by Adam Lynton
The Tesla Model S could be considered the pioneer of the current all-electric vehicle boom, leading the industry in EV capabilities from its introduction in 2012. Since then, the Model S has undergone an array of upgrades keeping it ahead of the game, with the 2019 Model S Long Range now offering uncontested electric-only ranges of up to 373 miles on a single charge. Furthermore, despite Tesla's laser-beam focus on performance, and unlike many of the Model S' rival EV players, it still manages to deliver a high level of value in feature specification, overall comfort, and daily practicality. However, as a relatively new manufacturer, Tesla still has a long way to go in terms of build quality, as some may feel that the Model S isn't as premium as one would expect at its price. The all-new Porsche Taycan is also a worthy adversary to the Model S overall, especially when it comes to levels of craftsmanship and driving dynamics.
Tesla vehicles undergo continuous updates at the will of the company instead of undergoing the typical yearly alterations or redesigns that the industry usually follows, meaning the 2019 Model S could incur changes at any point during the traditional model year. For now, the only differences from last year include a simplified lineup, with the Standard Range Model S being dropped. The 75 kWh battery option has been canceled and the Long Range Model S has been upgraded with an all-electric range of 373 miles. Tesla has also upgraded the adaptive air suspension and other components for improved ride quality and extra responsiveness during dynamic driving.
The Model S Long Range looks futuristic with a minimalistic design, and exudes an impression of sophistication with an athletic flair. Its sharp lower-front fascia, black roof, liftback design and carbon fiber rear spoiler give the car a sporty silhouette; all-LED exterior lighting, including front fog lights, is standard on the Model S, along with chrome accents on the front fenders, lower door sills, window frames, and side-view mirrors. 19-inch Silver alloy wheels are standard with 19-inch Sonic Carbon Slipstream wheels and 21-inch Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine wheels optional. A tinted glass roof with infrared and ultraviolet protection is standard.
The Model S is relatively compact for the class; compared to the Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan the Model S measures 10.9-inches shorter in overall length at 196 inches. The Model S has a wheelbase of 116.5 inches, while the S-Class has slightly longer measurements at 124.6 inches. The Model S is two inches shorter than the S-Class, with a height of 56.5 inches, but is 2.5 inches wider at 77.3 inches with the mirrors folded. With a curb weight of 4,883 lbs, the Model S is only slightly lighter than the heaviest S-Class model, which weighs in at 4,971 lbs.
The Model S can be optioned in one of only five exterior colors - Pearl White is the only cost-inclusive color option, Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic and Deep Blue Metallic all carry additional charges of $1,500, while Red multi-coat will cost an extra $2,500. The Solid Black exterior paint is the only option that corresponds with the standard black roof - it gives the Model S a sophisticated appearance, and accentuates the cars attractive chrome exterior accents, windows frames and silver wheels. The Deep Blue Metallic and Red hues give a sportier image to the Model S, highlighting the sharp backward swept contours and contrasting nicely with the black roof and front air intake.
The Model S is equipped with two powerful electric motors, one dedicated to the front axle and the other to the rear axle, giving the Model S a full-time all-wheel-drive system. With the Model S' 534 horsepower and 557 lb-ft of torque being sent to all four wheels practically instantaneously, off-the-line acceleration is extremely rapid. The Model S bolts from 0-60 mph in a lightning-quick 3.7 seconds, which, barring the Performance model, is the fastest time in the class at present for non-performance based models. Porsche claims that the upcoming Taycan will complete the run just a split second slower at 3.8 seconds. The Model S' top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, as it is in most of its rivals. If that's not fast enough, then the Model S Performance is sure to impress, it's capable of racing from 0-60 mph in just 2.4 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph. Though the Tesla Model S is an AWD vehicle, it's not rated for towing in the U.S. at all.
