2018 Tesla Model S

2018 Tesla Model S Review

The Model S will appeal to speed and luxury fans just as much as it does to the eco-conscious.
8.6 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Jonathan Elfalan
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Until Tesla came out with its Model S, electric vehicles were never thought of as fully viable replacements for gasoline-powered vehicles, and they didn't have much appeal beyond their potential eco-conscious benefits. Today, though, the 2018 Tesla Model S boasts tremendous acceleration, cutting-edge tech, and an electric range that now resembles that of a gasoline car. It's well-suited for just about any luxury vehicle buyer, not just EV converts.

Tesla has made the 75D the base model, which means the Model S now has a minimum EPA-rated range of 259 miles. That's significantly more than most other EVs. And with the 100D model rated to cover 335 miles on a full charge — combined with access to Tesla's Supercharger rapid charging stations — the Model S is a legitimate long-haul road tripper.

Then there's the range-topping P100D. When fully charged with electrons, this Model S will rip from zero to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds. That's quicker than many exotic cars these days, and it's the kind of speed that can pin back your eyelids and distort your sense of self-restraint. It'll also put a quick drain on your battery and large loads on your drivetrain, so it's best to be judicious.

Tesla is a car company that operates like no other. It releases new firmware updates — installing new features, optimizing software and fixing bugs — that get beamed to your car over the air. Newer cars equipped with the latest hardware will eventually have access to more functions over time. A good example of this is the Full-Self Driving Capability option that's available now, which should allow your Model S to drive itself someday when technology and legislation allow. It changes the car-ordering experience a little if you're paying for features that you can't use immediately, or may never use.

Despite its many upsides, the 2018 Tesla Model S may still feel a bit unpolished next to some of its German contemporaries. The latest modern comforts such as cooled and massaging seats, or even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, don't appear anywhere on the Tesla ordering sheet. Even so, this is a car that is a great choice for an EV, a luxury sedan or both.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Tesla Model S as one of Edmunds' Best Electric Cars and the Model S P100D as one of the Best Sport Sedans for this year.



What's new for 2018

Tesla approaches changes in its features differently than most automakers that follow traditional model-year changes. Instead, Tesla phases in periodic rolling updates, especially to software and electronics. Most notably, Tesla is only building three levels of Model S: 70D, 100D and P100D. All of them are equipped with all-wheel drive. Also, the Premium Upgrades package now includes the features from the former Subzero Weather package and an upgraded audio system. The Executive Rear Seat option is no longer available.

We recommend

The right Model S for you depends on your travel needs or wants. If you commute to an office 20 miles away, you could cover a full week of round trips and then some on a full battery in a Model S 75D. The 75D would be our pick for its lower cost of entry and impressive performance. For those who want maximum range, moving to the 100D gives you an extra 76 miles, for a total of 335 miles, but commands a pretty significant jump in price. As for options, the Enhanced Autopilot is a good idea. And for those particularly bullish on tech and autonomous driving, the Full Self-Driving Capability option, though not currently in operation, is probably a worthy add-on.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Tesla Model S is a five- to seven-passenger luxury sedan available in three variants: 75D, 100D and P100D. The digits refer to the kilowatt-hour capacity of its battery, which directly impacts range. The D denotes the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive models, which is standard for 2018. Effectively, there's a single, feature-loaded Model S that buyers can then upgrade with several option 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 75D is EPA-rated for 259 miles of range. It comes standard with 19-inch wheels, all-season tires, an adaptive air suspension, LED headlights, access to Tesla's Supercharger network, a power liftgate, 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, automatic wipers, blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning.

Inside, you'll find cloth and premium vinyl upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with heating, 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, lighted door handles and LED cornering lights, a premium 12-speaker sound system with satellite radio (when paired with the sunroof), a full row of heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wiper blade defrosters and washer nozzle heaters.

Enhanced Autopilot comes with three extra cameras and upgraded sensors, and it allows for limited hands-free driving of the Model S. This includes 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 to the Full Self-Driving Capability package that Tesla says will eventually support full autonomous driving.

The 100D uses a larger 100-kWh battery pack for the most available range at 335 miles, quicker acceleration, and a higher top speed of 155 mph.

The top-of-the-line P100D uses the same battery pack and a second electric motor on the rear wheels, yielding an EPA-estimated 315 miles of range and an astonishing 0-60 mph time of just 2.5 seconds. The P100D also comes with all the features in the Premium Upgrades package and the option of a carbon-fiber spoiler.

All variants can be outfitted with optional fold-flat, rear-facing jump seats, suitable for small children, which increases total passenger capacity to seven.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D (dual electric motors | direct drive | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Model S has received some revisions, notably the discontinuation of the P85D trim. It's similar to the current 100D and P100D, however, and our findings remain applicable to this year's Model S.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall8.6 / 10

Driving

9.0 / 10

Acceleration10.0 / 10
Braking8.5 / 10
Steering9.0 / 10
Handling9.0 / 10
Drivability10.0 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort9.0 / 10
Ride comfort7.5 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10

Interior

9.0 / 10

Ease of use8.5 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.5 / 10
Roominess9.0 / 10
Visibility9.0 / 10
Quality8.5 / 10

Driving9.0

If the Model S P85D simply accelerated with unbelievable speed yet did nothing else well, it would still get a top grade. 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.

Acceleration10.0

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. A P100D should be even quicker. Even in normal situations, acceleration is impressive.

Braking8.5

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. It gives a more predictable pedal feel than some other electric vehicles.

Steering9.0

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.

Handling9.0

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. It's far more fun than such a heavy vehicle should be.

Drivability10.0

With instantly available electric power, the Tesla is a cinch to drive. The car's adaptive cruise control is among the best in the business.

Comfort8.0

There are no obvious missteps in the Model S. 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 comfort9.0

The seats are well-bolstered, grippy and adjustable, and they rival the seats from the class leaders. But no cooling feature is available.

Ride comfort7.5

The ride remains on the firm side even in our Model S test car with 21-inch wheels and an air suspension. That's not a real complaint because it's never coarse, but it's far from cushy.

Noise & vibration8.0

The Model S 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. But the look of the digitally rendered icons artfully mimics tactile controls of old, so they will seem very familiar. We found the air conditioning has a hard time keeping up in hot weather.

Interior9.0

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 use8.5

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 out8.5

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.

Roominess9.0

The cabin feels huge, and all occupants have a ton of leg- and headroom. Overall, a very airy and wide feeling.

Visibility9.0

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.

Quality8.5

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

Utility8.0

The Model S offers significantly more space than most large luxury sedans. But some might find the open center console concept a little polarizing.

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 space

The Model S has a usable front trunk and a massive rear trunk. It's a lot more space than other large luxury sedans offer.

Child safety seat accommodation

The Model S features three standard LATCH anchor points in the second row, tucked tightly between the seat cushions. Optional rear-facing seats are fixed to the car's chassis and feature a multipoint safety belt. No additional safety seat is required.

Technology

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 (such as Autopilot) aren't as effective as you might think they are.

Audio & navigation

The main touchscreen is huge, and it responds very well to inputs, though the control menus are complex. The audio 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 integration

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

Driver aids

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.