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Tesla Model S

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The Tesla Model S is a large executive saloon (well, technically it’s a liftback) that is the flagship of the Tesla range. Like all Tesla models, it is only available with an electric motor – two electric motors actually – supplied by a battery pack.

The Model S was launched in America in 2012, but didn’t arrive in the UK until 2014. It received a facelift in 2016, but Tesla operates on a different basis to other manufacturers, so all vehicles have received significant software updates since launch. These are usually delivered ‘over the air’, being downloaded directly to the vehicle from Tesla. Another significant upgrade to the Model S has been announced for 2021, but it’s not clear when the first cars will arrive in the UK.

The Tesla Model S has been a pioneering vehicle for the image of electric cars, almost single-handedly changing the perception of electric vehicles having poor performance and range. It has received widespread praise for its performance, with acceleration that betters many supercars, and overall praticality for a broad range of potential customers.

However, the Model S was plagued by quality and reliability issues in its early years, and build quality is still not considered a match for similarly-priced saloons from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi. Which? magazine has been publicly calling for the Model S to be recalled for more than a year, as its pop-out door handles are reported to have failed on one in five vehicles.

Model S highlights

  • Styling has been almost universally admired
  • Praiseworthy performance and driving dynamics
  • Reliability has proved better than most rivals

Model S lowlights

  • Interior quality not to German standards
  • Infotainment system is also sub-par
  • Residual values can’t match best in class

Key specifications

Body style: Large saloon/liftback
Powertrain: electric motor and batteries
Price: From £83,980 on-road

Launched: Summer 2014
Last updated: Summer 2018
Replacement due: Autumn 2022

Media reviews

Reviews, road test and comparisons from across the UK automotive media. Click any of the boxes to view.

The Car Expert


Auto Express


Auto Trader










Company Car Today


Daily Mail




Green Car Guide


Honest John






The Sunday Times


The Telegraph


Top Gear


What Car?




Safety rating

Overall rating: 5 stars
Date tested: November 2014









Eco rating

No eco rating

The Tesla Model S has not been lab tested by Green NCAP. This is a new initiative, launched in 2018 as a sister organisation to Euro NCAP. As yet, very few new cars have been tested for environmental impact by Green NCAP, and inevitable the testing programme was halted in early 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Green NCAP programme measures exhaust pollution (which is zero for an electric car) and energy efficiency. Electric cars are much more energy-efficient than combustion cars, so the Model S is likely to score very highly in Green NCAP testing if and when it ever takes place. Check back again soon.


Trophies, prizes and awards that the Tesla Model S has received


  • Auto Trader Awards – Best Green Car


  • Business Car Awards – Best Luxury Car


  • World Car Awards – World Green Car

Similar cars

If you’re looking at the Tesla Model S, you might also be interested in these alternatives

Audi A6 | Audi A7 Sportback | Audi e-tron GT | BMW 5 Series | Jaguar XF | Lexus ES | Maserati Ghibli | Mercedes-Benz E-Class | Mercedes-Benz CLS | Porsche Taycan | Volvo S90

Obviously, the only cars listed above that also have a fully-electric drivetrain like the Model S are the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT. However, the other vehicles are a closer match for the Tesla’s size and price – even if they run either partly or totally on fossil fuels rather than electricity.

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Best car rankings

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The Car Expert has the ultimate ranking of the best and worst new cars on sale, based on scores from 25 of the top UK motoring websites

Best car rankings

Want to see how this car ranks against its rivals?

The Car Expert has the ultimate ranking of the best and worst new cars on sale, based on scores from 25 of the top UK motoring websites