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2020 Tesla Model S Review

The 2020 Tesla Model S is one of the highest-rated vehicles in the luxury hybrid and electric car class because of its lightning-quick acceleration and long driving range.

Pros & Cons

  • Forceful acceleration
  • Class-leading driving range
  • Futuristic technology
  • Ample cargo space
  • Distracting infotainment system
  • Some build quality issues

9.0

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.8
Performance: 9.5
Interior: 7.8
Safety:
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
N/A
Reliability:
This model has never been fully tested for reliability. Its overall score is being calculated without reliability.
N/A

Is the Tesla Model S a Good Car?

Whether you look at it as a performance car, a luxury sedan, or an electric vehicle, the Tesla Model S is an excellent choice among luxury hybrid and electric cars. It has nearly instantaneous acceleration and superb handling, as well as an excellent driving range of up to 400 miles.

This Tesla also offers bountiful cargo space and a good amount of passenger room. Its cabin features high-end materials, though build quality issues persist throughout the sedan. Its large touch screen is a double-edged sword. Though it's very responsive and features brilliant graphics, it can be distracting and time-consuming to use.  

Should I Buy the Tesla Model S?

The Model S should be on your short list if you prioritize performance, a long driving range, and cutting-edge technology. The only drawback is its price tag, which can approach six-figure territory.

If fun behind the wheel is a must and you’re comfortable with the Model S’ price range, consider the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan, which is perhaps the first true rival to the Model S. Alternatively, the Tesla Model 3 offers many of its big brother's attributes at about half the cost.  

Compare the Model S, Taycan, and Model 3 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Tesla Model S?

Tesla doesn't classify its vehicles by distinct model years, instead going by the build date. The Model S is still in its first generation, which dates back almost a decade. Buying a new Model S will afford you several advantages over an older or used model. The current Model S boasts the longest range ever available in the vehicle, at 390 miles.

In mid-2019, Tesla announced that buyers of new Model S and Model X cars can qualify for free charging at Tesla's nationwide Supercharger network. Supercharging was originally free to all Tesla owners from 2012 to 2017, when the company started billing new owners for the service.

In previous years, the Model S was available in trims that had much shorter ranges than what is available now. Prior to the 2019 model year, Tesla named its trims using a number that denoted the battery size. You may find older cars that carry a Tesla Model S P100D, P90, 85, or 75 badge, just to name a few. You can also find some older models with features that are no longer unavailable, such as rear-wheel drive and two rear-facing jump seats that boost the seating capacity to seven people.

The main reason to buy a new (or more recent) Model S is if you prioritize the gains that the company has made in driving range. Older cars will likely be much less expensive. If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Model S, 2018 Model S and 2019 Model S reviews to help make your decision.

In the same way that Tesla engages in selling vehicles directly to the consumer, you can buy a used vehicle directly from the automaker. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about other savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Model S »

We Did the Research for You: 43 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 43 Tesla Model S reviews – along with reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2020 Model S is the right new car for you. This 2020 Model S full review incorporates research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2012.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Tesla Model S Cost?

The 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus, which is the base model, starts at $79,990. That makes it one of the highest-priced luxury hybrid and electric cars, second only to the Porsche Taycan. The Model S Performance starts at $99,990.

Tesla Model S Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan?

The all-new electric Porsche Taycan is here to challenge the Model S. The Taycan can go toe-to-toe with the Model S for performance. It combines sharp acceleration with deft handling to deliver plenty of thrills from behind the wheel. Both of these EVs feel perfectly at home on a track or on a daily commute. The Tesla offers more cargo space, and although each of these vehicles has a luxe interior, the Porsche has a better build quality. Fancy tech is a calling card of both sedans. The Model S boasts a 17-inch vertical touch screen, while the Taycan has a 10.9-inch main touch screen, a curved 16.8-inch digital instrument cluster, and an optional third screen on the passenger-side dashboard.

Your choice likely comes down to your budget and how much driving range you need. While the Model S ranges in price from around $80,000 to about $100,000, the Taycan starts at around $104,000 and can cost more than $200,000 with options and add-ons. The Tesla's estimated range of between 348 and 390 miles is longer than the Taycan's 200-mile range. For most shoppers, the Tesla is be a better pick.

