Now five years young, the Tesla Model S remains one of the most revolutionary cars on the market. It’s still a fascinating blend of efficiency, performance, and cutting-edge technology.
2018 Tesla Model S Overview
What's New for 2018
Tesla tends to roll out updates year-round. Recent updates have included reshuffling powertrains so that the base battery is now a 75-kiloWatt-hour battery and the upper trims get a 100-kWh unit. Autopilot hardware continues to improve, although the functionality is still optional. Unlimited supercharging is no longer free; after 400-kWh in a year, drivers will have to pay their own way.
Choosing Your Tesla Model S
The Model S begins with its battery, which sits underneath the floor of the passenger cabin. The two options are a smaller 75-kWh unit or the premium 100-kWh option. Both are paired to a fixed-speed transmission, and while Tesla doesn’t provide exact horsepower or torque figures, expect both to be impressive. Obviously no Tesla runs on gas, but the EPA estimates energy usage as roughly equivalent to 90 mpg. All Tesla Model S cars are now all-wheel drive.
Tesla prides itself on the level of sophistication and technology in its cars, and the Model S is a fine example. All Model S cars come with suspension memory settings, GPS-enabled Homelink, and a rearview camera. Because of both front and rear trunks, cargo capacity is also a respectable 31.6 cubic feet.
Front and center on the interior is Tesla’s 17-inch touchscreen display, which controls almost everything in the car. Maps and navigation are standard, and there are two USB ports. Tesla updates its safety technology frequently via over-the-air updates, but all Model S trims feature collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking.
Models are divided by battery and performance into three trims: 75D, 100D, and P100D.
Choosing a trim doesn’t change the features in the Model S, so only upgrade if you need the extra range. If you want to experience the closest a sedan has ever come to a rocket ship, make sure to check out the P100D.
2018 Tesla Model S Review
Would the electric car be considered cool if it wasn't for Tesla? It's doubtful – no electric other than the BMW i8 strikes any sort of emotional chord. But master showman and Tesla CEO Elon Musk managed to pull off what the 800-pound Gorillas of the industry couldn't figure out: building an electron-powered dream machine that regular people actually desire. Whether it's the sleek silhouette or the unfathomably fast Ludicrous mode, the 2018 Tesla Model S transcends the idea of zero-emission transportation, and remains as impressive and coveted as ever.
Much has been ballyhooed about the P100D and it's 2.5-second zero to 60 mph time, but unlocking that performance demands forking over $130,000. What's much more reasonable – and still imminently capable – is the standard 100D. While it doesn't have the additional juice to bang off those nausea-inducing zero to 60 runs like it's hi-po sibling, it has the same 100 kWh battery and gives 355 miles of estimated range.
To the standard 100D, we'd add the Premium Upgrades Package. We'd also get the Home Charging Installation, though the price for this convenience is dependent on each buyer's garage and electrical setup. Here's our 100D after Tesla screws it all together:
- Model: 2018 Tesla Model S 100D
- Engine: 100 kWh battery; two 193 kW electric motors
- Output: 386 kW (518 hp) / 387 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission: Single-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Options: Premium Upgrades Package ($5,000, medical-grade air-filtration system, two carbon purification filters, custom-tuned audio system, SiriusXM radio, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters, heated washer nozzles), Home Charging Installation (price N/A, invoiced separately; includes installation of wall charger at maximum charge rate that can be accommodated by the home)
- Base Price: $95,200 (includes $1,200 destination charge; doesn't include $7,500 tax credit)
- Best Value Price: $100,200
There's two aspects of electric cars that just about everyone is familiar with: efficiency and off-the-line power.
The Model S is no exception to these expectations; in fact, it redefines what off-the-line power means for a sedan. In P100D spec, with it's 100 kWh battery and single 375 kW (503 horsepower) rear motor, it's capable of sprinting from zero to 60 mph in only 2.5 seconds. To put it in perspective, this is in the same realm as heavies like the Porsche 918 Spyder, LaFerrari, and the Bugatti Chiron. It makes the 4.1 second zero to 60 time of the P75 and P100 models look downright sluggish. It's utterly astounding, and utterly addictive.
Don't expect to do any sort of long-distance driving after a couple of those runs, though – each Ludicrous mode sprint burns through electrons like stair climbing burns through calories. If you manage to keep your foot out of it, the Tesla has range of 259 miles (base P75 model) to 335 (P100). There's also a network of superchargers across the country to make coast-to-coast driving possible without any range anxiety. Just don't do too much off-the-cuff exploring – there's few charging stations in rural America beyond the interstates.
No matter how far you're going, the Model S promises to ride smooth and effortlessly. With a total lack of wind or ride noise and a totally-silent electrified powertrain, it's easy to reach highly illegal speeds in areas where it's highly inappropriate to do so.
It's hard to believe that the Model S is now coming up to seven years of being on the market with few cosmetic changes. We imagine that as time goes by, the sleek sedan (with a slippery .23 coefficient of drag) will continue to look fresh and modern.
The same will probably be said of the interior, if the future eschews physical buttons and any extemporaneous styling. The innards of the Model S are defined by a massive 17-inch rectangular touchscreen that defines the center stack. Within it's haptic surface lies every control not managed by the two stalks jutting from steering column. While that might sound daunting, the screen is legible and the icons are large and clear. Tootling about with this system for a bit should familiarize you enough with it so you don't need to pull over just to change the volume.
Besides that all-powerful touchscreen, standard features include wi-fi and LTE connectivity, 12-way power heated front seats, and active safety features like collision avoidance and emergency braking. One notable option is the pair of kid-sized rearward-facing jump seats behind the second row, like old station wagons. Needless to say, we're concerned about the safety implications of putting kids directly under the hatchback glass.
The Best and Worst Things
Of all the accolades one can toss at the Model S, the acceleration still tops our list. It makes you feel as giddy as a schoolboy and as silly as a drunk. If there's one way to convince doubters of electrification, it's with a run or two at flat-out; nothing says the future like the quiet instantaneous torque of an electric car.
That rather barren interior looked state of the art in 2012. Today, it just looks stark. Lately, luxury marques from all continents have been crafting richly appointed cabins. With every additional step in this direction, the more Tesla looks like it's been the only one drinking the less-is-more kool-aid.
Right For? Wrong For?
This is the car to buy for those who are ready to leave the proletarian act of pumping gas behind, want to shout to the world their commitment to green energy, or are just hankering for the most luxurious pure-electric on the market.
However, those who live far from any major metropolitan area would find the Model S not well suited for them. In rural America, superchargers or workplace chargers are rare and range anxiety would be an ominous shadow over every major non-interstate trip.
The Bottom Line
No car has done as much to change the public perception toward electric cars as the Model S, and it was more than offbeat marketing or Elon Musk's tweeting. It was because the then-startup Tesla managed to build an alluring sedan with style and panache that boasted impressive hardware rather than wispy vaporware. For that, we can look past the rather uninspired interior and whatever other quibbles there may be. The 2018 Tesla Model S is still the luxury electric-car standard to beat, and the closest thing on the road to tomorrow's automotive wonders.