We're forever raving on about the fastest Tesla Model S variants, but now we jump behind the wheel of the entry-level Model S 70...
Sure, we're guilty of it. Harping on about how incredibly quick and mind bending the Tesla Model S P90D with Ludicrous Mode is. But, we often overlook the model in the Tesla range that, arguably, makes the most sense: the entry-level Tesla Model S 70. So we leapt at the chance to hop behind the wheel of the most affordable Tesla you can buy.
If you walk into a Tesla dealership now, you'll likely be ordering the newly updated Model S. Unfortunately, a facelifted model wasn’t registered for local testing at the time of this test, but you can still buy a pre-facelifted version - like our test car - as a demonstrator model, for around $10,000 less than the new car.
Starting from $111,400 (before on-road costs), the Model S 70 makes a lot of sense. Especially considering it's more than half the price of our Model S favourite, the P90D with Ludicrous Mode.
The new base model is the Model S 60, which features a software-limited 60kWh battery pack that can be upgraded later for an additional cost. The new entry-level specification costs $100,800 (before on-road costs).
Having only ever driven the top specification and fastest Model S vehicles, we weren’t sure what to expect from the Model S's entry-point offering.
From the outside, the entry-level looks almost identical to the top-specification model. They both feature the same design and body, with the main differences being in the choice of wheels and brake caliper colour.
It’s a similar story inside where both models look virtually identical, with the exception of model designations on the LCD screens.
Leg and head room are great, with masses on offer in both the first and second rows. The only issue we came across was a lack of second-row toe room, which can be an issue for passengers with longer legs and bigger feet.
Fit and finish, along with build quality, is generally good - although, our test car did have a rattle within driver’s door frame, which could be heard when driving on rutted roads.
One of our main complaints on the Model S’s interior comes from the lack of storage space. The centre console features two cup holders and a sliding armrest, while at its base is a large open space big enough for a large bag.
There’s nowhere to store odds and ends like keys or telephones. Door pockets or individual dividers would be handy. This has partly been addressed with the Model S update, which features separate compartments for storage.
Thankfully, the Model S offers just over 150 litres in its front boot and a huge 745L in its rear boot - a big plus side of having no conventional engine to accomodate. Further, space increases to 1545 litres when the second row is folded flat.
Central to the vehicle’s infotainment is a 17-inch touchscreen that sits - in portrait configuration - in the centre of the dash. The huge colour touchscreen controls everything from satellite navigation through to media and climate control.
Music streaming comes courtesy of AM/FM, along with Bluetooth and dual-USB inputs, but most people are likely to end up using the music streaming services TuneIn Radio and Spotify. A recent firmware upgrade has improved the streaming quality, but we still found some instances where the feed would temporarily drop out. There’s also no digital radio, which isn’t a big deal when countered with internet radio streaming.
In addition to the huge central screen, there is another LCD screen fitted to the driver’s binnacle that displays speed, power consumption, and the trip computer. It’s also the hub for the vehicle’s AutoPilot features.
Strangely, AutoPilot is optional across the Model S range. It’s a $3800 option that adds radar cruise control, semi-autonomous driving features, semi-automatic parking technology, and automatic high/low beam headlights.
Standard equipment includes multi-pattern cloth seats, electric windows and power folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, blind-spot monitoring, a lane-departure warning, and rear cross-traffic collision alert.
There are also six airbags fitted as standard, along with electronic stability control.
Powering the Model S 70 is a 285kW electric motor with a maximum power output of 235kW. With the 70kWh battery pack fitted, it’s capable of a range of around 400km.
While the rear-wheel-driven Model S wouldn’t be our first choice (we would opt for the all-wheel-drive 70D version), it still does a commendable job of delivering torque to the pavement.
Off-the-line acceleration is still very brisk, while on the move it is absolutely razor sharp. Even the slightest prod of the throttle will have the car sling shot up to an impressive pace.
We strapped the VBox to the Model S 70 and recorded an impressive 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds. While it’s a long way off the sub-4-second numbers achieved by the Model S P90D, it’s still plenty fast.
At times, especially in the wet, the rear wheels can struggle with traction. But moderate throttle applications and patience offset its tendency to wriggle under heavy throttle loads.
Steering feel is quite good and can be customised to three different calibrations, with 'Comfort', 'Normal' and 'Sport' offering noticeably different steering resistance during normal driving.
We found it was best to just leave the steering in the vehicle’s Comfort or Normal mode, however, with Sport mode feeling a bit too resistive and a little unnatural.
Just like the rest of the Model S range, the 70 can be supercharged, destination charged or charged at home on a regular 10A plug.
The Tesla app provides excellent feedback on charging status, as well as allowing owners to locate their vehicle and even preset climate controls. You can also use the application to operate the vehicle’s semi-autonomous 'Summon' parking feature.
Unlike most other Model S vehicles we’ve driven, which have been fitted with the optional air suspension, this vehicle came with the standard coil springs. We were keen to see how it would cope with a variety of city, highway and country roads, so we drove it over a 200km loop that included a fair mix of all three.
In the city, the ride is actually quite good. It is only slightly on the firmer side of normal, but offers a good balance between bump absorption and damping. It also coped well with cobblestones and rougher sections of city road.
It was just as good on the highway with positive response to bridge joins and road imperfections.
The country loop, on the other hand, wasn’t as complimentary of the suspension. Parts of the road, which were speed limited to 100km/h, had rough corrugations, which brought out the firmness in the ride. It also took a little long to settle on deeper and longer imperfections.
If you're likely to stick to decent quality roads, this shouldn’t be as much of an issue, though it is worth keeping in mind.
The Model S comes with a four-year/80,000km warranty (whichever comes first) and an eight-year/unlimited km warranty on the battery and drive unit. In theory the Model S should rarely require servicing, given its minimal amount of moving parts, but the company still recommends yearly inspections or at every 20,000km.
Services can be paid for in an inclusive plan, which costs $1525 for three years, $2375 for four years or $4500 for eight years, which includes three, four, and eight yearly inspections, respectively.
With a price of around $130,000 drive-away, the 2016 Tesla Model S 70 represents great value for money. It’s a quality executive vehicle that offers many of the same bells and whistles as the doubly-priced P90D. But if it were our money, we’d be forking out the extra $7500 for the all-wheel-drive 70D version.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Tesla Model S 70 by Tom Fraser.