2017 Tesla Model S

2017 Tesla Model S Review

The Tesla Model S is a true electric luxury sedan with speed that can pin back your eyeballs."
5.0 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The 2017 Tesla Model S stands out as the only true electric luxury sedan. Tremendous acceleration, cutting-edge tech and 300-plus miles of potential range make it more suited for almost anybody, not just early EV adopters. There are drawbacks, but the overall ownership experience is very positive.

As with all electric vehicles (EVs), driving range and charging time are constant considerations. But the Model S delivers the most range of any EV on the market, with the new P100D model rated to cover 315 miles on a full charge (that's the EPA's estimate; Tesla claims it's higher). Combined with access to Tesla's Supercharger rapid charging stations, this makes the Model S a legitimate long-haul road tripper.

You'll need those superchargers, too, as the Model S forever goads you into dipping into its accelerator for a burst of effortless, astonishing speed. Fully boosted with electrons, the Model S can sprint from zero to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds. That kind of speed can pin back your eyeballs, but can drain range just as quickly, so it's best to be judicious.

Despite its luxury station and price, the Model S still comes off a bit unpolished and less opulent than some of its German contemporaries. No matter — this is a car that bleeds tech, will uniquely fascinate the tech-obsessed and will otherwise charm anyone simply looking for an alternative to living with a gasoline engine-powered car.



What's new for 2017

Note that Tesla approaches changes in its feature set differently than most automakers that follow traditional model-year changes. Instead Tesla phases in periodic rolling updates, especially to software and electronics. The most notable recent hardware addition is the P100D trim level, which is the quickest Model S yet, and among the quickest production cars in the world.

We recommend

The right Model S for you depends on how far you need to travel on a single charge. Those who commute to an office 20 miles away could get a full week of commuting and then some on a full battery in a Model S 60 or Model S 75. Our pick, though, is the 90D. Its extra range (nearly 300 miles total) is worth the comparably small price increase from the 75. As for options, Autopilot will improve any commuter's life through the worst slow jams and crawls, and the Premium Upgrades package offers an impressive complement of leather, LED lights, advanced air filtration and a power liftgate.



Trim levels & features

The 2017 Tesla Model S is a four- to seven-passenger luxury sedan available in seven variants: 60, 60D, 75, 75D, 90D, 100D and P100D. The digits refer to the kilowatt-hour (kWh) capacity of its battery (which directly impacts range) while the "D" denotes the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive models. Effectively, there's a single, feature-loaded Model S that buyers can then upgrade with several options packages and increased battery performance.

Be aware that Tesla updates the Model S on an ongoing basis rather than by model year, so what follows might not necessarily reflect the most current offering.

The Model S 60 comes with 19-inch wheels, all-season tires, LED headlights, access to Tesla's Supercharger network, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 17-inch touchscreen, a navigation system, a rearview camera, keyless entry, parking sensors, power-folding and heated side mirrors, blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, cloth and premium vinyl upholstery, heated power front seats, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, Bluetooth connectivity, and a seven-speaker sound system with dual USB ports (media and charging) and HD radio. A cellular connection, internet radio and Wi-Fi connectivity are also included, as are a universal mobile connector for charging (with 110-volt, 240-volt and J1772 adapters).

The Premium Upgrades package includes adaptive LED headlights, an enhanced cabin air filtration system, leather interior surfaces (when leather seats are selected), LED ambient interior lighting, a power liftgate, lighted door handles and LED cornering lights. The Ultra High Fidelity Sound package adds a 12-speaker sound system and includes satellite radio. A Subzero Weather package adds a full row of heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters and washer nozzle heaters.

Outfit the Model S with a second onboard charger for up to twice the standard rate of charging (up to 52 miles of range per hour) when combined with the optional 80-amp, at-home wall charger.

Enhanced Autopilot allows for limited hands-free driving of the Model S, including automatically changing lanes by selecting the turn signal indicator, semiautonomous steering, a parking-spot detection system, and hands-free parallel parking and summoning functions. You can also get a further upgrade (Full Self-Driving Capability) that Tesla says will eventually support full autonomous driving.

The Smart Air Suspension option adds self-adjusting (adjustable height) suspension. Optional fold-flat, rear-facing jump seats (for small children) increase total passenger capacity to seven, while an Executive rear-seat package replaces the bench seat with two captain's chairs, thus reducing overall capacity to four passengers. The Executive rear seats and rear-facing jump seats cannot be ordered together.

The Model S 60D adds another motor that powers the front wheels. Otherwise, all of the above features and options apply. The 75 and 75D models are simply 60 and 60D models with software that maximizes battery function and capacity.

A physically larger (90-kWh) battery is available in the 90D, which also offers options such as a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, 21-inch wheels with high-performance summer tires, the Smart Air suspension package and other features, plus revised suspension tuning. The 100D uses a larger 100-kWh battery pack for increased range, while the P100D uses the same battery pack and a second electric motor on the rear wheels. This yields an EPA-estimated 315 miles of range and astonishing acceleration from zero to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our First Drive of the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D.

