This short guide talks you through the models, the batteries and the options. It also touches upon buying a used car as there are now many around. Like this whole site, it tries to give an unbiased view rather than just repeat what Tesla’s own web site publishes. Also remember to use a Referral code to get unlimited super charging.
Tesla currently have 5 models although only 2 are available to order.
Ignoring the Roadster, the Model S is the first production Tesla to reach any production volumes. The car has gone through many updates, tweaks, enhancements and problems since its inception and a car you order today will be considerably different to the early cars. The design is similar, but items such as batteries, autopilot hardware, quality of trim, even tyre sizes have changed over time, and sometimes changed back. This guide is based on the versions since AP was introduced so just check if you're buying a used car that it has anything that's important to you.
The exterior looks have remained pretty much unchanged since introduction with just one major update in 2016, easily determined by the change in the front nose, but which also included painted side sills, a changed rear and notably slightly better head lights. Small details that vary between cars are extra chrome bits on the rear and front in the premium pack is fitted.
While the basic interior has changed little, the introduction of the next gen seats gave a lot more lateral support to drivers although the rear is still a bench. There were some cars delivered with a next gen rear seat too, but as the seats didn't fold as flat, it's now been dropped. All cars now come with another version of seats which are more like the next generation seats but with a few tweaks. The various cabin components have all been tweaked over time to give a better finish, there is also now a centre console and rear cup holders, but it's no premium German car. The flat rear floor is great and 3 can sit comfortably in the back. It's also available as a 7 seater with 2 small seats in the boot but these are limited to small people (ie children) but the absence of heating or ventilation can make them a bit uncomfortable.
The car with the Falcon doors and the size of, well, the millennium falcon. It's the Tesla SUV and its huge. Built on pretty much the same platform as the Model S it shares many of the same good and bad points.
The exterior is just big. Lots of styling from the model S but in a bigger shape with that enormous windscreen. No modifications yet as its only come out but does have some seriously large alloy wheels as options. The doors have given some owners issues as they didn't work well on anything but a level surface and its rumoured that Tesla deactivated some of the sensors to make them more reliable, although its believed these were linked to safety. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of the doors chopping things in half. Care is needed, but then care should be taken when closing any car door. But it is impressive and it certainly draws the crowds.
It's big and spacious and various seating options to suit all tastes including a third row and combinations of individual seats and a bench. The quality feels a touch better than the Model S but as Tesla continually improve, that quality will start coming through on that car too, for instance the Model X seats are now on the Model S. The dash is all but identical to the Model S.
The car with hundreds of thousands of deposits already down, but will it live up to the expectation?
The car is now in limited production and deliveries are happening in the US but still in limited numbers. Reviews are generally good although there are qwirks and some issues being reported. It won't be reaching the UK until the end of 2019 at the earliest and we believe it may even be 2020 as there is a degree of engineering that needs to be done on the production line to move to right hand drive
Currently only the long range version is available, options are limited, colours are limited, but may of these things are changing slowly as production increases. It way well be easier and smarter to just buy a used MS.
The car that started it all.
Production finished a long time ago and this could be destined for collectors status. There are plenty of Left hand drive cars around, but right hand cars are very rare and carry a premium.
The cars do have issues, the version 3 battery suffers from degradation issues and the PEM is an expensive item that fails.
A car so fast you'll pass out driving it!
It's probably not far from the truth given the claimed performance. But its still early days, and while deposits are being taken there is no real certainty on spec, or delivery dates.
I guess people are buying for the name because we know very little and the competition are already getting close to the model 3 claims today. The i3 has 150-mile range and with the REX, over 200. The Leaf is getting up there too. You pay your money and all that. And let’s face it, you are not going to get P100DL performance for £35k. Another concern for Tesla is the build quality has taken a noticeable downturn in 2017 coupled with both lots of software delays and glitches and increasingly demanding owners as its slowly moving away from being an early adopter. Tesla have some work to do to ensure those expressions of interest convert to firm orders.
If you're looking at a model S, especially the P100D, then cars like the Panamera Turbo S e-hybrid has all the performance and handling you could want and a glorious interior.
Jaguar have promised to launch the e-Pace early in 2017 and that may be a contender for Model X buyers.
The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The 75 is, as the name suggests, approx 3/4 of the capacity of the 100. Recent updates means cars built from July 2017 with the 75 battery are noticeably quicker than before then, and now close to the performance of the 100. Buyer beware if buying used as to which version you get although most can now be uncorked, even those built before July 2017 (assuming you have a facelift car).
Buying new the choices are: the 75D is the best value, the P100D is the best car, and the 100D is the best all rounder especially for long drives. If you're buying used it gets more complicated as there are 85 and 90's around as well as somme 60s, 70's and early 75s. An 85 is not much different to a modern 75.
Options on a Tesla can be expensive. Everyone has a view on their “must haves” so I'll not try to convince you otherwise, but here are the good and bad about them.
This is probably the most significant feature that most owners buy. There are two levels, Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) and Full self driving (FSD). EAP is the basic version on the later hardware cars and is said to be enhanced compared to the original Autopilot, although many feel there is little between the two versions. FSD is a further option on top of EAP but as of today, there are no capabilities and the range of accidents with the car mean it is unlikely that any significant features will be launched in 2019.
Both options can be added at a later date, although there is a price premium when doing so. Out feeling is EAP is part of what the car is about and should be considered. FSD however should be avoided as there are no meaningful time-scales and its more than possible you will have sold the car before taking advantage of the feature.
