by Michael Butler
The world is an oven that is pre-heating itself to destroy humankind, and the best thing is that we're the ones setting the temperature. This might be cause for concern, but humans seem to be having such a great time that most are carrying on as if the imminent extinction of our race is some kind of conspiracy theory. At least Elon Musk and his team are taking things seriously by building all-electric cars that can sprint to sixty in the mid-two-second range. The 2020 Tesla Model S continues the brand's flagship electric sedan dominance that started in 2012, delivering up to 402 miles of range in Long Range Plus guise, kicking range anxiety to the curb, and delivering a 3.7-second 0-60 time. Combine this with sporty handling, massive cargo space, and the fact that the Tesla S is one of the most advanced cars on the road today, and you've got yourself a winning combination. There's just the small matter of the Porsche Taycan to deal with.
Unlike other car manufacturers who prescribe to the Gregorian calendar, Tesla claims not to believe in model years. Be that as it may, for 2020, there are some notable improvements and additions that make the Tesla Model S even more efficient and rapid. For 2020, the Tesla Model S is only available in Long Range Plus and Performance variants, the latter reviewed separately while the former has achieved the status of being the first EV to be rated by the EPA with a 400-mile-plus range. The Tesla S range receives an updated front-drive unit and motor, as well as air suspension, which is now adaptive. Ongoing software updates allow the Model S to take full advantage of V3 supercharging capabilities, which, according to Tesla, will reduce average charging times by 25 percent. Later in the year we also expect Full Self Driving Capability to come online, with Autopilot capable of negotiating stop signs and traffic lights.
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We commend Tesla on the work it has done on the exterior of the Tesla Model S. There's no mistaking it for anything other than a fast sedan, and while it might look a bit plain to some, we think the sleek and sophisticated bodywork still looks good nearly a decade after it first debuted. The sliver of a front grille has become a signature look for all Teslas, and the rear-end, devoid of any exhaust pipes, is finished off neatly and ties in with the rest of the design. Tesla has done a great job of making the Model S seem more sedan-like than hatchback, despite the lack of a traditional trunk. The rear liftgate is powered for added convenience. At the front, there's a set of LED headlights and foglights, and auto-dimming power-folding heated side mirrors. The Tesla Model S rolls on a set of standard 19-inch wheels with the option to go all the way to 21 inches and has a tinted glass roof as well.
The four-door Tesla Model S measures in close to its fiercest rival, the Porsche Taycan, which also plays in the executive/full-sized luxury car arena. With a total length of 196 inches, the Tesla is around half an inch longer than the Taycan, and its wheelbase of 116.5 inches is over two inches longer than the German. Total body width is 77.3 inches without the side mirrors, and 86.2 with them included. The Tesla Model stands 56.9 inches tall and weighs in at 4,883 pounds in Long Range Plus form.
Tesla sticks to its elegantly simple design ethos when it comes to the exterior paint choices on offer for 2020. The sleek lines of the Model S are not easily camouflaged, and most of the colors on offer do a commendable job of highlighting the bits and pieces we love the most. Tesla so graciously offers its Pearl White Multi-Coat for free, but you'll have to cough up some extra dough for the rest. Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic, and Deep Blue Metallic are all on offer for $1,500, but you'll have to pay $2,500 for the stunning Red Multi-Coat. If it were up to us, we'd paint the Tesla Model is in Midnight Silver Metallic to match its bullet-like design.
It is difficult to describe the levels of performance on offer from the Tesla Model S to someone who's never been behind the wheel of any sort of electric vehicle - a golf cart doesn't count. Even the smaller Tesla Model 3 will push you back in your seat with its enthusiastic acceleration. The aptest description is rocketship-like. The sheer force with which the Tesla Model S launches is something you won't expect from a Long Range variant and Tesla claims a zero to sixty acceleration time of 3.7 seconds, which might not be the 2.3 seconds of the Performance variant, but is still quicker than decade-old supercars. Keep your foot in it, and the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus will top out at a reasonable 155 mph. With 534 hp and 557 lb-ft of torque, driving around town is an absolute pleasure; its instant torque delivery makes navigating through traffic a breeze, and on the highway, it offers a true GT experience.
