The 2019 Tesla Model S continues to dominate the electric luxury car field, offering sleek styling, impressive performance and an incredibly long range. The Tesla name also holds an elite status among luxury car builders, another feather in its cap considering the company’s upstart status. As the flagship of the Tesla fleet, the Model S offers all of Tesla’s bells and whistles, including a massive 17-in touchscreen display, various speed modes such as Insane and Ludicrous and the self-driving enhanced autopilot. Prices range from around $78,000 for the entry-level model, to just over $135,000 for a loaded Performance trim, with travel distances varying from 285 to 370 miles on a single charge.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, Tesla has simplified the Model S lineup, dropping the 75D, 100D and P100D in favor of just Standard, Long Range and Performance. All models get a boost in range without changing the battery size or power output. The enhanced autopilot upgrade gets more features that will be added later in 2019. See the 2019 Tesla Model S models for sale near you
What We Like
- Exceptional range
- Brilliant performance
- In-cabin technology
- Good crash test scores
What We Don’t
- Questionable interior craftsmanship
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Rear seat comfort
- Styling beginning to grow old
Because the Model S is an electric vehicle (EV), its range is calculated differently than a gasoline-powered car. Using the electric car system established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Model S has a 103 MPGe rating, meaning that on a single charge it can travel 285 miles. The Long Range model bumps the distance up to 370 miles. Charging times with a conventional 240-volt charger are around eight to 10 hours, but at a Tesla Supercharging station, that time drops to about 75 minutes. For those not needing a full charge, the Model S can attain about 200 miles of range in under 30 minutes using a Supercharger.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Model S comes in three trims: Standard, Long Range and Performance. Pricing on the window is firm, but some states are offering tax credits for electric vehicles, so depending on where you live, you may be able to shave a few thousand off the bottom line. The $7,500 federal tax credit for the Model S no longer applies as Tesla has now sold more than 200,000 electric cars. The tax credit for the first half of 2019 shrinks to $3,750, and then again to $1,875 in the second half of the year.
The Model S ($78,000) includes full-time all-wheel drive (AWD), forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, side-collision warning, lane-departure warning, 11-speaker audio, satellite radio, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, 12-way power driver and passenger seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, auto headlights, 17-in touchscreen control pad, mobile app remote control, navigation, a rear backup camera, heated side mirrors, fog lights, adaptive LED headlights, a fixed glass panel roof, 19-in wheels, faux leather seating and an 8-year/unlimited battery warranty. Optional on the Model S is a $5,000 autopilot upgrade that allows the car to navigate itself, auto lane change, auto park and summon itself. Later in the year, the system will recognize and respond to stop signs and traffic lights, as well as drive itself in city traffic. This system also includes a fully self-driving computer that can be upgraded as laws and regulations change to allow for fully autonomous driving. Other options include carbon fiber interior trim and 20-in wheel upgrades.
The Model S Long Range ($88,000) adds a longer driving range (370 miles) and a slightly faster 0-to-60 mph time (3.7 seconds versus 4.0 seconds).
The Model S Performance ($99,000) brings a slightly lower range (345 miles) and a 0-to-60 mph time of 3 seconds. For an additional $20,000, buyers can opt for Ludicrous mode that makes the Model S even faster.
One of the highlights of the 2019 Tesla Model S is how well it scores in crash tests. Along with its long list of standard safety equipment (see standard features), the Tesla Model S comes with numerous driver assists including automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and lane-departure warning and assist.
In government crash test, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Model S five stars overall, with a perfect 5-star rating in each crash test category. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was not as glowing, giving the Model S a Good rating in all but its driver side small overlap crash test, which earned an Acceptable. The Model S scored a Superior rating in the crash avoidance and mitigation tests, but a Poor score for headlight beam dispersion.
Behind the Wheel
Of course, the first thing anyone who knows the Model S does upon being handed the key is look for the longest, straightest patch of road. That’s because the Model S’ straight-line acceleration is the stuff of legend, made even more insanely fast when equipped with Ludicrous mode. The secret to the Model S’ speed is its powerful electric motors, one at each axle, and its tenacious AWD grip. As much fun as the Model S is rocketing to 60 mph in under 3 seconds, it can also be quite entertaining on twisting roads. The steering can feel a bit vague at times, but the overall handling is really quite good. The ride is firm, although the adjustable shock absorbers help smooth things out when the pavement gets choppy.
The upgraded autopilot with self-driving capabilities allows for semi-autonomous driving, meaning you can set the destination and then let the car do all the work. Although you’re prompted to keep your hands on or near the wheel, the Model S can take itself up an on ramp, merge with traffic, regulate its speed and distance from the traffic ahead and exit the freeway when the time is right. The system has some quirks, such as a propensity to brake hard when trying to merge in heavy traffic, something the driver behind you won’t appreciate. But in heavy stop-and-go traffic, the autopilot can be a lifesaver, especially after long trips or when fatigue is setting in.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Audi e-tron — The e-tron offers the same 4-door configuration and AWD setup, but with a much more detailed and luxurious interior. It also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Model S offers a longer range, faster acceleration and more playful touchscreen options.
2019 Kia Niro EV — The Niro EV isn’t as luxurious, fast or impressive as the Model S, but it also isn’t nearly as expensive. With 239 miles of range, the Niro comes closest to the Model S’ range of any EV. It can’t drive itself, but it does come with an impressive warranty, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2019 Tesla Model X — Competition from within the family is keen, and the Model X offers similar features and range, but with a unique set of Falcon Wing rear doors, a roomier rear seat and space for up to seven people.
Used Tesla Model S — If you can’t swing a new Model S, try looking at an older version. The car first debuted in 2012 and featured a broader model range including rear-wheel-drive versions, as well as less powerful battery packs with shorter range.
We think most people will be quite happy with the Standard model, but we would equip it with the enhanced self-driving autopilot feature that only adds an additional $5,000. If maximum range is important, stepping up to the Long Range make sense, but does it make $10,000 worth of sense? That’s your call. Those with money burning holes in their pockets (and a need for speed) should settle for nothing less than a fully loaded Performance with the Ludicrous Mode option. Find a Tesla Model S for sale