The Model S is equipped with a 100 kWh lithium-ion battery, hooked up to a 275 horsepower electric motor with 310 lb-ft of torque dedicated to the front axle and a second 259 hp electric motor with 247 lb-ft on the rear axle - totaling combined outputs at 534 hp and 557 lb-ft. Acceleration from the Model S is incredibly impressive, even with casual driving inputs the responses are always instantaneous and smooth. Flooring the go-pedal unleashes the powertrain's copious levels of electrified torque to all four wheels in an instant, while the single-speed automatic transmission does its work imperceptibly, helping deliver a linear, uninterrupted surge of power. Acceleration remains strong all the way through to triple digits, from there responses do taper off a little, but power is always available - making the Model S a pleasurable and easy car to drive in town and on the highway. Acceleration from a standstill is instant, and getting up to highway speeds is as smooth as can be - overtaking vehicles at any speed is a breeze.
Tesla upgraded the Model S' adaptive air suspension for the 2019 model year, granting the already capable and comfortable commuter with even greater handling prowess and further improved ride comfort. The suspension feels masterfully tuned, while it's firm enough for amusing sporting antics, it's still soft enough to keep the ride comfy on almost any road surface. With the 19-inch wheels, most moderate road imperfections and typical day-to-day undulations are dealt with aptly, the optional 21-inch wheels do, however, reduce ride quality to a small degree.
While the Model S' penchant for straight-line performance dominates, it also manages to deliver reasonably decent handling dynamics. It shouldn't be thrown around any corners with unbound verve, but fares well in casual-to-slightly spirited driving styles, it inspires driver-confidence by always remaining impressively stable through bends, and manages to mitigate body roll to a suitable degree. The chassis remains composed and no lean is exhibited with hasty lane changes at speed. Despite the Model S' hefty curb weight, it feels much lighter than it really is.
Unfortunately, this semi-sporty sedan is let down by its non-communicative steering, very little road or tire feedback is provided; however, responses are direct and there are two weighting effort settings provided. The brakes provide suitable levels of stopping power and the regenerative function is favorably imperceptible, augmenting the Model S' overall ride comfort.
The Model S pioneers the all-electric vehicle segment and leads the pack in terms of fuel economy and all-electric range, as its name would suggest. The EPA rates the Model S Long Range at 115/107/111 MPGe city/highway/combined. Tesla claims that on a full charge the Long Range will motor on for an astounding 373-miles before totally depleting its battery. It will take a full 24 hours to completely recharge the Model S' 100 kWh battery with a standard phase-one power outlet, but only about 30 minutes on the Supercharger network. There aren't any competitors at present that can hold a candle to the Model S in performance and all-electric capability, though the all-new Porsche Taycan, up for release in 2020, promises to come close.
At the Model S' premium price, one would expect a top-notch interior with impeccable build quality, but it isn't quite as up to the standard of other luxury vehicles in the class. While the fixtures and fittings are all firmly attached and the materials high in quality, many of the interior panels are noticeably misaligned. Nevertheless, the Model S' minimalistic and contemporary design exudes a pleasant atmosphere and is certainly a "cool" place to be. The cabin and the seats themselves are spacious and reasonably comfortable; everything is built and laid out ergonomically and the 17-inch infotainment touchscreen is a technological centerpiece to behold. Some may find the size of the screen inconvenient, however, with some of the functions located on the far right of the screen possibly just out of reach.
The Tesla Model S seats a total of five occupants in a commodious cabin, but in only reasonably comfortable seats. Head and legroom is ample throughout the Model S, even for adults in the center rear seat, thanks to a flat floor with no intrusion of a transmission tunnel. The seats are well-bolstered for adequate support and feature heating and plenty of position adjustability; the bottoms are, however, somewhat firm and can get uncomfortable on longer trips. There's also no option for ventilation, which is reserved for the Performance variant exclusively. The driver is suitably positioned at the wheel with impeccable all-round visibility, which is augmented by the massive and high-definition rearview camera display. Ingress and egress are as easy as can be thanks to wide-opening doors, a moderate step-in height, and roomy cabin.
The Model S comes outfitted with an all-black interior with Figured Ash Wood trim as standard, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a faux-suede-wrapped dash, and seats upholstered in black faux-leather. For $1,500 the seats and upper door panels can be upholstered in white leather, and the trim swapped out for a Dark Ash Wood, or with cream leather upholstery matched with a Light Oak Wood trim.