How can one car deliver such astonishing performance yet be able to feel completely tranquil when need be? The secret lies under the skin of the 2020 Tesla Model S. There's no traditional hood to lift up, which is a shame, as it is the international way of proving your car's muscle, but we need to adapt to the times, don't we? Underneath all the bodywork, you'll find two electric motors individually powering the front and rear wheels. This means you get a standard all-wheel drive. Power is channeled to all four wheels via a single-speed transmission, with impressive outputs of 534 hp and 557 lb-ft of torque. What does this all mean? Absolutely rabid acceleration that could be fatal for people of old age or those with a history of breathing problems.
The Tesla Model S might not be the lightest of cars, but thanks to some very clever packaging, and fine-tuning to suspension and chassis systems, the 2020 Model S handles with the poise of a much lighter car. A key reason for this is the way Tesla has managed to package the numerous batteries used to power the electric motors: they've been placed low in the chassis, which means the Model S has a low center of gravity, which in turn assists with handling and cornering ability. Get behind the steering wheel, and you'll be pleased to note the Model S' ability to place its nose into a corner without protest. Steering is direct, and two settings offer light and heavy steering feel. The new adaptive suspension varies between stiff and relaxed depending on the driving mode but never feels overly harsh, just watch out for those massive optional wheels. The Porsche Taycan might offer a more sporty drive, but the Tesla Model S offers a great balance.
The Tesla Model S doesn't use a drop of gas. Instead, it depends on its massive set of batteries to provide momentum, and these also dictate how far the Tesla Model S will get on a single charge. Tesla prides itself on its car's class-leading range, and it's still the industry leader when it comes to long-distance electric travel. This title is coming under more pressure, but competition drives innovation, does it not? While earlier in 2020, the EPA rated the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus electric efficiency at 115/107/111 MPGe, a reevaluation has been completed s of June. While MPGe figures haven't yet been published, the Model S Long Range Plus now has the bragging honors of being the first production EV to boast more than 400 miles range on a charge - 402 to be exact. The Tesla Model S can charge at up to 145 kW on version two superchargers which translates into 170 miles of driving range for only 30 minutes of charging time.
Tesla cars have been forgiven for their shoddy interiors for a while, but it's getting a bit old now. At first glance, the interior of the Tesla Model S seems like something out of a science-fiction movie; the big open space features a minimalist dashboard with a massive display screen taking center stage. Yes, at first it seems like the $80,000-plus Model S offers an $80,000 interior, but upon closer inspection, some regular gremlins start to surface; panel alignments are off in certain spots, and overall fit and finish is not on par with German rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Nevertheless, it's a gorgeous place to sit in. What can you expect to find inside a 2020 Model S? Firstly you get a set of 12-way power-adjustable, heated seats throughout the cabin with memory and driver profile for the pilot, a heated steering wheel, as well as luxuries such as HomeLink, keyless entry, and a high-definition backup camera.
The interior of the 2020 Tesla Model S feels spacious, thanks to its minimalist design. Go with a lighter shade of interior material and the space feels even bigger. Getting in and out of the front seats isn't a hassle, and even with the sloping roofline, the average-sized adult will easily get in the back as well. Front occupants get a generous 42.7 inches of legroom, but that number, unfortunately, shrinks significantly to 35.4 inches for those in the rear, which can spell trouble for taller passengers. Headroom in the front is 38.8 inches, and 35.3 inches in the back.
Tesla keeps things simple on the inside by offering the Model S with three interior trim options. In standard form, you get black seat upholstery and a splash of Ash Wood inserts. This look reminds us of the more restrained stylings offered by German rivals Audi and BMW. If you want a different look, you'll have to flash some cash: the sportier Dark Ashwood and white seat upholstery give the Model S a cool contrast, which adds to the athletic side of its personality. This color scheme will set you back an extra $1,500. If you're looking for something more mature, Tesla offers an Oak Wood and contrasting cream seat upholstery option for the same price.
