Review: Tesla Model S Performance

MT finds this fully electric saloon capacious, blisteringly quick and serious competition to Germany's finest.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 21 Aug 2015

The world's big thinkers have been giving the concept of disruptive innovation a pretty hard time recently. We've even written a feature about the row. So it is timely to be reminded that Clay Christensen's pet idea didn't get to be the pre-eminent business theory of our time for nothing.

Take this Tesla Model S, an upmarket, pure-electric saloon that accelerates in eerie silence as quickly as a Porsche Carrera. What's more, it has five seats (seven if you include the optional folding child seats in the back), spacious boots front and rear, an achievable range of more than 200 miles between charges and a dashboard, dominated by a giant iPad-style touchscreen, which never fails to draw an impressed 'Ooh' from passengers.

Finished in 'look-at-me' candy-apple red paint and slick alloys, it also caused more innocent bystanders' jaws to drop, and more satisfyingly, than any other car I have driven.

It's made not by any of the usual posh car suspects - Mercedes, Audi or BMW - but by a new Californian company started by Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley billionaire who made his fortune as an early backer of PayPal, and whose other business is in space travel. Regardless of academic arguments, surely this is disruptive innovation? He has shown the car industry what it was too conservative to see for itself: that most punters don't want to suffer to save the planet, they want electric cars that are as good or better than conventional rivals.

That's not to say the Model S is perfect. For a £100,000 car the interior isn't good enough. As with all electrics, the battery (cleverly hidden under the floor) is charged via an ungainly cable, a reminder that even this herald of tomorrow remains tethered to today.

Then there's infrastructure. Tesla's high-speed Supercharger charging points, which can give you a half-charge in 30 minutes, are free to use but thin on the ground. Thanks to its enormous 85Kwh capacity, charging from a regular 13-amp socket is for emergencies only and takes nearly 20 hours.

And unlike plug-in hybrids, it's a committed purchase - if you do run out of juice, you're on your own. There is no lawn-mower-sized petrol engine to get you home.

It's also eyewateringly expensive, but there are smaller, more reasonably priced Tesla models on the way.

Those Germans should be worried - it looks like there might be something in this disruption business after all.

Rating: 5/5

Tesla Model S Performance

£99,830

Engine: Electric motor

Range: 312 miles

C02 Emissions: 0 g/km

Power: 416 bhp

0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds

Top speed: 130 mph

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