Background on the Tesla Model S

To say that the Tesla Model S was a disruptive introduction to the automobile world in 2012 would be a gross understatement. It was, and remains to this day, the sedan that started it all; it was the car that eventually evoked an avalanche of interest in electric cars as a viable mode of passenger transportation, forcing stalwart ICE (internal combustion engine) carmakers to pump billions of dollars into an inevitable electric future.

Notwithstanding its irresistible design, technological superiority and overall oomph appeal, the real value it brought was hidden deep within its bowels: an EV battery with a range never before seen in the electric vehicle segment. But what it really brought – to the average Tesla Model S owner – was unabashed glee over instant torque, and the ability to finally put aside “range anxiety”, one of the biggest hurdles in the development of long-distance electric road transportation.

Other contributions include some of the highest crash safety ratings in the world, a minimalistic yet luxurious interior atypical of a luxury sedan (the bells and whistles are mostly all within the touchscreen), the touchscreen itself and the ability to compete ably within the auto segment it was meant for.

Tesla Model S: Changes from 2012 to 2019

Although there’s no model year (MY) upgrade for 2019, there were a significant number of improvements introduced in the MY 2018 Tesla Model S, including a new dashboard wood trim for the Cream interior variant and 21″ Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine Wheels as a $4,500 option.

Tesla Model S front fascia change in 2016

One notable change that happened around 2016 was the front fascia, which went from an awkward-looking grill vent to the classic grill-less EV look. Along with that came changes to the air filtration system and the improved and faster 48-amps charger as standard.

The Premium Upgrades Package from the previous year was also made standard, which included heaters for the washer nozzle, a defroster for the wiper blades, heat for the steering wheel and both rows of seats, satellite radio capability courtesy SiriusXM, an upgraded audio system and the innovative Bioweapon Defense Mode.

Improvements were also made to the infotainment system and digital gauges with the help of software updates. Most recently, the Tesla app has been updated with the ability to schedule service appointments without having to call in, and a pre-heating system for the charge port in cold weather is also being rolled out.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said in the past that the Model S is not going to go through the typical refresh cycles that other auto makers employ. That means we could be looking at a few more years of design and performance similar to MY 2018 and MY 2019.

Current Tesla Model S Variants with Prices

There are three Tesla Model S variants currently available through the Tesla website:

Model S 75D – $78,000 before savings

Tesla Model S 75D

Model S 100D – $96,000 before savings

Tesla Model S 100D

Model S P100D – $135,000 before savings

Tesla Model S P100D

Tesla Model S Price vs Specification

Trim75D100DP100D
Range in miles259335315
Top Speed140 mph155 mph155
0-60 mph4.2s4.1s2.5s
Battery75 kWh100 kWh100 kWh
DrivetrainAWDAWDAWD
Weight4,769 lbs4,883 lbs4,941 lbs
Starting Price$78,000$96,000$135,000
Fully loaded Price$91,500$109,500$147,000

Data Source: Pricing details from Tesla Model S Design Studio. Other details from Model S webpage. Price excludes taxes and fees

Powertrain Performance and Charging

The Dual Motor (DM) design of the Tesla Model S variants that are currently available have two individual and independent motors driving the front and rear axles. The DM configuration also affords greater stability and grip in off-road and extreme winter conditions, although it’s been argued that traction control, which the Tesla Model S has plenty of, is far more critical in icy/snowy road conditions. In terms of performance, several Model S owners have attested to the superior handling on the AWD, as well as greater acceleration and range.

Standard 11.5kW home charging or Destination Charging on the Tesla Model S is considerably slower than using a Supercharger. Home charging takes 8-10 hours; destination charging takes a similar amount of time; Supercharging takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour for a full charge.

Fuel Economy, Range Ratings and Real-world Range

Tesla Model S 75D: 102 city / 105 highway / 103 combined

Tesla Model S 100D: 101 city / 102 highway / 102 combined

Tesla Model S P100D: 92 city / 105 highway / 98 combined

Although Tesla advertises the rated figures of 259 miles, 335 miles and 315 miles, respectively, on the three current Model S variants, real-world range depends on a lot of other factors. When calculated from the officially rated range, the kilo-wattage of each of the three battery variants equates to 3.35 to 3.45 miles per kW of battery. Realistically, however, it is reported to be closer to 3 miles per kWh of battery. That means the 75kWh battery, under standard driving conditions and with standard fittings, should give a range of approximately 210 to 215 miles. The 100kWh battery on the 100D has had real-world ranges reported from between 270 and 310 miles.

Interior and Exterior – Standards and Options

The standard interior color scheme for the Model S is All Black, with Black and White, and Cream being optional at $1,500. Since MY 2018, Tesla has included the Premium Upgrades Package as standard for all variants. This includes a medical-grade HEPA air filtration system and custom audio system along with the features mentioned in Changes section of this article, covered above.

Exterior color is standard Black, with paid options ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 for colors including Midnight Silver Metallic, Deep Blue Metallic, Pearl White Multi-coat and Red Multi-coat. 19″ Silver Wheels come standard, with Sonic Carbon Slipstream Wheels and larger 21″ Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine Wheels as options.

Autopilot, Infotainment, Tesla Software and Tesla App

Autopilot is standard on all Tesla Model S variants, and includes front and side collision warnings, and AEB, or Automatic Emergency Braking. The EAP, or Enhanced Autopilot package, is where new features are tested, and they currently include partial self-driving capabilities, where the “car will steer, accelerate and brake for you within almost any traffic lane! It will also automatically change lanes on most highways to overtake other cars or navigate to interchanges and exits.”

In-car infotainment consists of a massive 17″ touchscreen tablet that pretty much controls all the core aspects of the car. It is powered by NVIDIA silicon, which was later transitioned to Intel x86 chips on the Model 3. The touchscreen is where you control settings for driving and steering modes, regenerative braking, traction control, acceleration and so on.

Tesla software is currently on Version 9. It incorporates major and minor changes to the following:

The Tesla app on Play Store (Android) and App Store (iOS) is currently on version 3.8.0, and requires vehicle firmware version 2018.48.12 or later. The latest update bring the following feature additions and improvements:

  • Remotely turn on seat and steering wheel heaters
  • Schedule service appointments
  • See new message notifications on the Inbox indicator

Warranty

  • Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty covers 8 years regardless of miles
  • No complimentary scheduled maintenance