Yes, the Tesla Model S offers breathtaking performance that is untouchable in its price range, but it has another trick up its all-electric sleeve; its hatchback-style design allows it to offer masses of trunk and cargo space, and is miles ahead of the competition. The power liftgate opens up to 26.3 cubic feet of trunk space, more than double the space on offer from its sedan-shaped competitors. As if that's not enough, the Tesla Model S can offer even more: with the rear 60/40 split-folding seats in the downward position, the trunk opens up an overall cargo space of 58.1 cubic feet. The frunk offers an additional 2.1 cubic feet, which should be enough for a quick run to the shops.
To some, the Tesla Model S isn't a car, its more of a gimmick, a toy to mess around with. That's all fine and well, but for those who actually live with these cars on a day to day basis, and those that are looking to purchase one in the near future, expect a good number of features to accompany the insane levels of performance (not to mention the price). The good news is that the Model S Long Range Plus offers a solid features list, which covers most basic needs. Firstly those in the front get 12-way power-adjustable seats with memory and driver profile, and all passengers get seat heating. There's also a heated steering wheel and wireless charging. The climate control system features a HEPA air filtration system that prevents viruses, bacteria, and odors from entering the cabin. The roof is made up of tinted glass with ultraviolet and infrared protection, and a high-definition reverse camera makes backing up an easy chore. Driver assistance features for 2020 include collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, as well as blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist under the Autopilot suite.
Anyone who has shown even a remote interest in the Tesla Model S, or any other Tesla product, in fact, will be able to tell a Tesla interior from most other rivals due to the massive infotainment display mounted smack-bang in the middle of the dashboard. This iconic centerpiece controls everything from climate control settings to your ABBA playlist, and is one of the better infotainment systems on offer in its class. The display offers crisp and clear imagery, and response times are impressive. The infotainment system consists of a massive 17-inch capacitive touchscreen with integrated navigation and real-time traffic-based routing, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity, remote app and voice control, Bluetooth streaming, and FM radio with internet radio capability. To our dismay, the Model S doesn't come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. Sound is channeled through an 11-speaker system, which sounds best when playing the hit single Goodbye 70s by synth-wave band Yazoo.
Although the Tesla Model S has not been subject to any recalls in recent years, there are currently two active investigations into certain aspects of the Model S' operation, including unintended bouts of acceleration, and issues with battery management software updates. Luckily these issues only affect 2019 models, and 2020 should be trouble-free. Tesla covers it's Model S with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty as well as coverage for the battery and drive unit for eight years, or 150,000 miles.
The 2020 Model S has not been tested by the NHTSA, but the IIHS has performed a partial test, focusing on the car's headlight system. Tesla has been in the spotlight in recent years for exaggerated safety claims, and since the dust has settled, Tesla has been hard at work to increase the overall level of safety on its vehicles. Progress has been made, resulting in Top Safety Pick awards from the IIHS for certain models, but the latest Model S has no solid rating as of yet. What we can say is that the Model S offers an extensive range of driver assistance features, and should prove to be one of the safer cars on the road.
It might be technologically advanced, but the 2020 Tesla Model S still has to feature safety basics such as electronic stability and traction control, LATCH attachments for child seat installations, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes. But it also gets a number of advanced driver assistance systems to keep things on the road. The Tesla Model S also features LED daytime running lights as well as fog and cornering lights, and an eight airbag system with knee, and pelvis bags plus two side curtain airbags. Standard driver assistance features include active forward collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assist. For those who want even more, Tesla offers a $7,000 Full Self-Driving Capability system that includes autopark, auto lane change and a summon feature that allows the car to find you in a busy parking lot. The world-famous autopilot system comes standard, and allows the Tesla Model S to drive itself on the freeway. Upcoming features include traffic light recognition and automatic driving on city streets.
It's worth noting that the very first Tesla Model S is the car that basically set off the current EV race, and is a true trendsetter in its own right. Since its launch, the Model S has seen numerous improvements to both its hardware and software systems and is today still one of the frontrunners in the electric race. What Tesla has managed to achieve with the Model S is truly astonishing: not only have they built a car that will blow the doors off of almost everything else on the road, but they have built a car that is beautiful to drive, offers good levels of technology, class-leading range in this Long Range Plus variant, and is surprisingly practical - something that can't be said for any of its gas-powered rivals. Unfortunately, the Tesla Model S is still beleaguered by shoddy workmanship inside the interior, with misaligned panels still prevalent, but its infotainment system and a general sense of airiness make up for minor build quality niggles. The Tesla Model S Long Range Plus is still a brilliant choice if your ultimate aim in pure electric range.