By virtue of the Model S' relatively long wheelbase and liftback design, it's afforded an abundance of cargo room behind the rear seats. With 28.4 cubic feet of room in the trunk, and a 5.3 cu.ft. frunk located under the hood of the Model S, cargo space is class-leading - three large suitcases will easily fit in the back, and a few smaller grocery bags or a duffel bag can be stashed under the hood. An underfloor compartment also exists for added storage. The rear seats are 60/40 split-folding and expand rear cargo room to 58.1 cubic feet which will adequately store a bicycle or two.
Unfortunately, in-cabin storage is not as impressive: there are no door side pockets, only two cup holders offered up front, and a moderately spacious open console channel for loose items. The passenger-side glove box is reasonably usable, but that's about all there is for phones, keys, and other smaller items.
The Tesla Model S Long Range comes thoroughly outfitted with features as standard. On the outside, the Tesla flaunts all-LED exterior lighting, power-folding/heated side-view mirrors, automatic chrome door handles, a power-operated liftgate and a rear carbon fiber spoiler. Keyless entry comes standard and there's a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with memory settings, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED ambient lighting and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. In terms of standard driver aids, the Model S comes equipped with front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. Semi-autonomous driving capabilities, auto lane change, auto park, and summon are available in the Autopilot option, coming later this year at a $7,000 premium.
Taking center stage in the Model S is a tablet-like 17-inch capacitive infotainment touchscreen which confers crisp graphics, quick input responses, and a whole lot of functionality. The infotainment system also comprises of an eleven-speaker custom audio system and, though it doesn't include Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality, there's cellular connectivity, internet access and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity - with Google maps providing navigation. You also get voice-activated controls, Bluetooth hands-free calling and media streaming, FM, SiriusXM, on-demand, internet radio and two USB ports for charging and device connectivity. There is also a single 12-volt power outlet located in the center front console.
Although the NHTSA has not issued an official recall, Tesla recalled around 14,000 Model S vehicles in the United States for a problem with the airbags - models prior to 2016 were subjected to numerous other recalls, too. There have also only been an insignificant amount of driver complaints and issue reports lodged online. To give owners some peace of mind, however, Tesla covers the Model S with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and an eight-year/unlimited-mile battery and electric drive unit warranty.
The NHTSA has yet to evaluate the current model year of the Tesla Model S, although 2019 derivatives were given a five-star rollover rating, and the 2016 year model was accorded with an overall rating of five out of a possible five stars. The IIHS did not put the 2019 Tesla S through its crash tests at the time of writing, but 2017 models scored top ratings of Good for four of five specified safety tests.
The Model S comes with a reasonable consignment of safety and driver-assist features as standard: there are eight standard airbags including both driver and front passenger knee airbags, electronic stability and traction control, a tire pressure monitor, a rearview camera, all-round parking sensors, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning. The Autopilot system throws in semi-autonomous driving capabilities, auto lane change, auto park and the summon feature as well. Tesla states that the suite will be updated to include autonomous city driving and traffic-light and stop sign recognition and response later this year, with owners able to sign up for this over-the-air update at a cost of $7,000.
The first Tesla Model S arguably initiated the current electric-vehicle boom and instantaneously set an industry-level benchmark for every manufacturer looking to jump into the premium EV segment. The 2019 Model S remains a forerunner in the segment, especially in terms of performance, range, and value. Tesla has managed to develop a vehicle that is not only exhilaratingly fast with proficient handling, but a car that is also comfortable and class-leading in terms of all-electric range. Beyond performance, the Model S is also a comprehensively specced and contemporary package, from its favorable selection of general comfort and convenience features to safety and advanced driver assists and infotainment. It's also an incredibly practical vehicle, with a commodious cabin to accommodate passengers and an uncompromised cargo bay with jaw-dropping capacity. If there really is anything that could be improved upon in the Model S, it would be in its slightly overly firm seat bottoms and iffy in-cabin build quality. For some, the 17-inch infotainment touchscreen can also be somewhat out of the way, with the driver having to lean forward to reach the far right of the screen, something Tesla could perhaps address with future updates.
