Test Drive

2016 Tesla Model S Review: Easy To Love But Hard To Commit To

Even an amazing electric car still has the problems of a normal electric car.

Recently the CarBuzz team took a field trip to Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto. After a brief primer on the Model S and its features we were told to go have fun for a few hours. I consider myself lucky to have only gotten a few hours with the Model S. Why? Because you can’t deny that EV ownership is a bit of a hassle. Luckily I can’t tell you what it’s like to experience these hassles. I only had a couple of hours with Tesla’s flagship sedan and I damn sure wasn’t going to spend a second in line at a supercharger station.

No, my experience with the Model S 70D wasn’t reflective of the average EV owner because I only cared about one thing: Was it fun to drive or not? The answer to that question is “duh,” as in “yes.” The 70D doesn’t offer Insane Mode or Ludicrous Mode and its engine output won’t steal headlines. But rest assured that 328 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque, along with all-wheel drive, is enough to stick a smile on even the most stubborn of faces. The 70 kWh battery pack has a max range of 240 miles. Now I don’t know whether the Model S can reach that range but I do know that hammering the accelerator quickly kills the battery.

Our Model S came fully charged but by the time we were done it had a max range of between 90-100 miles. We definitely did not do anywhere close to 140 miles that day. The reason why the battery drained so quickly is because the Model S is so damn fun when the gas/electricity pedal is firmly pushed down into the floor. The instant torque delivery made me treat every corner as if I was an F1 driver, with the AWD ensuring that my fantasy was a safe one. Straight stretches of road were just as satisfying as the bends. Every straight away, no matter how short, called for a full-on charge. Slamming back into your seat due to the acceleration never gets old. This is pretty damn impressive as the Model S is somewhat of a whale at 4,647 pounds.

That being said it's still quite nimble. The steering is responsive and you quickly forget to care about the lack of a transmission. As my colleague Gabe Beita-Kiser mentioned when recounting his experience with the Model S, the car can be driven with a single pedal thanks to its adjustable regenerative braking system. Just make sure to hit the brakes once everyone in the car starts screaming. Yes, there was a bit of screaming but that's to be expected when you push a car to its (legal) limits, right? Unfortunately drivability is merely one aspect of EV ownership. Yes, the Model S 70D is a blast to drive but I can’t speak to whether or not it’s worth the $95,000 our tester stickered at.

Tesla has made huge strides in conquering the twin weaknesses of the electric car - battery charging times and range anxiety - but to me the technology and infrastructure just isn’t far enough along yet. From a driver’s point of view the Model S is a spectacular car. It is highly practical with its five doors and seats, yet incredibly fun to drive. But again, my opinion was formed after only a few hours with the car. Who knows what I'd be saying after a few days. Maybe I'd be bitching about charging the battery or its capacity. Unfortunately my time with the Model S only lasted a few hours, so I can't tell you what it's like to live with the car for a week. But honestly, I'm happier not knowing. Photos by Alden Tatum.

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