2020 Tesla Model S

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Anthony Sophinos Anthony Sophinos Contributor
February 18, 2020

Buying tip

All Teslas come equipped with the hardware necessary for even the most advanced features—you pay extra only for the actual software. You can unlock some features later, but it costs extra.

features & specs

Long Range AWD
Performance AWD
MPG
NA
MPG
NA
MSRP
$79,990
MSRP
$99,990

Growing old though it is, the Tesla Model S still looks and feels as fresh as when it first debuted eight years ago.

Few cars are as significant as the Tesla Model S hatchback. The venerable Tesla model didn’t just advance electric cars, it also propelled electric cars past being a shrugged-off science experiment. Once the Model S passes into history, its name will rightly join the ranks of other seminal automobiles that dramatically and permanently altered the automotive landscape. 

But that day is still somewhere in the future. For now, the 2020 Model S continues to be made at Tesla’s home turf in California and offers the best performance in the lineup. We give the latest Tesla Model S a 8.0 out of 10 overall for its efficiency, performance, and style. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year is the ninth model year for Tesla’s superstar sedan, not that it shows its age. The Model S’s simple but alluring design has aged remarkably well. The hatchback body style stirs in a level of practicality that’s unexpected from with something this stylish. 

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The performance here is astounding: 0-60 mph happens as quick as 2.4 seconds if you activate the Ludicrous Mode feature, which is now included as standard on the Performance-trim Model S. 

The standard Model S setup is the Long Range model, which gets a 100-kwh battery pack and a 373-mile range. Performance models get the same battery but lose 25 miles of range in pursuit of speed. All-wheel drive is standard on every Model S.

The interior of any Tesla is minimalist. The Model S cabin’s dominant feature is its 17-inch touchscreen, which is an all-encompassing affair that skips most buttons. Pretty much every control is bundled into the Tesla’s dash tablet. Unlike the Model 3, the Model S does retain a traditional gauge cluster, but there’s nothing unnecessary inside the cabin of the Model S.

If you’re concerned about road-tripping in an electric car, Tesla’s fast-charging Supercharger network should put you at ease. Here in the U.S., their charging stations can be found along most major highways in the lower 48 states. Stick to the interstates and you’ll have no issue driving from Connecticut to California. 

Charging times are quick and are only going to get quicker as Tesla upgrades their infrastructure. On a fast-charger, the Model S can recharge about 130 miles of range in 15 minutes—or less than an hour for up to 80 percent. 

The Model S costs about $80,000 for a Long Range model and goes up to about $107,000 for a Performance model with Autopilot added. That’s before any applicable state tax breaks; Tesla’s federal tax credit expired at the beginning of 2020.

7

2020 Tesla Model S

Styling

The 2020 Model S has aged handsomely, an evergreen hatchback in a world of flash and pomp.

The Tesla Model S has grown old gracefully. There’s little about the exterior styling that feels dated, which is why we give it a 7 out of 10 for style. A stark interior holds it back from a higher score.

The secret to the enduring good looks of the 2020 Model S can be chalked up to the purity of the original design. 

Though it presents itself as a swoopy, windswept sedan, the Model S is actually a hatchback. The shape does not give away its utilitarian benefits until someone pops open the hatch. Once open, it’ll swallow plenty of gear, including bicycles and large boxes.

The interior tries to play up a similar theme as the exterior; that is, svelte minimalist. But the look isn’t as successful in the cabin. 

Once you pull your eyes away from the massive 17-inch touchscreen in the center stack, the rest of the interior comes into focus—and it doesn’t particularly impress, at least not at this price point. Our biggest gripe isn’t so much the rather plain appearance as it is the materials and build quality. For how much you’re paying, both could be better.

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9

2020 Tesla Model S

Performance

Incredibly fast and with a range that puts some small gas tanks to shame, the Model S leaves almost nothing on the table when it comes getting to faraway places.

Part of the reason early electrics like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt failed to excite was their ho-hum performance. The Model S, however, took a different tack, and embraced performance almost from the beginning. The result is a hatchback that can embarrass almost every kind of exotic. It’s a 9 out of 10.

With the old rear-drive model now retired, both variants of the Model S utilize dual motors and all-wheel drive. A 100-kwh battery feeds those motors. In standard Long Range trim, this setup is good for a 3.7-second 0-60 mph time. In Performance trim, that time is cut down to an absurdly fast 2.4 seconds—it’s one of the quickest production cars ever made. 

Perhaps most incredible about the experience is the lack of drama. The only sound from the Tesla as it rockets toward the horizon is the rushing of the tires on the asphalt and a touch of wind noise seeping through the frameless door glass.

Over the road, the Model S is well-behaved. There’s no surprise motions over undulating pavement and bumps are quickly evened out by the standard air suspension. In its standard setting, the ride is firm without being harsh—appropriate for a sports sedan. The battery sits under the floor and, despite weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, the Model S corners with confidence.

Even in its most aggressive regen setting there’s no option for one-pedal driving in the Model S. All regenerative braking occurs via application of the brake pedal.

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7

2020 Tesla Model S

Comfort & Quality

The Tesla Model S is all-day comfortable, but the fit and finish leaves something to be desired.

