by Michael Butler
Tesla remains the leading EV manufacturer globally, and its crown jewel is the Model S. This full-size sedan/hatchback chimera, along with its smaller sibling, the Model 3, is one of the most popular EVs on American roads and continues to make believers of hardened gearheads with ludicrous levels of acceleration, massive range, and luxury. It's hard to believe that the Model S has been around for over a decade; this EV continues to push the boundaries of what we previously thought EVs were capable of, and with constant minor tweaks and updates, it feels as fresh as ever. With over 400 miles of range, and a 0-60 mph time of just over three seconds, the 'long range' model is more than capable of taking on competitors such as the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT, while the Standard Range trim offers 320 miles and 491 hp - and a cheaper price. Stepping up to the 1,000-horsepower-plus Model S Plaid should come with a health and safety warning , but we review that Tesla Model S separately. Is the EV giant's most loved model still the champion of the electric car world?
Unlike other rational carmakers who annually update their cars, Tesla likes to throw new features at the Model S as and when it feels like it, making it a bit of a task to keep up with the latest changes. For 2023, Tesla has added a swivel function to its infotainment display so that it can tilt toward the driver or passenger.
Later in 2023, a new Standard Range model was introduced with 491 hp, 320 miles of range, and a price tag of $78,490 - ten grand cheaper than the regular 'long range' model.
The Tesla Model S Standard Range has a price of $78,490, not including the $1,390 destination, with the 'long range' Model S costing $88,490. These prices were slashed in 2023 by the automaker, ostensibly due to 'turbulent times'.
Once you add a nice color, a black and white interior, and all of the advanced driving features, the Tesla Model S will cost over $100k. This is just about $10k short of S-Class territory, and while the Model S' performance and range are unquestionably good, it's become a bit harder to justify its price. Plus, the USA's list of available EV models continues to grow, and now includes the Porsche Taycan. The base Taycan has an MSRP of $86,700, while the 4S retails for $106,500.
See trim levels and configurations:
The Tesla Model S revolutionized how we think about cars back when it first came out in 2012, and it continues to astound with every passing year. The driving experience ranges from refined all the way to spill-your-lunch insane and everything in between. The Model S is truly a special thing to drive - if you like going fast. Acceleration is mind-blowing; put this car in its most hardcore setting, flatten the accelerator, and hold on. The 2023 Model S will reach 60 mph in just over three seconds if you nail the perfect launch. This coming from a 4,500-pound luxury hatchback. Keep your foot in it, and Tesla claims a top speed of 149 mph. Even the Standard Range model, with reduced power outputs, needs just 3.7 seconds to hit 60 mph.
Unfortunately, the Model S' ability to accelerate is really its only party trick. There isn't all that much more to write home about. We found that its brakes tend to fade after a few spirited stops, and the steering is overly light and doesn't offer much in the way of feedback. All-wheel grip is impressive, but this is no sports car. When the dust settles, this is still a supremely comfortable daily driver and highway bomber, but the Model S has typecast itself as a sprinter, and that's how we like to remember it.
With a career spanning over a decade, the Model S might just be the most famous electric vehicle out there. Thousands of YouTube videos showing buxom young ladies trying to snatch $100 bills off the Model S' dashboard helped to make this car famous, but is it more than just a one-trick pony? Sure, it's redefined what the electric vehicle can be and continues to deliver excellent performance, massive range, and good luxury. The hatchback-style liftgate makes it practical, too, and it's comfortable to drive around daily. Cheaper prices also help - although we're still not sure it's worth the money asked of it. Safety levels are high, thanks to a vast array of driver assistance tech, but it has a number of shortcomings. For one, we're not fans of the hard-to-use steering yoke, which you can fortunately now switch out for a regular steering wheel. And it's frustrating not to have access to basic tech such as Apple CarPlay. The fit and finish are still not up to scratch after years of complaints, and Euro competitors such as the BMW i7 feel more accomplished. You'd also enjoy throwing a Porsche Taycan around much more. The Model S might be brutally quick, but you're left with a sub-par luxury car once the excitement wears off.
The Tesla Model S comes in three flavors, but we review the S Plaid separately. Your choice comes down to power and price, really, since the only difference between the regular Model S and the Standard Range version is that the latter only has 491 hp and 320 miles of range, while the 'longer range' model comes with 670 hp and 405 miles of range. Acceleration times, obviously, vary.
There's also little in the way of optional extras - you can choose your color, your trim of choice, and either just the Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Package. If you want something even quicker, the best Tesla Model S is the new Plaid, but it comes at a substantially higher price.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Tesla Model S: