Tesla Model S review: entry-level 70D driven

Published:21 April 2020

  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 5 out of 5

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

Full UK test of Tesla 70D
It’s now the cheapest Model S
240-mile range, 5.2sec 0-60mph

Such is the pace of change in Silicon Valley that it’s hard to keep up with the Tesla Model S. Not just in a straight line (even this ‘entry-level’ model will sprint past 60mph in 5.2sec) and in the fast-changing electronics and user interfaces onboard (now updated every few months, wirelessly) - but also in the evolution of the model range itself.

Tesla 70D specs

Company founder Elon Musk names his cars after their battery capacity: so this electric car features a 70kWh lithium-ion battery. And the ‘D’? That means Dual Motor, signalling it’s four-wheel drive with a powerful 259bhp e-motor on each axle for a surprising punch of acceleration.

It’s a big car, at near-as-dammit 5m long, 1963mm wide and 1435mm tall. No wonder there’s huge space front and back; just watch out for pinched headroom in the rear seats if you spec the sweeping panoramic sunroof. With no propshaft required, there is a totally flat floor though. The boot's a good size, although the 'frunk' under the bonnet is surprisingly smaller than a 911's.

What’ll she do, mister?

This car is quick, with a capital F. Tesla quotes a chunky 387lb ft of torque, pulling the four-door towards the horizon with all the inevitability of a silent, slightly eerie electric catapult. Equipped with 4wd, it’s all drama-free and you’ll pass 60mph in 5.2sec - enough to see off most hot hatches - and on to a 140mph top speed.

Of course, most Model S drivers wouldn’t condone such flat-footed antics. Not least because the claimed 240-mile range will freefall southwards if you drive like a hooligan. Much better to ease off and surf the torque, preserving every precious mile. Driven like this, the indicated range is remarkably trustworthy and accurate in our experience. 

Read our guide to the best electric cars and EVs on sale in the UK

This is the car’s natural milieu, a not-hanging-around waft, planning ahead, preserving energy, marvelling at how regenerative braking means you simply coast to slow down while topping up the range-ometer. All the while steering and handling, stopping and going in a fashion that no recent start-up has any right to accomplish. You're aware of the two-tonne heft, but it doesn't feel far from the class leaders in fun response. Praise indeed.

 

Verdict

The Model S continues to stun CAR’s testers. From its sophisticated design and fabulous interior to its incisive driving manner, it’s an incredibly well resolved four-door. That it then ladles on an engaging layer of Californian cleverness is what gives the Tesla its stand-out-from-the-crowd USP. 

It's still a frankly astonishing achievement that little ol' Tesla has pioneered to the extent that the ancien régime are now playing catch-up. Yes, there are still shortcomings with owning an electric car, but the Tesla's 200+ mile range, batteries warranted for eight years/unlimited miles and fast-charge ability allay many users' fears. We can see why you're beginning to see Model S electric limos in numbers in certain parts of London. It's that good.

Specs

Price when new: £61,535
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: Twin electric motors front and rear, 259bhp equivalent, 387lb ft, 70 kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission: Single-speed transmission, four-wheel drive
Performance: 5.2sec 0-60mph, 140mph, 240-mile range (claimed)
Weight / material: 2108kg/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4978/1963/1435mm

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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