Whether taking a quick jaunt around town or embarking for the opposite coast, the 2020 Model S has plenty of space and comfortable seats. It’s a 7 out of 10 on our quality scale.

The usability of the Model S begins with its vast cargo space. Thanks to its hatchback design, up to 58 cubic feet of space is available when you fold down the rear seats; keep them upright and there’s 26 cubic feet to work with. There’s also a small front trunk that can hold 5.3 cubic feet of anything you’d rather hide from prying eyes.

Occupants in the cabin get comfortable, spacious seats. Both Model S variants get the full premium interior that includes real wood ash trim and synthetic leather upholstery. The seats, particularly the front buckets, are comfortable and suitable for a wide range of body types. Their multi-way power adjustment makes it easy to get comfortable.

The second row is similarly comfortable. Despite a sloped-back roofline, the Model S offers plenty of head room; even taller folks won’t have to worry about their head brushing against the standard panoramic roof. The only issue we found is actual ingress and egress; the racy exterior styling demands some concessions, large door openings being one of them. 

An interesting thing to note is that as a rear passenger you can’t stick your feet under the front seats; if you’re taller you may need to sit with legs somewhat splayed out. Average-size adults may not mind, there’s 35 inches of rear seat leg room, but taller rear passengers should aim for the front seats.

The one weakness for the Model S, and Tesla products in general, tends to be something that’s a little harder to put a focused finger on: it’s all a bit underwhelming inside. The Model S costs as much as a luxury sedan, but feels hardly as special. 

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7

2020 Tesla Model S

Safety

The government has given the Model S high marks for its crashworthiness, but we have issues with Autopilot.

The Tesla Model S weighs in at 7 points out of 10 on our safety scale. We toss it one point for having a five-star overall NHTSA rating, and give it another point for its standard automatic emergency braking and one more for its Autopilot driver-assistance system.

The IIHS has awarded the Model S its top rating of “Good” in all its crash testing simulations save the driver’s side small-overlap front crash category, in which the Tesla was deemed “Acceptable.” The IIHS was also critical of the headlights and rated them “Poor.”

Standard safety equipment on the Tesla includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and lane-keep assist. Optional, and controversial, is Autopilot. It costs $7,000 and can drive the Model S in limited situations: it will navigate on- and off-ramps, cruise at a set pace, and pass other cars, all without driver intervention—but it requires that the driver keep their hands on the steering wheel with regularity. Autopilot also can automatically park in either parallel or perpendicular spaces as well as find you in a parking lot rather than the other way around.

Although Tesla’s name is somewhat misleading, Autopilot isn’t meant to be a self-driving feature. It requires driver attention and, in some cases, intervention. Looking for a self-driving car? This ain’t it.

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8

2020 Tesla Model S

Features

The 2020 Tesla Model S is a tech hub, but don’t expect features as indulgent or as glamorous as what might be found in typical premium cars.

First things first: If this your first foray into Tesla territory, don’t expect Mercedes-Benz levels of features and gimmicks. Nowhere in the Tesla lineup are there 30-way seats, massaging chairs, 2,200-watt audio, or leather hides. 

That might be a bit unconventional—though certainly less so than it was when the Model S first debuted—but it is all part of the Tesla mystique. Many of those tech features are also not found on other cars in this same price range. For this reason we still give the Model S an 8 out of 10 for features.

This year the Model S lineup is about as simple as it’s ever been. Just two versions are available, the Long Range and Performance. Both come with the 100-kwh battery pack and dual motors. The Long Range costs $79,990, while the Performance begins at $99,990.

Base equipment levels are about the same on both versions. Standard features include synthetic leather upholstery, heated seats for every passenger, premium audio, 12-way power-adjustable seats with memory function, and a heated steering wheel. LED fog lamps, a location-aware garage-door opener, panoramic roof, and auto-dimming mirrors with power-folding functionality are all standard fare as well.

Every Model S comes standard with free Premium Connectivity for a year. It includes navigation with live traffic updates, internet music streaming, internet browsing, and video streaming. Also included with every Model S is free charging at Tesla Superchargers.

As for options, there’s not many. Autopilot is $7,000. Other options are limited to wheels and colors. Items that were previously optional, such as Ludicrous Mode and adaptive cruise control, have been made standard.

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10

2020 Tesla Model S

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Tesla Model S is one of the longest-range electric vehicles available.

The Model S gets an easy 10 out of 10 on our green scale, due to its impressive range that betters most competitors. Long Range models tout a range of 373 miles, while Performance models are good for 348 miles. 

The EPA says the Long Range model is good for 111 MPGe, while the Performance is a tad less efficient at 104 MPGe. Those differences might seem minute, but they matter to hypermilers. 

A note on electric range and efficiency: Extreme temperature as well as driving style can make a big difference in how far you go and how efficient you are. Cold weather and fast driving will deflate the proclaimed range. Dip into Ludicrous Mode and watch the total available range disappear nearly as quickly as the Tesla gets up to speed.

As for charging, the Model S can charge at up to 145 kw at existing Version 2 (V2) Superchargers. V3 Superchargers arriving later this year may add 75 miles of range in just 5 minutes. With existing V2 Superchargers, owners can plan on adding up to 170 miles of charge in 30 minutes.

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$79,990
MSRP based on Long Range AWD
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8.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 8
Fuel Economy 10
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