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2020 Tesla Model S Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2019

A pioneer in the electric car market, the 2020 Tesla Model S continues to dominate the high-end electric vehicle field despite new competition from such heavyweights as Audi, Porsche and BMW. Even with its aging design, the Model S' Tesla name 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 Ludicrous, and the self-driving enhanced autopilot. Prices range from around $80,000 for the entry-level model to just over $115,000 for a loaded Performance trim, with travel distances varying from 348 to 373 miles on a single charge. As a side note, the full $7,500 tax credit no longer applies to the Model S, as the company has surpassed the allotted 200,000 car limit required to earn said credit. There is still a small credit offered on models sold before January 1, 2020, but after that, no more. However, some states may still offer a tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle, so be sure to check with your local DMV or area Tesla dealer for details.

What's New for 2020?

As Tesla doesn't officially do model year changes, it can be a bit hard to nail down what's new at any given time. Last year's entry-level trim seems to have disappeared before it even took shape, leaving the Long Range as the entry-level car. Range for both the Long Range and Performance trim are increased this year, with the Long Range extended to 373 miles per charge and the Performance to 348 miles. The Model S can now use a V3 supercharger for a 25% faster charging time, and Tesla now offers an adaptive air suspension. See the 2020 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

How Much?

$79,990-$115,000

Fuel Economy

Because the Model S is an EV, its range is calculated differently than a gasoline-powered car. Using the electric car system established by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Model S Long Range has a 111 miles per gallon-equivalent in combined driving, meaning that on a single charge it can go 373 miles. The Performance model can travel 348 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 and under an hour with the V3 supercharger. 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 2020 Model S comes in two trims: 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 currently offered until January 2020 is $1,875.

The Model S Long Range ($79,990) includes full-time all-wheel drive, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, side-collision warning, lane-departure warning, adaptive air suspension, 11-speaker audio, a satellite radio, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, a 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, a 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 $7,000 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 Performance ($99,990) brings a slightly lower range (348 miles) and a 0-to-60 miles per hour time of 2.4 seconds thanks to the now standard Ludicrous mode. Also standard is a carbon fiber spoiler and enhanced interior upgrades.

Safety

One of the highlights of the 2020 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.

The government last crash tested the Model S in 2016. However, since the 2020 car has not changed in any meaningful way, the scores should apply equally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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 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 placed into 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 three 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

2020 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.

2020 Porsche Taycan -- The Taycan is the Model S' first real competitor, matching it for luxury, size and technology but not price and range.

2020 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.

Autotrader's Advice

We think most people will be quite happy with the Long Range model, but we would equip it with the enhanced self-driving autopilot feature that only adds an additional $7,000. The Performance trim adds about $20,000 to the bottom line, but you'll get the Ludicrous mode, which for some is a must have. Find a Tesla Model S for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2020 Tesla Model S Review - Autotrader
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