Connector installed in your garage or at your home.
Your best bet will be to upgrade one of your outlets to 240 volts, or go with the Wall Connector. Those options will give you much faster charging times than simply plugging into a standard outlet, which only gets you 3 miles of range per hour of charging. With a 240-volt source, you can get up to 29 miles of range per hour. The Wall Connector enables 34 miles of range per hour. Either of those two options allows you to get essentially a full charge overnight. You can also upgrade the Tesla’s internal charging mechanisms to get up to 52 miles of range from the Wall Connector. It’ll cost you $1,500 for that enhancement, but if you’re not sure if that extra capacity is for you, you can always enable it later for $1,900.
Until recently, one of the main selling points of getting a Tesla was unlimited free charging at their nationwide network of Supercharger stations. Often located near road stops and shopping centers, a Supercharger can fill up a nearly empty Model S in about an hour. Owners now receive up to 400 kWh of Supercharger charging per year, or about 1,000 miles of range. You’ll incur a small fee, usually billed per kWh, after reaching the limit. Tesla encourages you to remove your car from a Supercharger when you’re done using it by charging a small idle fee of 40 cents per minute after the first five minutes.
Model S Ride and Handling: Svelte and Sporty
Two major contributors to the Model S’ world-class performance are its handling and driving dynamics. Instead of a traditional engine in either the front or back of the car, the Model S has its battery powertrain mounted low in the center of the car, giving it near-perfect balance and an incredible center of gravity.
Lower-end Model S trims come with rear-wheel drive, while performance models are equipped with standard all-wheel drive. Regardless of the layout, the Model S moves extremely well through turns, with poised and direct steering. Unlike many other sporty cars, the Model S provides a smooth and serene ride in nearly all situations.
Model S Reliability
Is the Tesla Model S Reliable?
There is currently no data on reliability for the Tesla Model S. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera are both expected to be very dependable. The A7 receives a score of four out of five, which is above average, while the Panamera earns 4.5 out of five – a better score than nearly all other cars on the road.
Tesla Model S Warranty
The 2017 Tesla Model S comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and an eight-year/unlimited-mile battery and powertrain warranty. Both the Porsche Panamera and the Audi A7 have the same four-year standard coverage.
Model S Safety
Model S Crash Test Results
The 2017 Model S receives mostly good crash test scores from independent evaluating agencies. It earns the highest score possible, Good, in four out of the five tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Acceptable (the next highest level) in the small overlap front test. This test simulates when the front corner of the car impacts a skinny object like a tree or telephone pole. The Model S only underwent one test from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where it scored five out of five stars in the rollover test. Neither the Audi A7 nor Porsche Panamera have received any crash testing, which is common for luxury and sports cars.
Model S Safety Features
The 2017 Model S doesn’t have individual safety features so much as it has an interconnected web of technologies that do everything from prevent crashes to essentially drive the car by itself. A rearview camera comes standard, as does collision avoidance features like parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning. If you're prepared to spend several thousand dollars more, that's when the really advanced stuff comes into play.
The optional Enhanced Autopilot system delivers most of the autonomous features that make Tesla a market leader in this area. Using four cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, the car monitors its surroundings with 360-degree coverage. The Model S can maintain a steady speed with traffic, keep itself centered in a lane, and automatically change lanes. It can also merge onto freeways and successfully exit a freeway off-ramp and transition to city street driving. When you arrive at your destination, the Model S can identify a parking spot and guide itself in. You can also use your smartphone to summon the Model S from its parking spot to wherever you are.
Further upping the ante is what Tesla calls Full Self-Driving Capability. This system uses eight cameras and is intended to perform all duties of a driver. Once you get in the car, you simply tell it where to go and the Model S will map out a route and navigate through city streets, intersections, crosswalks, and highways. It can also let you out at your destination and seek out a parking spot by itself.
If you're custom ordering a Model S and not sure you want these packages, they can be enabled at a later date after you've taken delivery for an extra $1,000 per feature. Also keep in mind that while these technologies are designed to be driver assistance features or handle all aspects of driving, the person behind the wheel must always be alert and ready to physically take control of the car at any moment.
Which Tesla Model S Model Is Right for Me?
The 2017 Tesla Model S comes in four trim levels, corresponding to the size and capabilities (in kWh) of its battery pack: 75, 90D, 100D, and P100D. The D indicates all-wheel drive, which is optional in the 75 model. Standard features and options are nearly identical in all models, so deciding on the right Model S will depend on your budget and how much driving range you need.
The total driving range runs from 249 miles in the $69,500 Model S 75 to 335 miles in the $92,500 100D. Unless you live in a rural area or take long road trips outside of Tesla's Supercharger network, the range in the base 75 model should be sufficient. Along with range, horsepower increases as you move to a larger battery, but most buyers should be more than satisfied with the power coming from the standard motor.
