Tesla Model S Review – Price & Seating Options

In This Guide:

The new Tesla Model S is Tesla’s full-sized luxury car. The company also produces a roadster and a full-sized SUV with the much anticipated compact Model 3 slated for release at the end of 2017. However, the Model S has been around since 2012 which has given Tesla the opportunity to figure out what works, what does not work, and how to fix it.

How Many Passengers Can It Seat?

The 2016 Tesla Model S has seating for 5, 2 in the front and 3 in the back. It comes with standard leatherette seats that are noted for being nice, though they are also subject to criticism for not being quite as nice as other competitors in the luxury car market. Apparently, the seats do not offer as much support as one would like to see in them. However, leather upholstery is optional. While the front seats come with a standard heated system, the rear do not, though that too is available as an optional feature as is a heated steering wheel.

The front seats off a 12-way power adjustable setting, though the degree of available adjustment is not on par with other competitors in the luxury car market. Still, the front seats will provide plenty of legroom and should comfortably seat most sizes of passenger. The back seats also provide plenty of leg space, though it should be noted that the headroom in the second row may not be comfortable for some of the taller passengers out there. However, the Model S goes above and beyond some of its competitors to provide a 3rd row of seating.

How Spacious is the 3rd Row?

That is correct, a full-sized luxury car with 3 rows of seating. Of course, the 3rd row is not full-sized seating and is only suitable for children. The head clearance for the 3rd row is 37 inches while the seats only support weight between 35 to 77 pounds. This means that the size range of passengers is fairly narrow. Smaller children will be too small while larger kids will be too big. It is a bit of a goldilocks situation. The 3rd row seats actually fold down into the trunk when not in use. Of course, this creates a potential safety risk for rear-end collision of which parents must be especially careful.

What’s New for 2016?

Tesla does not always unveil new features on the standard yearly platform. Because it is heavily integrated with digital technology and controls, various features will often be uploaded to the car at periodic intervals, much like updating your phone or tablet’s operating system. One example of this can be found in the on-board GPS navigation system which now takes into account the distance and battery usage for routes to take away some of the stress associated with range anxiety.

However, even Tesla is not immune to the yearly feature or improvement cycle as the 2016 Model S now comes with a standard 70 kWh battery which is 10 kWh more than the previous battery—a 16 percent increase. Other hardware improvements include a reconfiguration of the motor design. Now, the Model S will feature 2 motors—one in the front and one in the rear—where the front-end motor will be for driving in the city and the rear-end motor will kick in for rapid acceleration or highway driving or four-wheel driving applications.

Tesla also seems to be getting ahead of the curve in terms of automatic driving. Their new Autopilot sensing system will provide numerous driving support options. The Autopilot will allow the Model S to parallel park on its own, which is not necessarily a new feature. However, other features of the Autopilot also include a new adaptive cruise control which is aware of traffic, parking space detection, and automatic headlight control switching from high to low beams. In an ease into the self-driving sphere, the Autopilot also provides limited automatic steering and summon control with automatic lane changing and centering functions.

Trim Levels, Options & Pricing

The trim options for the Model S are many. There are 4 general trim levels, the 60, 70, 85, and 90, the numbers of which each correspond to the amount of kWh the battery provides. Each of these trim levels also offer an optional “D” model designation which denotes a dual-motor, all-wheel drive option. The Model S comes standard with 19-inch wheels, but 21-inch wheels are available—though this will decrease your effect range per charge.

Other premium upgrade options include a power lift gate to make getting into the trunk easier—especially useful if you have young children sitting in the third row seating. Interior accent lighting is also available for an additional ambience. The LED headlights can also be enhanced to include fog lighting options. Lighted door handles can also be added to make finding the handle in the dark that much easier—no more using your phone to find the handle.

The pricing obviously depends on which trim level and whether or not the added D option is purchased. The low end of the spectrum can be as little as $71,200 MSRP which is before you factor in potential federal and state level rebates for purchasing an EV. However, a fully loaded P90D will run you $109,200 MSRP. Of course, the state and federal rebates will likely be used to upgrade your home charging so the savings may be negligible.

Interior Design and Seating

The 2016 Tesla Model S does offer many of the additional features one would expect from a full-sized luxury car. First, the central dash control panel is an impressive 17-inch touch screen monitor. This means there are not a million different little buttons or knobs and the screen is able to accommodate a far wider range of menus for the different control functions. This feature is further enhanced with voice activated controls so you do not have to constantly touch and smudge the screen.