Which Is Better: Tesla Model S or Tesla Model 3?

Tesla developed the Model 3 to make all-electric driving more accessible and affordable. The smaller Model 3's starting price is about half of what you'd pay for a base Model S ($39,990 vs. $79,990), but its 250-mile range isn't as generous as the range you get with the Model S, which is up to 390 miles. It's hard for any alternative-fuel vehicle to beat the Model 3's price and capabilities, with the highest-range model (322 miles) starting at under $50,000. If it's value you're after, buy the Model 3. Buy the Model S if you can handle a higher price tag, you need a longer range, and you want quicker acceleration than what the Model 3 offers.

Which Is Better: Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X?

As Tesla's SUV, the Model X offers a few obvious advantages over the sedan. The Model X has a lot more cargo space, a seating capacity of up to seven people, and Falcon wing doors that should turn heads in the neighborhood. The lower, hunkered-down Model S has a slight edge in handling, but the Model X is sporty enough for an SUV. Both of these EVs have blistering acceleration, with the Model S boasting quicker zero-to-60 times by a fraction of a second. Across both Long Range and Performance trims, the Model X SUV is about $5,000 more expensive. While the Model S' range is between 348 and 390 miles, the X can go between 305 and 351 miles. Since both Teslas are good choices, your decision comes down to whether you want a sedan or an SUV.

Compare the Model S, Taycan, and Model 3 »

Model S Performance

Model S Engine: No Engine, No Problem

The Tesla Model S is powered by a 100-kilowatt-hours lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors. This setup gives the Model S among the quickest acceleration of any car you can buy. Mash the accelerator, and you'll be thrown to the back of your seat. You definitely won’t want for power while merging onto the highway or passing slower cars.

The standard Model S Long Range Plus can go from zero to 60 mph in about 3.7 seconds. The Model S Performance and its standard Ludicrous Mode shave that time to 2.4 seconds.

Model S Range and Charging: Cream of the Crop

The base Model S Long Range Plus can go up to 390 miles on a single charge, according to Tesla's estimates. The Model S Long Range gives you an EPA-estimated 373 miles of range, and the Model S Performance can go up to 348 miles without recharging.

All of those range estimates are longer than what nearly all other electric vehicles on the market offer. In fact, few EVs even approach a 300-mile range. The 2020 Model S gets between 97 and 111 MPGe combined city/highway, according to the EPA. That measurement is a way of comparing the overall efficiency of plug-in hybrid and electric cars to traditional gasoline vehicles. For more, check out What Is MPGe?

Buyers of a new Model S can take advantage of free nationwide charging at a Tesla Supercharger station. This method adds up to 136 miles of range in just 15 minutes. With a Tesla Wall Connector installed in your home, you can get up to 34 miles of range per hour of charging.

Model S Ride and Handling: Inspiring

This Tesla boasts solid handling for a large sedan. Standard all-wheel drive and a low center of gravity – thanks to heavy batteries under the floor in the middle of the car – result in great road grip and controlled body motions around turns. There's not a huge amount of feedback from the road like you'd experience with a sports car, but the Model S is plenty sporty.

The ride is a little stiff, even in the presence of a standard air suspension. However, it remains comfortable enough for everyday driving.

Read more about performance »

Model S Interior

How Many People Does the Model S Seat?

The Tesla Model S holds five people. The front of the cabin feels open and airy, with the dashboard far forward since there's no engine under the hood. The seats are comfortable in general, but you may find yourself wanting more thigh support on longer drives.

The second row has ample legroom for taller passengers to stretch out. Still, the car's sloping roof might limit headroom for some back-seat passengers.

Model S and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats in the Model S, as well as a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.  

Model S Interior Quality

The Model S' cabin features impressive materials all wrapped up in a sleek, futuristic design. However, some reviewers note inconsistent build quality and issues with fit and finish. This has been a consistent criticism of Tesla vehicles for years.  

Model S Cargo Space

The Model S is one of the most utility-friendly vehicles in the luxury hybrid and electric car class thanks to its hatchback design and 26.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. You can fold them down to access around 60 total cubic feet of storage space.