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Model S has received some revisions, notably the discontinuation of the P85D trim. Our findings still remain broadly applicable to this year's Model S, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall5.0 / 5

Driving

5.0 / 5

Acceleration5.0 / 5
Braking4.5 / 5
Steering5.0 / 5
Handling5.0 / 5
Drivability5.0 / 5

Comfort

4.0 / 5

Seat comfort5.0 / 5
Ride comfort3.5 / 5
Noise & vibration4.0 / 5

Interior

5.0 / 5

Ease of use4.5 / 5
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5
Roominess5.0 / 5
Visibility5.0 / 5
Quality4.5 / 5

Technology

3.5 / 5

Audio & navigation3.5 / 5
Smartphone integration3.0 / 5
Driver aids4.0 / 5

Driving5.0

If the Model S P85D simply accelerated with unbelievable speed yet did nothing else well, it would still get a top grade here. But that's not the case. All-wheel drive gives it a ton of grip, and it changes direction like a much lighter machine. It's a total blast to drive.

Acceleration5.0

Tesla calls its most aggressive performance setting "Insane" mode, and it's not far from the truth. The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes just 3.5 seconds and is incredibly easy: Just floor the accelerator pedal. Even in normal situations, acceleration is impressive.

Braking4.5

Routine deceleration is aptly handled by the regenerative braking, while panic stops are smooth, short (just 102 feet from 60 mph) and stable with consistent distances. Gives a more predictable pedal feel than some other electric vehicles.

Steering5.0

The steering effort is variable between three different modes, but all are quite quick. The steering feels lighter than it does on non all-wheel-drive models, but it's not too light.

Handling5.0

Thanks to sharp steering and incredibly sticky summer performance tires, the grip available with this car is impressive. Corner-carving is also aided by immediate pedal response. Far more fun than such a heavy vehicle should be.

Drivability5.0

With instantly available electric power, the Tesla is a cinch to drive. Autopilot was not available at time of review, but the P85D's adaptive cruise control, a key component of the autonomous driving suite, was the best we'd ever sampled.

Comfort4.0

There are no obvious missteps for the Model S P85D. The seats are very good, the ride is firm but not abusive, and the road noise is reasonably quiet. The seats could offer more adjustability as well as a cooling function.

Seat comfort5.0

Seats are well-bolstered, grippy, adjustable and rival the seats from the class leaders. Still no cooling feature available.

Ride comfort3.5

The P85D we tested had 21-inch wheels and air suspension but the ride still remains on the firm side. That's not a real complaint because it's never coarse, but it's far from cushy.

Noise & vibration4.0

The Model S still suffers from an odd resonance at the back of the vehicle and our test car had quite a bit of electric whine from the front powertrain. Still, compared to most other cars on the road, it's quiet.

Climate control

Be prepared to like virtual touchscreen controls because that's what you get. The look of the digitally rendered icons artfully mimics tactile controls of old, however, so they will seem very familiar.

Interior5.0

The Tesla's interior is a very special place to spend time, with a wide-open feel and lovely materials. Owing to the advanced features in this car, there is a bit of a learning curve. But Tesla focused on the user interface and it shows.

Ease of use4.5

The giant 17-inch touchscreen is amazingly easy to use. Everything works great except the power exterior door handles: They frequently fail to deploy right away. Annoying.

Getting in/getting out4.5

The large door openings, good seat height and a medium-low step-in height make this an easy car to get in and out of, in spite of its seemingly low-slung stance.

Roominess5.0

The cabin feels huge and there's a ton of leg- and headroom for all occupants. Overall a very airy and wide feeling.

Visibility5.0

Excellent visibility all around is augmented by the largest backup camera display we've ever seen, with a high-definition camera and advanced parking sensors. Simply outstanding.

Quality4.5

It's truly impressive that a company as young as Tesla has the build quality buttoned up this tightly. Panel gaps are tight, materials are excellent and everything feels expensive.

Utility

Optional third-row, rear-facing jump seats fold flat into the floor. With 26.3 cubic feet behind the second row and 63.3 cubic feet with rear seats folded, the Model S offers significantly more space than most large luxury sedans.

Small-item storage

There are cupholders, yes, but the open center-console concept — basically just an open channel running between the two front seats — isn't so much a storage space as a drop zone for wallets, bags, shoes, banana peels and packets of beef jerky.

Cargo space4.0

The P85D loses some front trunk storage compared to the regular Model S due to AWD hardware and second electric motor. It still has a massive rear trunk, and it still has the polarizing open-concept center console. No bins, just a tray.

Child safety seat accommodation

Features three standard LATCH anchor points in the second row. Optional rear-facing seats are fixed to the car's chassis and feature multipoint safety belt. No additional safety seat is required.

Technology3.5

From its powertrain to gadgetry, the Model S is a rolling monument to technology. Its massive central control display will feel familiar to anyone who uses a tablet. But some of its driver assistance features seem half-baked.

Audio & navigation3.5

The main touchscreen is huge, and it responds very well to inputs, though the control menus are complex. Audio sound options are limited, but the premium audio system has an appealing sound quality. Internet radio, scrolling and playlist creation are all well executed. Navigation is unreliable.

Smartphone integration3.0

No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration yet ("mirroring" solutions are reportedly in the works), but the Model S offers standard Bluetooth hands-free phone with voice control.

Driver aids4.0

The screen depicting the proximity of objects near you when parking is industry-leading. The large backup camera display is very helpful, too. We also like the adaptive cruise control, but full Autopilot is a mixed bag and should never be used without full attention.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.