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- Unbelievable—even "Ludicrous"—performance
- Electric range comparable to regular cars
- Network of fast-charging stations
- Aced federal safety tests
- Quiet and comfortable
- Stark cabin
- Can be very expensive in top trims
- Questionable service schemes
- Resale is still a question mark
- Some features are still "beta"
The 2017 Tesla Model S is unlike any other car on the road for several reasons—good and bad.
The 2017 Tesla Model S is a relative outlier in the car world, not only because of its all-electric drivetrain, but also because of the way the automaker has approached its business. Every convention was questioned, every convenience was examined, and quite frankly, Tesla doesn't behave in any way like a traditional automaker.
That's a recipe for excellence or exceptional failure.
Our overall score of 8.3 out of 10 should be an indication of our opinion of how that's gone so far. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
It's too early for official details on the 2017 lineup, but we expect that the same powertrains will likely be available for at least part of the year. The Tesla Model S is offered with 60-, 75-, 90-, or 100-kwh battery capacities. Only the 60-kwh model is available in rear-drive, the rest are all-wheel drive, which is denoted with a "D." The top-of-the-line 100D is also a performance model, and carries the P100D distinction.
Styling and performance
The Tesla Model S is a feat of carmaking in the way it looks. Despite its alternative drivetrain, the Model S would be striking even if it were coal-powered. The exterior sheet metal is sleek and muscular, and cuts an efficient hole through the air thanks to its engineering. Its fastback shape and long windshield are impressive, but so too is its interior shape and seating for four.
Inside, the style is relative letdown—the exterior is just too sexy. Aside from the massive 17-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash, there's not much too look at. The car is well-appointed, but somewhat stark compared to other luxury competitors.
Where the Model S manages to literally and figuratively pull away from the competition is in the way it performs. Acceleration in the Model S is breathtaking, and high-performance models are some of the fastest cars on the road today, comparable to some hyper cars. The standard rear-drive Model S versions are powered by a 270-kw (362-horsepower) motor. The all-wheel-drive "D" versions have smaller 193-kw (259-hp) motors powering each set of wheels. The P100D version boosts rear motor power to 375 kw (503 hp) and keeps the front motor at the same output.
The standard suspension setup is firm, but optional air suspension can make the car even firmer—or mushy soft, if you're in the mood.
Thanks to all its weight down low in the battery pack, and a 45/55 front-to-back weight distribution, the Model S is remarkably flat in cornering and hides its 5,000-pound heft well.
The EPA rates the range of the Model S between 218 miles and 315 miles depending on battery size and drive wheels. All-wheel-drive cars manage better range thanks to Tesla's programming, which shifts power between wheels for better range.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Tesla Model S is remarkably comfortable for four adults, or five if needed. The battery lives underneath the floor, so passengers might sit with their legs further ahead than in normal cars, but it's not uncomfortable.
The interior cabin can be a little stark—borderline boring—but Tesla's more than wiling to option up a Model S with premium sound, a massive sunroof, and cabin filtration systems that could keep attention going. An extra jump seat for two children with four-point harnesses in the rear cargo area is available, but few cars leave dealers with that installed.
Federal testers have given the Model S top marks in the past, and it's one of few cars available that ace every federal test. The IIHS hasn't yet rated the Tesla for safety (which is common for luxury cars), but Tesla installs the standard complement of airbags and traction control systems in the cars.
Advanced safety features such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warnings are standard on the Model S. Last year, Tesla upgraded the cameras, radar, and sensors in its cars to enable "fully" autonomous driving (even though it still has a steering wheel and pedals, which doesn't quite make it "fully" self-driving) along with its enhanced Autopilot. The system is capable of driving the Model S for hundreds of miles, although its failures have been heavily scrutinized in reports. Tesla also makes available a "fully autonomous" driving package on top of the Autopilot system that we haven't yet tested. According to the automaker, the system is twice as safe as having a human behind the wheel, something that only time and more data will tell.
All Model S sedans come equipped with keyless ignition, one-touch power windows, Bluetooth connectivity, power adjustable front seats, wi-fi connectivity, a rearview camera, and Tesla's giant 17-inch touchscreen with navigation.
The base Model S includes a standard onboard 10-kilowatt charger. A second charger can be ordered to bring the rate up to 20 kw, and Supercharging capability is now standard on all trim levels. That operates at levels approaching 150 kw and enables the battery to be recharged to 80 percent of its capacity in 20 to 40 minutes. The Model S does not use the standard J-1772 charging socket found on every other electric car, but the Model S comes with a J-1772 adapter cable, enabling Teslas to recharge at standard public and private charging stations.
Tesla announced that free Supercharger station charging would be a thing of the past; they haven't yet announced how much it may cost owners to charge at their network of stations.