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It's rare that a car comes along that genuinely moves the market along in a big way, especially coming from a brand with little automotive pedigree. But the Tesla Model S is a car that should genuinely be giving the big boys something to think about in the world of premium electric vehicle development.
A range of more than double the mileage that any other pure-electric vehicle is able to offer, and performance to match anything with five seats (although both, obviously, aren't achievable at the same time), the Model S is also a visually stunning car that turns heads everywhere it goes, and practical enough to meet the same needs as served by conventionally powered cars of similar size.
The model range spreads across four vehicles of differing power - from the entry version with a P11D of £55,280 and 302hp of kW battery power, to 362hp and 416hp, and on to the plush all-inclusive 469hp P85+ driven here. The last of these has a P11D of nearly £90,000 before adding options such as the £3200 Tech Pack, which brings a raft of premium equipment including a powered tailgate, maps and European navigation, memory seats with driver profile, and more. The range for the battery varies from an official figure of 240 miles for the entry model to 312 miles for the other variants, with all bar the entry car able to half-charge in 20 minutes using superchargers that will expand across the UK from the three in London and one in Birmingham currently available.
The Tesla is a car everyone wants to know about, with the stylish exterior prompting positive responses, and the classy and clever interior continuing the 'ooh' effect.
It's almost too clean in the cabin. Everything is operated from the huge 17-inch touchscreen that can display two of the map, media, energy, rear camera, setting control and internet displays at once, or just the full-screen map display. It's logical to anyone who owns a smartphone, and the navigation in particular is the quickest to programme of any on the market, although searching for DAB radio stations is less straightforward. The car's not perfect, chronically lacking in cabin storage space for oddments, but the front and rear boot space is a very generous combined 894 litres due to the batteries being located under the floor.
The performance from the S P85+ model driven here is genuinely astounding, and rapid acceleration is "like you're driving in fast-forward" (as my beloved put it). The acceleration figure of 4.2 seconds from 0-62mph matches supercars, yet there's enough interior space for five adults, and the car handles better than you'd expect from something weighing more than two tonnes.
Even the residuals are decent, although the standard 85 model's £62,680 P11D price and 44.8% RV make for a more palatable cost per mile of 92.5p, rather than the 38.7% and 133.3p of this top-spec P85+.
But the real-world range of the Model S, in any of its forms, absolutely dwarfs any other electric vehicle currently on sale, and solves much of the range anxiety involved with EVs because 200-mile journeys are that much rarer than 100-mile ones.
The Tesla Model S is a massively impressive vehicle. There are a few little niggles, plus the obvious ownership support problem of there not being many dealerships just yet, but it's a car with the ability to establish a brand that is planning more affordable electric models in the next couple of years that will appeal to a wider audience.