This digital platform is also designed to allow integration with handheld and other mobile devices easier. The Model S comes with Wi-Fi to provide internet connectivity and also supports Bluetooth for hands free mobile device syncing. However, if you prefer direct input for your mobile devices or need to charge them on the go, two USB ports come standard. For those with additional charging needs for secondary devices, a 12-volt power outlet also comes standard.

Of course, there should not necessarily be too much concern or need for additional hardware as the Model S comes with on-board integrated software for most consumer needs. For instance, the display panel also has a GPS system with enabled Homelink to make getting around easy. AM, FM, and internet streaming radio are also standard options, though you can add additional support with an Ultra High Fidelity sound package that will provide XM satellite radio access.

The Model S also offers keyless entry so you do not need to have a completely open hand to get in the car. It also features retracting door handles to deter thieves or carjackers. The windows are a single touch power option, while the mirrors are electro chromatic to cut down on glare from the sun or other headlights. The side mirrors heat to dissipate condensation and also fold to the side to prevent being broken with memory setting to automatically return to their previous position without the need for adjustment.

Performance and Powertrain

For an electric car, the Tesla Model S has some serious “get up and go” that make it a much more attractive EV compared to its competitors. The base Model S 70 has an impressive 315 horsepower motor that gets an equivalent of 88-90 mpg with a range of 235 miles. The all-wheel drive Model @ improves on that with a 326 horsepower motor that gets an equivalent of 101-102 mpg and an additional 5 mile range for 240 total.
Of course, there are the performance models like the all-wheel drive P90D which uses two electric motors and generates a total of 417 horsepower with an equivalent of 95 to 106 mpg, depending on how hard you ride it, with a range of 270 miles.

However, even this model has a performance version which can generate up to 532 horsepower with a nice 713 pounds of torque. The performance model has a max speed of 155 mph and can go from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 2.8 seconds—an almost unheard of ability for an electric vehicle. Of course, using the Model S as a performance vehicle will cause the battery to run dry much quicker.

Still, the Model S aims to improve this by providing dual charging adaptors at 110 and 240 volt outlets. The 110-volt adapter will provide 3 miles of distance per hour of charge while the 240-volt adapter gives a nice 29 miles of distance for the same amount of time. If both are used, however, an exceptional 58 miles of range are garnered for every hour of charge.

It handles fairly well due its motors being on the bottom of the car and providing a much lower center of gravity than usual. The Tesla can use either rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive depending on the model. However, there is also an optional adaptive air suspension available for even better handling.

Safety Features

It utilizes a number of traditional luxury safety features while also adding a few things that are almost unheard of at this level. The big ticket item for safety is the Bio-Weapon Defense Mode. This system uses a medical grade HEPA filter to remove a minimum of 99.7 percent of particulate exhaust pollutions, all effective allergens, bacteria, and other contaminants. This includes those contaminants generated within the cabin. However, the Bio-Weapon mode actually creates a positively pressurized cabin to seal off occupants from external contaminants as well.

Other safety features that come with numerous luxury vehicles include adaptive headlights that swivel and turn with the road so you can see what is coming just around the next bend. These lights include 14 different 3 position LED lights to provide the best visibility to the driver. To provide even more visibility for safety, the Model S features high definition backup cameras and automatic windshield wipers that sense rain or other obstructions on the windshield.

The frame of the Model S includes aluminum pillars with steel rail reinforcements to protect both the occupants and the battery pack from side impacts. Should an impact occur, the Model S deploys 8 air bags, both in the front and rear of the vehicle while simultaneously disconnecting from the high voltage power source to prevent after accident injury.

Driving Impressions

The Tesla Model S has blown critics and reviewers away. Gone are the days when an electric vehicle meant that you were forced to slowly pick up speed all the way to a sub-par top speed of 60 mph. Even the Model S 60 has a top speed of 140 mph. Moreover, the lowest end Model S also accelerates from 0 to 60 in in just over 5 seconds—5.2 to be exact. When you combine this with the excellent handling due to its low center of gravity and the additional bells and whistles for whatever driving need may arise, the Model S gives a smooth and quiet driving experience that rivals or even tops that of its competitors.

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