Especially for first-time Tesla or electric car buyers, the money you would spend on a larger battery is better put toward a wide variety of options, like Autopilot or self-driving capabilities. You can also add packages that include additional leather trimming, an air filtration system, heated seats, or an upgraded sound system.
Tesla Model S 75
The 2017 Model S starts at $69,500, and all-wheel drive is available for an extra $5,000. Battery range is 249 miles with standard rear-wheel drive and 259 miles with all-wheel drive. Standard features include leatherette seats, 12-way power-adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, a 17-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, front- and rearview cameras, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring.
Tesla Model S 90D
The Model S 90D includes all-wheel drive and a 90 kWh battery that boasts a range of 294 miles. Pricing for the 90D starts at $87,500.
Tesla Model S 100D
Battery life and range increase again with the Model S 100D ($92,500). At 335 miles, the 100 kWh battery makes the 100D the longest-range production car available on the market.
Tesla Model S P100D
The high-performance Model S P100D starts at $134,500. It has a range of 315 miles and includes Ludicrous mode, Smart Air Suspension, and red Brembo brake calipers.
Tesla Model S Options
Options for the Model S are plentiful and mostly grouped into packages. First up is the Enhanced Autopilot feature, which uses four cameras and 12 sonar sensors to provide a good level of driver assistance. These technologies allow the Model S to maintain its speed relative to traffic, stay centered within a lane, automatically change lanes, merge onto highways, and exit highways onto city streets. The car can also identify parking spots and park itself, and when you're ready to go out again, you can summon the car from a garage or parking spot using your phone. Enhanced Autopilot is available for $5,000 through custom order, or it can be enabled for $6,000 after you've taken delivery.
You'll have to spring for Autopilot if you want to get Full Self-Driving Capability, which costs $3,000 from the factory, or $4,000 as a software upgrade after delivery. Using eight total cameras, this system is designed to essentially do everything a human would when behind the wheel: navigate routes; move through intersections, stoplights, and stop signs; and automatically park after you step out of the car at your destination.
The $3,500 Premium Upgrades package includes an aggressive HEPA air filtration system that removes nearly all contaminants, pollutants, and bacteria from the cabin. It also functions as Tesla's Bio-Weapon Defense Mode, which creates positive pressure in the cabin to keep out outside air threats. Adaptive LED headlights, additional leather interior trim pieces, lighted door handles and interior lighting, a power liftgate, and a quick connection phone dock are also included in this package.
The Subzero Weather package costs $1,000 and adds heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters, and heated windshield washer nozzles. You can also add a 12-speaker premium sound system that includes satellite radio for $2,500. Leather seating costs $3,300, a panoramic glass roof is $1,500, and a sunroof is $2,000.
A Smart Air Suspension is available for $2,500, which allows you to manually adjust the ride height to navigate different surfaces, and the car can learn to automatically adjust its settings in certain locations through GPS. If you need more seating capability, you can add two rear facing seats in the cargo hatch for $4,000.
Also available is a High Amperage Charger, which increases charging speeds, provided you have the necessary circuitry in your house. This upgrade costs $1,500, or you can get it after delivery for $1,900.
Who Makes the Tesla Model S?
Tesla is an independent American technology company and automaker that has been producing cars since 2008. The Model S, which debuted in 2012, is manufactured at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Fifty percent of the Model S' parts are sourced from North America. Tesla produces batteries for its vehicles at the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.
The Final Call
If you're looking for a luxury large car and you want to be on the cutting edge of technology, you should definitely consider the 2017 Tesla Model S. It's an excellent electric car that boasts impeccable performance and a record-setting electric range.
Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.
- "If you think the Tesla brand isn't revolutionary, you haven't been paying attention. … There's a reason why the Teslas aren't stacked outside on dealership parking lots -- they're special, very special. Get into the 2017 Tesla Model S ... and you'll know exactly what we mean." -- Autotrader
- "The Model S is an all-electric flagship luxury sedan that has a performance pedigree capable of thrilling the most seasoned auto enthusiasts, as well as plenty of high-tech gadgetry and luxury interior treatments that rival tenured players like Mercedes and BMW. If there were an eco-centric mold for all other electric cars out there, the Tesla Model S would certainly break it." -- Edmunds (2015)
- "It's rightly amazing that Tesla, only a few years removed from startup, can mass-manufacture a car this good, while also fighting state-by-state franchise battles, building out its network of Supercharger stations, planning its 'gigafactory' battery-manufacturing operation, and mollifying the financial community…. It is a revelatory machine, with possibilities that are still unfolding." -- Car and Driver (2015)