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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars


Tesla S 100D

Why does this car matter?

The Model S 100D has the highest capacity battery fitted to any Tesla currently in production, but it isn’t a top-of-the-line model. In the Model S hierarchy it sits just below the P100D, which features the same 100 kWh battery, but uses it to power two much more powerful motors. The 100D, meanwhile, forgoes some straight-line performance by using smaller motors, which are more energy efficient.

As a result, there is no other Tesla on sale right now that betters the Model S 100D’s claimed 393 mile range. If this car doesn’t settle your range anxiety, you’ll be waiting for a paradigm shift in EV battery technology before you’ll be ready to take the plunge with an electric car.

In reality, though, the 100D will be more than sufficient for the vast majority of drivers on the road. If its near-400 mile range and brilliantly clever navigation system, more on which in a moment, don’t meet your range demands, you are an outlier.

It seems strange to describe a 510bhp version of an executive car as not the performance model, but that’s the way it is with Tesla. Its power output may fall short of the P100D’s by some 241bhp, but the 100D is plenty quick enough in its own right.

Is it good to drive?

In fact, it’s faster away from the line than all but a handful of cars, of any type, with any amount of power, currently on sale. With no gears to shift through the car pulls in an uninterrupted, unrelenting manner, pinning you to the back of your seat the way a roller coaster would. Staggering to think this isn’t even the fast version.

Of course, you won’t see anything like 400 miles between charges if you drive the car to its full performance potential, but without really trying, and without consciously eking miles out of the battery with an unnaturally light right foot, you should see 350 miles on a single charge. The car’s navigation system knows exactly where every Tesla Supercharger in the land is, so if your destination happens to be out of reach, it will guide you via one of those fast chargers (which can replenish the battery to 50 per cent charge in just 20 minutes) before sending you on your way.

The nav system also tells you exactly how long you’ll have to wait at the Supercharger, and while you’re inside the service station getting coffee, it’ll alert you via an app on your phone when the battery is sufficiently charged. With little gems like that, Tesla really is doing everything it can to ease your range anxiety.

Apart from a firm and crashy low speed ride the Model S 100D is very good to drive. It is quiet and serene, effortlessly quick, comfortable, spacious, very well equipped, it has lots of cornering grip, accurate steering and, well, everything else you might expect of an executive car. It isn’t exactly fun to drive, but that’s hardly this car’s job.

There does seem to be something of a disparity at the moment between Tesla’s interior and exterior build quality. You will see clumsy join lines and odd panel gaps outside, and perhaps even slightly loose trim, but the cabins are brilliantly solid and robust. That perfectly describes the Model S 100D.

You could also describe this car as being highly configurable. There are various modes for so many different parameters that there surely can’t be any two 100Ds out there that are exactly the same at any given moment. The steering, for instance, has three modes, although it's best left in its lightest Comfort setting. You can choose between four ride heights, two levels of regenerative braking (which harvests energy under braking to recharge the batteries) and you can even choose how much you want the car to creep when you lift off the brake pedal in slow moving traffic.

There’s more. As well as the Standard acceleration mode you can also select Chill mode, which limits the level of performance available to you. This is actually a very clever function because the temptation when driving a Tesla - or any electric car, for that matter - is to deploy all of its performance at every opportunity. It’s just that addictive. That sort of driving completely knackers your range, though. Chill mode gives you enough acceleration that you keep your nose ahead of the flow of traffic, but without draining the batteries.


What's the verdict?

This could be the sweet spot of the Model S range, but only if you really would make use of the 350 mile real-world range (the far cheaper Model S 75D will happily cover 250 miles on a charge). Tesla would do well to address the ride quality of its cars - over potholes and sunken drain covers they do thump quite heavily - because that’s just about all that stands between them and total, all-conquering brilliance.  

Rating 8/10


Engine/power unit Twin electric motors, 100 kWh battery 
Transmission Four-wheel drive
Power 510bhp
Torque 487lb ft
0-60mph 4.1 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Weight 2108kg
Fuel economy n/a
Emissions n/a
Electric range 393 miles
Price £90,150 (before the £4500 government grant)

One of the most accelerative cars on the road is also among the most relaxing. Who saw that coming?"

Read more Portrait of writer Dan Prosser