There has been plenty written about new Tesla vehicles, but this review leans towards how this particular car performed and held up after a bit of real world use focusing on energy consumption, tyres, reliability and more.
This is a car that does more than just cruise up and down a flat freeway – it's been to most parts of WA and across the Nullarbor, it's handled gravel roads, corrugations, plus all the heat and dust expected in those areas.
Reliability with my Model S has currently been excellent. Long term I'm not too concerned, as the general opinion from other owners is most problems still allow the car to be driven. If you see a Tesla on a flatbed truck it's likely because the owners has destroyed a tyre or disobeyed the repeated warnings of an impending failure.
The first and only issue has been the standard door-handle gear drive failure, a common issue on early-build cars so was of no surprise when the passenger door handle wouldn't extend. It's a $5 part that takes the Tesla tech about an hour to replace.
So what about all those panel gaps you ask? I've seen that issue on a few cars, mostly the rear of the Model X. This car doesn't have the panel gap issue but, as an early car, it does have the appearance of soft paint. This really shows up after consistent country driving – the bonnet (frunk) is covered in tiny chips.
Many potential owners are reluctant to purchase a Tesla in WA due to the lack of an official service centre. For myself and other early adopters this has never been a problem, as Tesla have a full-time service technician that provides thoughtful and friendly customer support. Tesla Australia have now recruited a second WA tech as car numbers increased, and I would expect an established WA sales and service centre when the Model 3 arrives in Australia from late 2019.
So far, servicing costs have totalled up to around $1400 spread over 145,000kms. Most effort goes in to the air-conditioner, battery coolant, cabin filters and safety checks. Electric cars need far less servicing than a traditional car but it is still recommended, especially the brakes, steering and suspension.
The factory fitted tyres were Michelin that copped a moderate amount of abuse over their lifetime, when replacement was due I stuck with the brand and fitted Primacy 245/45/19, these tyres are exceptional and suit the Model S very well.
There is a train of thought that electric cars wear out tyres faster due to the extra weight, but this doesn't take into account that an electric drive-train is smoother in both accelerating and braking and thus should reduce tyre wear.
Here's my thought on the subject:
The first set of tyres will wear out faster for an EV novice as they continually test out the extra torque and low centre of gravity that allows the heavier car to be slung around corners at the detriment of the tread.
The second and subsequent sets of tyres will last longer as the car's owner backs off from the hard driving and makes use of the smoother accelerating and braking.
The first set of Michelins fitted to this model S survived for 62,000kms; the second set has passed 83,000kms with plenty of tread remaining.
The Model S is fitted with 360mm disc brakes that are welcome on a two-tonne sedan in case of emergency stopping, but in most cases the brake pedal is rarely used due to regenerative braking. I doubt if 20% of the brake pads have been consumed since new, less parts to replace and less brake dust taking the shine off the alloy rims.
This particular Model S is fairly energy efficient compared to most others. This is mainly due to the generally warm dry conditions on the West coast – the lifetime average is 17kwh per 100kms for an overall consumption of 24,728kwh. I doubt anyone buys a plus $100k car with lowering fuel costs as their first priority, but for those asking how much it has cost to charge over that time, the answer is very little, as most charging is done from home solar or a variety of complimentary chargers around the area.
In reality, it should be considered that in the future drivers would be expected to pay an average 35 cents per kwh for public charging, assuming they don't have access to cheap home solar power. Under that format, the total electricity cost for 145,000kms would be $8655. A V6 would burn through $21,000 of fuel over the same distance.
The fuel saving on a $100k plus vehicle is not critical, but the same fuel savings on a sub $60k electric car will be significant.
Now on to the battery, as this is the big-dollar item that makes potential buyers nervous. The battery packs in Tesla cars are very straightforward and robust. As long as the pack has a reliable combination of battery management and thermal management systems, the pack will outlive the majority of conventional cars. Almost all new electric vehicles have a basic thermal management system – if they don't, look elsewhere when considering your purchase.
There are three rarely discussed aspects of the Tesla Model S (and Model X) that other electric vehicle makers need to catch up to:
First, Tesla provide a complimentary 22kW home charging point plus a portable UMC. These are part of the car purchase, (no need to chase the dealer up trying to find a charging solution, no being fobbed off to an aftermarket business who will charge $2000 plus for a basic 7kW home chargepoint). If other car makers want to be taken seriously in their efforts to sell EVs, provide the charging equipment free-of-charge, or at the very least don't screw the owner over.
Second is the AC charging system. This early car has dual onboard chargers capable of delivering up to 22kW per hour. Without going in to long drawn out detail, it's very easy to operate and makes full use of the AC charging outlets being installed throughout shopping centre car parks and other locations.
The third and most important aspect is the car's ability to predict remaining range without any sudden and unexpected drops. It's critical all electric cars provide drivers with this confidence when they go mainstream.
Downsides: The Tesla model S is a deceptively big car. If you live in a built-up area with tight parking spots and twisty car park entrance on-ramps, concentration is paramount. If not, get your local rim repair man on speed dial.
Rear passenger room is fine for adults but entry and exit can be awkward for less mobile citizens.
Would I buy another Model S? Absolutely, but not a new one. Secondhand would do perfectly. The government have got enough LCT out of me. The next new car will be a short-range Model 3 or an electric Kona that will share a carport with the original Model S.