In the place of an engine under the hood, the Model S has a front trunk, or "frunk," that measures 2.1 cubic feet. It provides enough space for a couple of grocery bags or a medium-sized suitcase.

Model S Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Model S sports a massive 17-inch infotainment touch screen. Oriented vertically like a tablet, this display boasts sharp graphics and quick response times. However, since it serves as the hub for most of the car's functions, it can be overwhelming. Aside from a few buttons on the steering wheel, there are no other physical dashboard controls. You can adjust climate and volume settings using the screen, which also incorporates a dizzying number of menus and settings.

Read more about interior »

Model S Reliability

Is the Tesla Model S Reliable?

At the time of writing, the 2020 Tesla Model S does not have a predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power. The organization has never fully evaluated the Model S for reliability. 

Tesla Model S Warranty

Tesla covers the Model S with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and an eight-year/unlimited-mile battery and powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Model S Safety

Model S Crash Test Results

The 2020 Tesla Model S has been through minimal crash testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it five out of five stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet evaluated the 2020 Model S.

Model S Safety Features

The Model S comes standard with Tesla's Autopilot feature, which incorporates adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist to help the car maintain a set speed and following distance from other cars, as well as stay centered in its lane on the highway. This Tesla also comes with active safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring for use in normal driving situations.

An enhanced version of Autopilot called Full Self-Driving Capability is optional. This arrangement allows for automatic lane changes on a highway, as well as changing and merging onto different highways based on directions in the navigation system. Additional features in this bundle include automatic parking assist and a summon feature, which gives the car the ability to pull itself out of a parking spot and drive to you.

Despite these names, the Model S isn’t capable of fully autonomous driving. The driver is still fully responsible for safe operation of the vehicle at all times.

Read more about safety »

Model S Dimensions and Weight

The Tesla Model S is 16.3 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,883 to 4,941 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Tesla Model S Built?

Tesla builds the 2020 Model S in California.

Which Tesla Model S Model Is Right for Me?

Tesla offers the 2020 Model S in Long Range Plus and Performance variants. As the names suggest, each model excels at something different. The Long Range model provides around 40 extra miles of driving range, and it costs about $20,000 less. The Model S Performance trim can dash from zero to 60 mph about 1.3 seconds quicker than the Long Range Plus trim.

The Model S comes standard with all-wheel drive. This Tesla has a very limited roster of available features, so you won't see a huge price variance if you add options.   

Tesla Model S Long Range Plus

The 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range starts at $79,990. Standard features include 12-way power-adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, proximity keyless entry, a rearview camera, and a panoramic glass roof. The standard 17-inch touch-screen infotainment system features an 11-speaker stereo, satellite radio, Bluetooth, wireless device charging, two USB ports, navigation, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

The standard Autopilot suite of driver assistance features includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist.

Tesla's Full Self Driving Capability is optional for $7,000, and you can also add it via an over-the-air update after you take delivery of the car. This bundle includes automatic navigation-based highway driving, automatic lane changing, automatic parking assist, and the summon feature.

Tesla Model S Performance

The 2020 Model S Performance retails for $99,990 and comes with Ludicrous Mode, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, and upgraded interior styling.

See 2020 Tesla Model S specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2020 Tesla Model S justifies its status as the measuring stick for all other EVs with nearly 400 miles of all-electric range, supercar-like performance, and tons of tech features. Simply put, it's a great choice in the luxury hybrid and electric car class.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "A pioneer in the electric car market, the 2020 Tesla Model S continues to dominate the high-end electric vehicle field despite new competition from such heavyweights as Audi, Porsche and BMW. Even with its aging design, the Model S' Tesla name holds an elite status among luxury car builders, another feather in its cap considering the company's upstart status." -- Autotrader
  • "The fully electric Model S is a remarkable car that combines performance, agility, styling, high-tech, no emissions and low operating costs. It's one of the best cars we've ever tested." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Is the Model S the perfect car? No, but it sure is trying to be. If nothing else, it foreshadows our fast and fun automotive future." -- Kelley Blue Book
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