Ordering the upgraded alloys is very expensive, £4,500 to go from 19" to 21" on a Model S! They look good and some believe the handling is better. We think it's just firmer and give the impression of better as the tyres are the same width (note, the rear tyre width varies from time to time). The downside is the bigger diameter wheels are more prone to accident damage, they wear the tyres more quickly and that firmer ride that some feel make it handle better, is also a downside as some feel the car is uncomfortable. One tip if you are happy with 20" wheels on a Model X but want the dark coloured wheels, don't order the upgrade at £3000 put take the standard alloys to a wheel refurbishment place, pick the exact colour you want and pay about £300 saving £2,700.
All the Model S cars now come with an all glass roof as standard and so optioning the sunroof boils down to two features: being able to open it, and wanting to attach roof rails. If you don't want to do either of these things then there's no benefit and the standard glass roof has a noticeably larger glass area and so makes the cabin feel more airy, it’s also one less thing to go wrong which was a common problem on the earlier cars.
All the cars now come with pretty much the same seats, you just pay for "leather" as part of an interior pack. The white seats are said to be the hardest wearing as they are some sort of synthetic leather which is better than it sounds and also appeal to vegans. On older cars, there were a variety of designs, the "next generation" being the most supportive.
This is an option that has added more and more over time. It used to be a few bells and whistles on trim and accent lighting. They claim adaptive headlights but they're not swivel like you get on some premium cars, on a Tesla there are a few extra lights which come on to illuminate the corner when you turn. The premium upgrade now includes a HEPA filter for super clean air although some complain it can be noisy. From summer 2017 the pack includes the sub zero pack and the upgraded hifi, so be careful if looking at older models to see what it really has.
The standard is ok, the upgraded is better. The upgrade is not as good as it was in 2016 so corners have been cut. It became part of the Premium pack in summer 2017
I guess the first thing to realise is that it's a suspension upgrade that adjusts the height of the car and it not like the systems from other premium companies that can alter the firmness of the ride or perform any form of adaptive damping. It is better at absorbing some bumps, and for that reason some take the option to counteract the harshness of the 21" wheels as its meant to be softer, that said, many can't tell the difference in ride. It stopped being an option in summer 2017
A relative bargain for Tesla options but unless you drive in extremely cold conditions, its value is marginal. Remember you can pre-heat these cars before you go out so generally the car is demisted and warm before you even get in. It became part of the premium pack in the summer of 2017.
An almost redundant option now and only of benefit if you have access to a three-phase power supply and a suitable charger, and even then, the speed is only a 50% faster. For public chargers, most are either single phase 32A max destination chargers (and so don't need the charger upgrade) or have a DC option which is must faster still and you need a CHADEMO connector. On the continent, there are more 32A 3 phase chargers but again, it’s a rare option to need. Again, this is now standard on some models.
We've added a topic on this as there is a lot to know, but in essence, autopilot is one of the reasons for owning the car. All cars built from late 2014 have the hardware (on the early cars you can tell by looking at the lower front bumper and if there is a little window, it’s the radar, this changed with AP2 hardware in late 2016). If the car has the hardware, the software can be turned on for a fee if not already enabled. Even though Enhanced autopilot (which is autopilot in the later cars with the different hardware) is still not on a par with the original autopilot, it’s worth ordering. Full self-drive however is probably not unless you want to be at the leading edge. You can always buy it later for a small premium when there is actually functionality to use.
Tesla have been selling cars a number of years now and there is a steadily growing used car market. The earliest cars are now starting to fall outside warranty based on time, and not just mileage although the battery and drive train is still covered on the MS.
Buying used from Tesla is an option and they will reset the 4 year/50k mile warranty if the car is under 4 years and 50k miles, although Tesla are themselves not overly enthusiastic over selling used cars. Their inventory counts are low and their part ex prices such that most sellers try and sell privately.
Buying from an non Tesla dealer requires you to do your home work as many dealers simply do not understand the cars and options. We've been tracking the used car market in the UK for a number of years and the adverts are sometimes so wrong its a worry. Common things to look out for are: stated options are actually on the car, confused and mismatched descriptions such as 21" wheels with 19" tyres, and the inclusion of unlimited super charging on cars registered after March 2017 where its not transferable. You also need to be careful about the quoted range of the cars, and the stated performance. I have seen 75Ds advertised with P100D performance stats which just is not true.Face lift
Tesla face lifted the Model S during 2016 and the change is notable from the front. There were a few other changes that came with it, painted sills, new headlights, a biograde hepa filter (if premium pack was also selected) and other largely cosmetic stuff. Whether its worth holding out for the face lift car is personal choice, it looks fresher and is more in keeping with the Model X and model 3.Autopilot
There are a number of versions of Autopilot. The very earliest cars had no autopilot hardware. This came in around the beginning of 2015 and can be recognised by a small rectangular window in the lower front bumper. Facelift cars started with AP1 hardware and then switched to AP2 hardware made by nvidia with Telsa writing all the software themselves. This has two versions, known as version 2 and 2.5. The AP2 hardware is distinguishable by the different turn indicators on the front wings.
Having the hardware is not a indicator or the software being turned on and this should be checked in the menus. If its not activated, it can be retrospectively, just make sure the price you pay accounts for it.Super charging
All Teslas except a very small number of MS60s from 2014 had super charging enabled. This was unlimited for the life of the car until March 2018 where it became limited to a set amount per year, after which you would pay. Owners from April 2017 could use a referral code to get unlimited charging for their own purposes although this is not transferable to the next owner and the limit will be applied. Many used car garages fail to recognise this or advertise accordingly.