The 2019 Tesla Model S Long Range is slapped with a sticker price of $79,990. Tesla also asks an order fee of $100 upfront, as well as a destination and documentation fee of $1,200. The price is also excluding any tax, registration, and licensing fees. Unfortunately, the federal EV rebate of up to $1,875 that the Model S is eligible for will expire at the end of 2019. For those in the state of California, there's the Clean Air rebate of up to $2,500, however, as well as the HOV lane permissions as an added bonus.
The 2019 Tesla Model S Long Range is the only non-performance based model for the current model year and is reviewed separately from the Model S Performance. It's equipped with a 275 hp, 310 lb-ft front electric motor, 259 hp, 247 lb-ft rear electric motor, and a 100 kWh battery pack, offering a combined output of 534 hp and 557 lb-ft. A single-speed transmission sends outputs to the electric all-wheel-drive system.
Starting from the exterior, the Model S Long Range is equipped with 19-inch Silver alloy wheels, an adaptive air suspension, all-LED exterior lighting, power-folding/heated side-view mirrors, automatic chrome door handles, a power-operated liftgate, and a rear carbon fiber spoiler as standard. Further standard features include keyless entry, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with memory settings, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED ambient lighting and 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
In the way of infotainment, the Model S is outfitted with a 17-inch capacitive touchscreen tethered to an eleven-speaker audio system with FM and internet radio access. Though there isn't Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality, there is a cellular connection, two USB ports for device connectivity and charging, Bluetooth connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
Single Speed Automatic
The Autopilot suite of advanced safety and convenience features is already included for the 2019 model year, but it is specified with an optional $7,000 update to include automatic driving on city streets, and with traffic-light and stop street recognition and response. Other than this, buyers wanting to customize their vehicles must do so by means of the various extra-cost paint options, wheel sizes and rim designs, as well as interior upholstery choices.
The Long Range is the standard Tesla Model S available for 2019, with the Performance variant reviewed separately. For the Long Range model, we suggest optioning on either of the 19-inch alloy wheel options - leave the 21-inch alloys as they slightly diminish ride comfort. We also recommend ticking the box for the optional Autopilot Full Self-Driving Capability Update for the forthcoming automated functions that it will add on, ultimately improving overall safety and convenience.
The Tesla Model X costs around $5,000 more than the Model S. Though the Model X offers three-row seating for seven, a maximum towing capability of 5,000 lbs, and awesome rear gullwing doors,it's slightly slower, a lot less comfortable on the road, and offers notably poorer all-electric range. While the Model X is as much of an impressive all-electric vehicle as the Model S is, it doesn't quite fit its mold as an SUV as well as the Model S does its role as a practical family commuter. The Model X doesn't really offer any level of off-road capability either, something generally expected of an SUV - its only real advantages over the Model S are in its towing capability and three-row seating. The cars are otherwise identical in the way of feature specification and safety. If the towing capability and seven-passenger seating isn't required, then the Model S is certainly the better vehicle in performance, comfort, and daily practicality.
The Porsche Taycan is planned to arrive for the 2020 model year at an MSRP approximately $20,000 more than the Model S. The Taycan was designed to compete directly with the Model S and achieves this to a rather impressive degree. In terms of straight-line performance, the Model S is slightly quicker off the line, though the Taycan will build up momentum and take the win in a quarter-mile drag. Though the Taycan's all-electric range hasn't been provided yet, it's expected to be significantly lower than that of the Model S' by at least 100 miles. In terms of handling, the Taycan is certainly the more capable car, providing the driver with better engagement through all the controls based on a history of wonderful fun-to-drive vehicles. The Taycan is bound to top the Model S in terms of cabin quality, but the Model S still offers a more commodious cabin throughout and five-passenger seating - the rear seats in the Taycan has space for only two, with much less space to move about. The Model S is also more practical, with a larger cargo bay and split-folding rear seats, which the Taycan does without. The Taycan is certainly the more driver-focused vehicle of the two and appeals to those who want to have immense driving fun with the bragging rights of owning an eco-friendly vehicle (truly the best of both worlds), while the Model S is the more practical everyday EV, better suited to a family-centric lifestyle.