It’s not the quickest Tesla, but it sure does go far on a charge.
Although Tesla is viewed as a disruptive force in the auto industry, it made a splash using a tried-and-true method for success: speed. From the beginning, Teslas have impressed with smooth, silent, and swift acceleration—and when Elon Musk added the Ludicrous acceleration mode to the Model S, the electric luxury four-door went viral thanks to countless YouTube videos showing wide-eyed drivers and passengers shoved back into their seats by the shockingly instant torque delivery of the Tesla’s electric motors.
HIGHS: World-beating range, satisfying to drive.
This is a sure strategy for building hype, but it’s not the only way to convince the world of your car company’s legitimacy. There are other considerations for building a competitive electric car, and driving range is chief among them. So in addition to its speed-focused, top-of-the-line version of the Model S called the P100D, Tesla also offers a less extreme 100D model that’s not quite so, ahem, ludicrous in its purview.
Ludicrous Range Instead of Ludicrous Speed
Without the P (for Performance) tacked on to its badge, the Model S 100D puts emphasis on going farther between recharges rather than on drag-strip launches. The 100 in the name denotes the biggest battery pack that Tesla offers, a 100.0-kWh unit that resides under the floor of the car, while the D signifies the dual electric motors—one in the front and one in the rear—that supply a total of 483 horsepower. Without the P100D’s extra grunt or those electron-sapping Ludicrous or launch-control acceleration modes, the 100D boasts the longest EPA-estimated range of any current Tesla—and of any electric car—with its 335-mile rating. (The P100D nips at its heels with a 315-mile range estimate.)
The only other EV to crest the 300-mile mark, according to the EPA, is also made by Tesla: the Model 3, at 310 miles. Just as with a gasoline-powered car, these numbers are calculated using the cars’ results in the EPA’s test cycles, where the Model S 100D achieves 101 MPGe in the city and 102 MPGe combined and on the highway. As with a gasoline car, your mileage may vary, as it did in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, where the Model S couldn’t quite match the government’s result and got 91 MPGe. Still, our testing proved that it’s possible to cruise at 75 mph for 270 miles in the Model S. Though that’s nearly 20 percent short of the EPA’s number, it’s by far the best of any EV we’ve tested.
It’s Also Not Slow
We don’t mean to downplay the Model S 100D’s acceleration performance with all this talk of range, because it’s still plenty quick, going from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 113 mph. While that’s more than a second off the pace in both metrics of a now outdated Model S P90D we tested almost three years ago, the electric motors give a hearty, instantaneous response when you step on the accelerator, and the car’s rapid forward progress is even more remarkable when you consider it weighs nearly 5000 pounds.
Given that avoirdupois, the 100D performed admirably in our handling and braking tests, achieving 0.92 g around the skidpad and stopping from 70 mph in just 161 feet. Like many EVs, the Tesla benefits from having the significant weight of its battery pack mounted low in its chassis, and the Model S’s unerring stability and agile responses are due at least in part to the car’s low center of gravity. This particular example’s optional 21-inch wheels ($4500) with Continental ContiSportContact 5P tires (19-inchers are standard) surely helped as well, which makes our observed range that much more impressive.
Aging Physically Despite the Software Updates
Despite the numerous battery and electric-motor upgrades Tesla has bestowed on the Model S—not to mention continuous over-the-air software updates—the car feels much the same as it did when it first arrived more than six years ago. The exterior design is far less distinctive than it once was, owing in no small part to its relative ubiquity today. Compared to the wildly minimalist, modern interior of the newer Model 3, the Model S’s cabin now looks a bit dated, what with its more conventional controls and numerous parts borrowed from Mercedes-Benz, such as the column-mounted shifter and the wiper stalk.
This slight staleness inside and out erodes the value equation for the Model S. For the money—our test car rang in at a whopping $119,000—numerous other luxury vehicles offer significantly more presence and sumptuousness. But even as Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz enter the EV space, none has fitted its vehicles with a battery pack quite as big as the 100D’s, and none produces a car that achieves a rating of 300 miles on a single charge. For now, the Model S remains a unique proposition in offering what might be the truest luxury of all in an EV: a surplus of driving range.
TESLA MODEL S 100D
VEHICLE TYPE: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $119,000 (base price: $95,200)
MOTORS: 2 AC induction, 259 hp; combined output 483 hp, 487 lb-ft; 100.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
TRANSMISSION: 1-speed direct drive
Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 14.0-in vented disc/14.4-in vented disc
Tires: Continental ContiSportContact 5P F: 245/35R-21 96Y TO R: 265/35ZR-21 101Y TO
Wheelbase: 116.5 in
Length: 195.7 in
Width: 77.3 in
Height: 56.9 in
Passenger volume: 97 cu ft
Cargo volume: 28 cu ft
Curb Weight: 4954 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Zero to 60 mph: 3.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 9.2 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 18.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 1.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 2.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.4 sec @ 113 mph
Top speed (governor limited, mfr’s claim): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 161 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.92 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 72 MPGe
75-mph highway driving: 91 MPGe
Highway range: 270 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 102/101/102 MPGe
Range: 335 miles