Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
Where Fisker’s electric car failed, it appears Tesla has survived the gauntlet of criticism and minor setbacks to become the shining star of the plug-in-car market. Sleek, fast, safe and capable of covering distances previous electric cars could only do on the back of a flatbed, the 2014 Tesla Model S proves the future is now.
You'll Like The 2014 Tesla Model S If...
If you’re looking for a mean, green machine, the 2014 Tesla Model S fills the bill. It’s the car to be seen in, but it’s wickedly more fun to drive. With a 0-to-60 time of just 4.4 seconds, this is the electric car to win over the most ardent skeptics.
You May Not Like The 2014 Tesla Model S If...
Unless you live in an area with abundant charging stations, the Tesla Model S will be an inconvenient daily driver. With a 300-mile range, the Model S is fine for day trips or a few days around town, but long-distance interstate travel is better left to a Porsche Panamera hybrid.
Tesla model year changes do not coincide with updates and improvements. Rather, Tesla simply adds features and options as they become technically feasible. Hence the center console data screen shows fields for blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and all-wheel drive, all desirable, but with none not yet offered on the 2014 car.
Absent a gasoline engine, the Tesla Model S boasts a staggering amount of cargo and passenger space. In addition to a sizable rear cargo area, the Model S’s hood hides a supplemental front trunk, or “frunk” as Tesla calls it. Passenger accommodations are ample in the front seat, becoming progressively tighter as you move rearward. Headroom in the second row can be tight for taller passengers, and the optional rear-facing jump seats are sized for children only. Though some areas could be improved, material quality is generally good throughout the simple modern cabin.
Tesla calls the 2014 Model S a sedan, but it’s really more of a hatchback, marked by a wide rear hatch that leads to a spacious cargo area. However it’s classified, we think that Tesla has crafted a handsome, restrained shape made all the more appealing by its impressively slick 0.24 drag co-efficient. Adding to the wind-cheating design are retractable door handles that automatically emerge when the key is nearby. Ride quality is generally good, even with the optional 21-inch performance tire and wheel package, but if ride comfort were our top priority we’d probably stick with the standard 19-inch wheels.
When you think electric car, the Tesla Model S isn’t what generally comes to mind. Tesla is working to change the electric’s commuter car image, starting with a 0-to-60-mph run in less than six seconds – and that’s with the slowest 60-kWh trim. Move up to the 85-kWh Performance model and that time drops to a scathing 4.4 seconds. With the battery packs in the floor and no heavy combustion engine up front, the Model S retains a low center of gravity that, coupled with its quick steering ratio, permits extreme stability in turns with very little lean. On the freeway, the Tesla Model S moves effortlessly and has abundant power to overtake slower traffic. The omission of engine growl inside the passenger compartment takes some getting used to, but the silence is quickly welcomed, especially when making phone calls using the Bluetooth hands-free system.
The 2014 Tesla Model S has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $71,000, including destination, but not the additional dealer prep fees or the $7,500 federal tax credit which remains in place until 200,000 models have been sold cumulatively. The 85-kWh trim starts around $81,000, while the Performance model starts closer to $94,500. Add all the options to a top-of-the-line Model S and the price tag lands around $130,000. Electric cars like the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf are all much less expensive than the Tesla Model S, but the performance, design and general appeal of the Tesla do plenty to justify its elevated costs. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for the most up-to-date pricing of the 2014 Tesla Model S in your area. Due to low production volumes Kelley Blue Book doesn’t yet track the residual values of the Model S, though it is worth noting that limited availability tends to drive higher resale numbers.
Standard Model S features include 12-way-adjustable heated front seats, cloth/synthetic-leather upholstery, eight airbags, a 7-speaker 200-watt audio system that lacks a CD player but includes two USB inputs, and a 17-inch screen handling climate, entertainment and vehicle controls. Interestingly, the Model S also lacks any sort of “ignition” or start button – just buckle up with the key in your pocket, put your foot on the brake, pull the gear selector into drive, and the car is ready to go. Black or white exterior paint is offered free of charge but for any other color expect to pay extra.
If driving a vision of the future isn’t interesting enough, consider indulging in options like a panoramic glass roof (operated by a swipe of the 17-inch touch screen), Nappa leather, a 580-watt 12-speaker premium audio system, or a Tech Package that bundles features like HID headlights, navigation, a HD backup camera and a power rear liftgate. An active air suspension is offered as well, as is a Subzero package that adds a heated rear seat, heated washer nozzles and a windshield-wiper de-icer. Lastly, an optional wall connector allows for charging at home while a second on-vehicle charger helps shorten recharge times.
17-INCH INFOTAINMENT SCREENThe centerpiece of the Model S’ interior is a massive 17-inch touch screen taking up the entire center stack. Easily configurable, this clear, sharp screen operates similarly to a tablet computer, reacting to finger taps, pinch and drag movements, and cursor control. Next to the Tesla’s infotainment screen, everything else feels as antiquated as a rotary phone.REAR-FACING JUMP SEATSThe 5-passenger Model S can be outfitted with a rear-facing jump seat, allowing two more to come along for the ride. Like the station wagons of yesteryear, these rear-facing seats are best appreciated by kids. Unlike those old wagons, however, the Model S’ seats include 5-point seatbelts for improved safety.
Under the Hood
The 2014 Model S lineup is defined by a battery hierarchy. The 60-kWh, 85-kWh and 85-kWh Performance models each offer increasing levels of driving range, power and performance. All versions feature rear-wheel drive and an 8-year battery warranty with varying mileage limitations. Tesla is also in the process of constructing a network of “Superchargers” strategically placed along heavily trafficked corridors (such as from L.A. to Las Vegas), giving owners of 85-kWh and properly equipped 60-kWh Model S’s the ability to quickly replenish their batteries to 50-percent charge in 30 minutes. By exponentially speeding recharge times Tesla’s Supercharging network hopes to make pure-electric long-distance travel a reality.60-kWh302 horsepower @ 5,000-8,000 rpm317 lb-ft of torque @ 0-5,000 rpmRange 230 miles @ 55 mph85-kWh362 horsepower @ 6,000-9,500 rpm325 lb-ft of torque @ 0-5,800 rpmRange 300 miles @ 55 mph85-kWh Performance416 horsepower @ 5,000-8,600 rpm443 lb-ft of torque @ 05,100 rpmRange 300 miles @ 55 mph
To most consumers, the electric car is a novelty. A compact, limited-range vehicle like the Nissan Leaf whose owners can also afford to have a second, gasoline-powered car in the garage. Tesla understands public fears about long charging times and of being stranded miles from an electric socket, so they designed the Model S to be a different kind of electric car. The new platform allows for maximized efficiency, five passengers, lots of cargo, high performance, and an extended driving range. While charging time is still an issue, different battery pack options that allow for rapid charging coupled with the company’s aggressive move to begin installing a network of Superchargers should go a long way to improving confidence in the 2014 Model S.