2015 Tesla Model S Review

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2015 Tesla Model S Overview

The Tesla Model S came out in 2012 and created such a buzz that the relatively small California-based carmaker has become a household name and caused established luxury car manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic to rethink a few things. With its winning combination of good looks, stellar safety ratings, ample cargo space, and savage acceleration, the Model S has found thousands of very happy customers, and as Tesla installs charging stations across the the country, its appeal is growing. 2014 saw mostly software upgrades while the car’s overall shape remained the same, but 2015 sees the first big update to the drivetrain, and the Model S can now be had as either a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive machine. In addition to the base 60kWh and mid-range 85kWh, Tesla now offers two all-wheel drive trims identified by the letter “D.” These are the 85D and the high-performance P85D. A rear-wheel-drive P85 and an all-wheel-drive 60D were offered, but these versions have been dropped.

Straight-line performance for every Tesla Model S impresses to say the least, and in terms of range it is very good for a full electric, but there are variations between the four trims. The base 60kWh’s electric motor produces 380 hp, allowing for a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds and a 120-mph top speed. Even in this base trim, the range extends to 208 miles, much higher than smaller, cheaper electrics. The 85kWh has the same power figure as the 60kWh, but 0-60 comes a half-second quicker at 5.4 seconds, top speed measures 125 mph, and range increases to 265 miles. The all-wheel-drive 85D gets the same horsepower figure, but performance all around improves with a 5.2-second 0-60 time, 155-mph top speed, and 295-mile range.

Finally, the range-topping P85D brings substantially more to the table in terms of both performance and price. It is a much more expensive car than its stablemates, but the numbers it puts down are that much more impressive. The electric motor in the front puts out 221 hp, while the rear motor produces 470 for a grand total of 691 hp. The top speed hits 155 mph. Range decreases to 275 miles, and 0-60 takes a hardly believable 3.2 seconds, a time usually reserved for exotic midengine supercars. All variations of the Model S get around 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), which measures how far an electric can travel on the amount of energy contained in one gallon of gasoline.

The biggest change to the Model S this year is, of course, the all-wheel drive, making the car more usable in adverse weather conditions. Even with aluminum bodywork, the Model S remains a heavy car (at almost two and a half tons in the case of the P85D), but it certainly can move that weight around while not feeling particularly heavy. The floor of the car contains much of the weight of those lithium-ion cells, giving it a low center of gravity, and the abundant torque available from a standstill makes the car feel a lot lighter. As an electric, it's also very quiet and smooth due to the absence of combustion under the hood and the lack of any gear changes.

The positive attributes of the Model S really do go across the board. Not only is the interior comfortable, it's also spacious, with no transmission tunnel running through the cockpit. And although the Model S has the silhouette of an elegant contemporary luxury sedan, the lack of a gasoline engine under the hood means this space can be used for storage, and the sloped hatchback rear adds even more room. Most operations from radio to ride height are controlled on the 17-inch touchscreen display, which is easy to read and easy to operate. Available extras include a premium sound package, premium leather upholstery, premium interior lighting, a power sunshade for the rear glass, and power folding mirrors.

The Model S has scored 5 stars on its NHTSA safety rating, the highest score possible. New to the car is its Autopilot system, with which the car can detect signs on the road and nearby vehicles using a combination of cameras and sonar, and this system will brake in case of an emergency. Tesla has also added lane-departure warning, and a backup camera remains standard. After some nasty publicity due to a small number of vehicle fires affecting some early Model Ss, Tesla has also added a shield under the car to protect the battery from road debris. Essentially, they’ve made one of the safest cars on the road even safer.


Andrew Newton first got into cars through vintage racing a 1969 Lynx Formula Vee. After receiving two degrees in history, he followed his passion for cars and became a contributor for sites like Sports Car Digest, BoldRide.com and JamesEdition.com in addition to serving as Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. Andrew currently covers the collector car market full time as Auction Editor for Hagerty Classic Car Insurance.

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