$78,000 - $135,000

2018 Tesla Model S Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 9.3

The 2018 Tesla Model S isn't just a sleek cruiser; it delivers sports-car-worthy performance thanks to its energetic electric motors and nimble handling. Like all EVs, the Model S is fantastically efficient, but this Tesla also has a much longer range then most electric vehicles.

  • "Ever been in an electric car? It's different to say the least. It's super quiet, offers sporty handling and delivers exceptional torque – 325 lb-ft in our Model S 60 test car, to be exact." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "What sets the Model S apart from every other electric car on the market is that it matches or betters its gas-powered rivals in terms of performance, technology and value while requiring little compromise in terms of driving range." -- Left Lane News (2016)
  • "The low-mounted battery makes it highly maneuverable, and the quick steering and excellent power delivery make it downright fun to drive." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The Model S is available with different batteries and electric motors depending on which trim you want. Note that Tesla has stopped rating its motors in traditional horsepower, so we include zero to 60 mph times to show acceleration disparities.

The base Model S 75D has a 75-kWh battery and a range of 259 miles. It can go from zero to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds, according to Tesla's claims. Even this trim delivers outstanding acceleration and more than enough power for any driving situation. The higher trims are even more impressive.

The Model S 100D and Model S P100D each feature a 100-kWh battery. The 100D has a range of 335 miles – the longest range of any electric vehicle on the market – and a zero to 60 mph time of 4.1 seconds. The P100D is the high-performance trim. It has a range of 315 miles and – thanks to the Ludicrous Speed upgrade – can zoom from zero to 60 mph in a blistering 2.5 seconds.

As with all EVs, efficiency is a strong suit for this sedan. The Model S 75D earns an EPA-estimated 102 mpg-e in the city and 105 mpg-e on the highway. Ratings drop a little bit in the higher trims. The 100D earns 101/102 mpg-e city/highway, while the P100D earns 92/105 mpg-e city/highway.

  • "Tesla calls its most aggressive performance setting Insane mode, and it's not far from the truth. The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes just 3.5 seconds and is incredibly easy: Just floor the accelerator pedal. A P100D should be even quicker. Even in normal situations, acceleration is impressive." -- Edmunds
  • "This Tesla's exploitation of Newtonian physics tops anything you're likely to encounter this side of an amusement park or the Navy's flight school. Nailing the right pedal vents a massive torque gush, and weird, wonderful, and addictive bursts of dopamine flood your brain's pleasure center when this tsunami sloshes the juice in your inner ear." -- Car and Driver (2016)
  • "The new Model S … feels impossibly fast. You lightly touch the pedal and suddenly you're flying at 90 mph. The first time I hit the pedal hard, I cursed. You know all the little ways a car tells you it's accelerating: The growl of the engine, the resistance of the pedal, the rumble in the seats? There's none of that here. You press the pedal in 'Ludicrous' mode – which replaces the previous model's 'Insane' mode, and actually accelerates your body faster than if you were falling to Earth – and soundlessly, instantly teleport to hyperspeed. That power will go woefully underused cruising suburban streets. But even at city speeds, it keeps the car feeling responsive, agile and light." -- The Washington Post (2016)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The Model S comes standard with charging adapters for 120- and 240-volt home outlets, as well as a J1772 adapter for public charging stations. You can also install Tesla’s special Wall Connector in your home for faster charging speeds.

When using a standard 120-volt wall outlet, the Model S gains about 3 miles of range per hour of charging. With a 240-volt power source, the Model S gets up to 29 miles of range for each hour of charging. The Wall Connector allows for 34 miles of range per charging hour, and an optional High Amperage Charger increases that capability to 52 miles per hour.

Model S owners have access to Tesla's nationwide network of Supercharger stations. At one of these stations, you can recharge up to 80 percent of the battery's full range in about half an hour.

Additionally, owners can get up to 400 kWh (or about 1,000 miles’ worth) of charging for free each year at the Supercharger stations, with a small fee incurred after that. Prices are fixed within each state, and for the most part, owners are billed per kWh, though owners in some areas may be billed per minute.

  • "Tesla has made the 75D the base model, which means the Model S now has a minimum EPA-rated range of 259 miles. That's significantly more than most other EVs. And with the 100D model rated to cover 335 miles on a full charge – combined with access to Tesla's Supercharger rapid charging stations – the Model S is a legitimate long-haul road tripper." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

A big change for 2018 is that all-wheel drive now comes standard in every Model S. An adaptive air suspension that can be adjusted manually or automatically also comes standard.

This isn't a sports car, but you might not remember that when you drive it. The steering is well-weighted and responsive, and there's plenty of road grip around turns. There's little body roll, so this large sedan is quite adept at carving corners. Even better, that agility doesn't come at the expense of ride quality. There are rivals with smoother rides, but the Model S never feels rough or jarring.

  • "The steering effort is variable between three different modes, but all are quite quick. The steering feels lighter than it does on non-all-wheel-drive models, but it's not too light. Thanks to sharp steering and incredibly sticky summer performance tires, the grip available with this car is impressive. Corner-carving is also aided by immediate pedal response. It's far more fun than such a heavy vehicle should be." -- Edmunds
  • "Although it was designed as an advanced EV first and foremost, the Model S has not forgotten its role as a high-tech luxury sedan. The ride is comfortable and, thanks to the low-mounted battery, the handling is superb." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)
  • "But the Tesla battery isn't just a box of lithium-ion cells packed in the trunk or behind the seats. It contributes to the car's structure in a way that serves as an asset to handling. The battery pack is close to the ground, essentially serving as the car's floorpan. Whether you're hustling down an on-ramp or meandering home from your tech incubator, the Model S feels through-bolted to the earth's mantle, its center of gravity close to the pavement. And because the weight is so low, Tesla can run softer springs while still preserving good roll control, so the ride is relaxed." -- Car and Driver (2015)

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