2016 Tesla Model S P90 long-term review three, farewell

Rating: 8.5
$99,250 $118,030 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
It's time to hand back our Tesla Model S long term vehicle. Did the 2016 Tesla Model S P90D live up to our expectations?
- shares

It's been a long time between drinks. Since taking delivery of our 2016 Tesla Model S P90D long termer, we've shared it around the office and put it up against the all-new BMW 7 Series, where it ended up doing incredibly well, which surprised us all.

Just as we handed the car back, the facelifted Tesla Model S was launched, so we wanted to wait until we could get behind the wheel of the facelifted Model S P90D to cast our final long term report.

After spending around four weeks with the car we were suitably impressed with its incredible performance, technology and versatility. But, we did come away with mixed feelings.

Mike Stevens, our self proclaimed style expert, found the interior a bit cheap to look at and feel. Stevens thought that the steering wheel looked a bit cheap and the finishes around the doors and door handles wasn't quite top notch.

But, he was impressed with the technology jam-packed into this car. While he can't be blamed for using an Android in an office full of Apples, Stevens showed some sense by suggesting that while the screen was large and some buttons were hard to press on the move, most of the inputs could be made from the steering wheel.

Stevens wasn't a fan of the fact you couldn't comfortably fit three adults across the back row, but did enjoy driving the car, saying that the acceleration was "mindblowing" and enough to "literally flatten your eyeballs."

Marika Zhu, our Victorian sales manager, was impressed with the car but thought the interior looked a bit cheap. She felt that it didn't quite live up to its $200,000+ price tag, given there's next to no differentiation with cheaper models.

Zhu loved the technology and found the huge screen easy to use, but did suggest that it could be distracting when trying to use the controls while on the move. She was most impressed with AutoPilot, commenting on how "futuristic" it was compared to most other cars on the market.

When it came to technology she wasn't as blown away as she thought she would be. Zhu noted storage was minimal inside the cabin and the storage that was there wasn't convenient enough. But, the car made up for it with a huge boot and 'frunk' — the front trunk for those uninitiated in Tesla speak.

In terms of the drive, Zhu loved the acceleration. The fact it was instant and that the regenerative braking mode charged the batteries was cool, according to her.

Then it was James Ward's turn. Ward thought the interior felt like a 'beta' luxury car in comparison to its peers and that it didn't feel as premium as its price tag would suggest.

It was the technology that impressed Ward the most, saying that it's "super cool and very easy to use." He also liked the Summon mode, but thought it was a bit pointless in Australia and a little limited.

Ward was a fan of the amount of storage overall, but like the others thought it could be better organised within the cabin.

One point that Ward made was in relation to the range. He felt that coming from diesel cars in the past and driving mainly in the urban environment he didn't really notice the need to fill up. He felt it was the same with the Model S. Given its 400km+ range, you are rarely 'filling up' beyond charging overnight or once a week if you do limited travel during the week.

"Tesla neck" — that's what Ward contracted after continuously punishing the throttle in Ludicrous Mode. It sure is addictive.

After sharing the car around the team it became immediately obvious that while people really liked the car, they felt it didn't feel as premium as its price tag would suggest. And, it's fair enough considering the entry-level model looks virtually identical inside the cabin.

We did notice a few build quality issues that didn't impress us. For example, the driver's seat was slightly loose, which meant under hard acceleration it would twist very slightly about it the backrest.

Then there was the driver's door handle that wouldn't come out... which meant the driver needed to use one of the other door handles to unlock the car or use the key.

There was a noticeable rattle in the door that could be heard over bumps and the wavy bonnet finish that we noticed during our comparison. We had issues with the tech where the music streaming service would randomly clip or cut out and times where it wouldn't play anything.

It's things like this that put doubt in our mind over ownership given an equivalently priced German vehicle has been honed over years of experience.

These things aside, we were excited to take delivery of the facelifted Model S P90D recently. This updated model addressed virtually all of the concerns our team had about storage. The facelifted model now features divided storage in the front and comes with awesome adaptive LED headlights that make driving at night a breeze (the pre-facelift model only featured bi-xenon headlights).

In addition to the facelift, the vehicle we drove was also fitted with version 8.0 of the vehicle's firmware. This changed the display to feature cleaner button finishes, extra features in the navigation and audio menus, along with intuitive features such as sun-oriented cooling, smart trip meters and a revised calendar system.

The revised music system fixed all of the issues we had with the pre-facelift vehicle we had, so we suspect they were just running bugs.

So where does that leave us? After living with the car for four weeks we still absolutely loved it. Yes, some of the build quality issues are frustrating but we expect these to get better with time.

While the acceleration on offer from the P90D is incredible, we would actually be more than happy with an entry level 70D, which offers razor sharp acceleration and 95 per cent of the thrills available with its more expensive sibling. The non-air suspension is also just as impressive as the more expensive air based system.

Would we buy a Tesla Model S? Absolutely. It's the cutting edge of technology and excites us for the future. It's an electric car that can easily be lived with day in and day out.

Our long-term rating for the Model S P90D is based on the pre-facelift version.

MORE: Tesla Model S P90D: Long-term report one
MORE: Tesla Model S P90D: Long-term report two