Basic economics tells us that the higher the demand, the dearer the product or service, which can be related to the Tesla Model S. These cars are in high demand, and we don't blame the people who want them; the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus is a bargain of note. The Long Range Plus comes in with an MSRP of $79,990 as well as a destination and documentation fee of $1,200. With extra options and the $7,000 autopilot package fitted, the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus should see its asking price come in at just over $95k.
The 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus stands alone as the optimal variant in terms of all-electric range. We review the Model S Performance separately. The Long Range Plus gets an increased battery capacity, which gives it a longer range, and is fitted with two electric motors that produce a combined 534 hp and 557 lb-ft. LED daytime running lights, illuminated door handles, a tinted glass roof, and a power liftgate on the exterior side are all standard. Inside, there is standard power-adjustable seating with memory, and heating for both the front and back seats, wireless phone charging, and a 17-inch infotainment display with navigation, Bluetooth streaming, and Wi-Fi integration. Standard driver assistance features include forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, lane keep assist, and auto-forward braking. Available to add on is the optional Full Self-Driving Capability, which includes lane change assist and self-parking, as well as traffic light recognition, and will incorporate city steering in future iterations.
Unlike other manufacturers who leave a ton of features on the options list, the Model S is a rather self-contained product which only gets a few optional features. The exterior of the Model S Long Range Plus can be had with larger 21-inch Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine wheels for $4,500, or why not a Red Multi-Coat paint job for $2,500? The most significant extra on offer is the $7,000 Full Self-Driving Capability suite, which adds full self-driving capability. This package includes automatic driving from highway on-ramp to off-ramp, automatic lane changes while driving on the highway, and automatic parking, as well as Summon - a cool feature that allows your Model S to come and find you in a parking lot.
Do you want to go really fast and really far at the same time? Then you'll be happy to get behind the wheel of the Long Range Plus. Sharing features with the Performance model, the Long Range Plus comes comprehensively equipped with illuminated door handles with keyless entry, a power liftgate, and stunning 19-inch wheels as standard. Inside, you get a massive 17-inch display with navigation, a wireless charging pad, and a seriously advanced climate control system. If it where up to us, we'd get our Long Range Plus in Midnight Silver Metallic with the black and white interior and the optional Full Self-Driving package.
The Tesla 3 is the smaller and more attainable sibling of the Model S. The Tesla Model 3 was specifically designed to offer a low-cost alternative to the Model S, which is seen by most as a high-end luxury car. The Model 3 might be down on power, but it offers impressive range and awesome acceleration times, too. Powered by a similar electric motor setup and AWD drivetrain, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range variant will travel for 322 miles on one charge and accelerate to sixty in 4.4 seconds in standard guise - slightly behind the figures from its bigger brother. We love the fact that it delivers competitive performance at $30k less. With a bunch of standard luxury and safety features, as well as a good number of driver aids, the Tesla Model 3 is a great bargain - we just wished that it came with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a fate the Model S also suffers from. Give us the cheaper Model 3 purely for the cost-saving benefits.
The Tesla Model S lineup consists of the Long Range Plus and the Performance models for 2020 - last year's Standard Range edition was culled from the range after only a short stint on the market. Instead, these two models represent two ends of the spectrum fo the Model S - one focused on giving you the most mileage, the other striving to push you back into your seat. Initial differences between these two models are mostly cosmetic, with the Performance blessed with a carbon fiber exterior spoiler, and two exclusive interior trims. All the other features remain the same, including the large 17-inch screen, heated front and rear seats, glass roof, and posh audio setup. The real differences to consider are in range and acceleration times, with the Long Range Plus variant allowing for more 43 more miles per charge, but sacrificing more than a full second to get to 60 mph. Still, the Long Range Plus can do the benchmark dash in 3.7 seconds, which isn't half bad. If you're not looking for face-melting performance, you can't go wrong with the Long Range Plus - and, it costs around $20k less, before options.
Check out some informative Tesla Model S video reviews below.