A Revolution in Electric Cars
When the Tesla Model S first got released to the mass market, it totally transformed what the public thought was possible for an electric vehicle. At the time, the next best game in town was realistically a Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Model S was a completely different class of car, it had truly entered the premium car market.
Not only was it a huge step up in quality over the competition but it also absolutely smashed them on range. The older 2014 60kWh Model S cars were already capable of over 200 miles.
A Rapid Progression
The Model S quickly progressed over the following years with the introduction of dual motor models and larger battery packs. The cars got better built, better equipped, went much faster, and a lot further on a single charge.
It can be confusing when looking at a second-hand Tesla Model S to work out what vintage of car to go for and which of the many options is right for you. This guide hopes to clarify some of the crucial options on a used Model S. If you have any further questions, feel free to get in contact.
Charging and the Supercharger Network
One area that really sets Tesla apart from the other mainstream EV manufacturers is its impressive network of “Superchargers.” Tesla is the only manufacturer offering its own, completely private charging network in the UK. Tesla’s Superchargers can provide faster charging rates than anything else currently on offer in the UK. A standard non-Tesla Rapid charger in the UK delivers around 50KW of charging power. A Supercharger may deliver up to 150KW.
In 2018 there are more than 320 Superchargers across 50 destinations around the UK. You can already complete a journey from John O’Groats to Lands End via Supercharger alone, however Tesla aims to massively expand the network in the UK over the next few years.
Tesla Supercharging is also special because it is (or has been) free to use. This is one reason that choosing a second-hand Tesla Model S may offer a huge advantage over a newer model. Older Model S cars will still have access to free supercharging in the UK whereas Supercharging has become a paid for service on more recent vehicles.
Of course, Teslas can also use standard destination charging options whether installed by Tesla or other third-party companies. We suggest looking at Zap-Map to find charging points from all providers in the UK.
Tesla’s use standard Type 2 charging in the UK. We can help assist you with the installation of a government-funded chargepoint when you purchase a Model S from us at Drive Green.
All second-hand Tesla Model S’s have a great range in comparison to the other offerings on the used EV market. A typical second-hand electric car may have a battery size of 20-30kWh. Even the smallest Model S battery has a capacity of 60kWh. The Model S can be bought with a variety of battery sizes ranging from the base model 60kWh up to the massive 100kWh option.
The most common sizes of battery for used Teslas are the 70kWh, 75kWh, and 85kWh. These cars all come with a great range. As an example, the 85D comes with an NEDC official range of 310 miles. This equates to a real-world range of around 250+ miles.
More range is always a nice thing to have however even the base spec 60kWh battery has more than enough range for most owners. When deciding to go for a Model S with a much larger battery (90 or 100kWh) you have to make sure that the upgrade is worth it for the type of driving you do. Remember that Tesla’s supercharger network is very fast and quite extensive and that the occasional long drive is easy, even with the smaller (but still very large) battery packs.
Performance and Drive
The Model S is renowned for it’s turn of pace. Even the “slower” models cover the 0-60 dash in around 5 seconds. The instant torque of the electric motor(s) is always available and positively launches the Model S down the road. Faster versions of the Model S can accelerate to 60mph in under 3 seconds. At the time of launch, the Model S P100D was the fastest production car in the world.
It’s not all about pace in the Model S. It also offers a very accomplished ride. Almost all of the cars weight is in the floor mounted battery pack. This keeps the centre of gravity extremely low and helps to prevent body roll and gives the Tesla a solid, planted feeling.
The ride is always good in a Model S but can be improved even more in cars fitted with the optional Smart Air Suspension. The air suspension is slightly more comfortable but also provides an adjustable ride height. This means the car can sit low and squat for sporty good looks and aerodynamics. It can also be lifted up for negotiating bumpy roads and more challenging terrain.
All Model S’s have incredibly advanced traction control and they all have amazing traction, especially the dual motor vehicles. The Tesla Model S can be fired out of corners by just planting your foot on the floor if point and shoot speed is something to be desired.
The Model S is not a light car, however it’s instant torque, low center of gravity, and fantastic traction all come together to create a car that drives and handles better than any other premium saloon on the market.
Autopilot and Technology
When most people think of Tesla’s cars. Other than electric, the next thing people normally think of is either the Model S’s giant screen or autonomous driving.
Tesla has become synonymous with technology and the future of driving. The technology in a Model S is obvious from the second you walk towards the car and step inside. You can’t help but notice the 17” main screen that controls almost all the functions of the car. At first this can seem odd but it quickly becomes an intuitive and simple system to use.
A Model S is far more customisable than most internal combustion engine (or other electric) cars. You can adjust everything from ride height, lighting, and sunroof opening levels, to whether or not the car creeps forward in traffic, all from the large touchscreen controls.
More interesting for most technophiles is the cars Autopilot features. Autopilot has been a large contributor to Tesla’s fame. Its Autopilot features enable a host of semi-autonomous driving features as well as a lot of safety features.
As standard, all modern Tesla Model S’s feature the hardware required for Autopilot. The safety features are standard on all models however advanced Autopilot (convenience) features are only present on some models. Full autopilot could be specified as a factory option, or it can be purchased at a later date from Tesla.
Full Autopilot Convenience features include radar assisted cruise control, autonomous parking, and (most importantly for most people) auto-steer. Auto-steer allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel in traffic or in motorway conditions to allow the car to take over the majority of driving duties. The car will follow the road and accelerate and slow down with surrounding traffic. Although you must still pay attention to the road, this feature allows for greatly reduced driver fatigue.
It can be confusing when first looking at a second-hand Tesla. There is a wide selection of optional extras, and some of these packages overlap or have had names change throughout the cars production.
We tend to deal in newer vehicles so will not get too involved in the earlier “Signature” model cars.
Luckily all Model S’s come with a good level of spec and technology as standard however there are some desirable options that are most likely to be on your list if the budget permits.
Autopilot Convenience Features
As mentioned above, the hardware for Autopilot (AP) is present in all modern Model S’s and the AP safety features are present on all cars with the hardware. The convenience features option adds in all of the extras that improve the AP use in daily driving.
These extras include: radar guided cruise control, self-steering autonomous lane holding, self-parking, and automatic headlights.
The all glass roof of the Model S is a slight to behold and really opens up the car as the light feels never ending above and behind your head. The optional electrically opening sunroof is a real plus if you like airflow in the cabin. It can be opened to any position using the main control screen, or the controls on the steering wheel for on the fly adjustment.
See the Teslarati review here
This is an often-requested option that is definitely recommended on earlier cars. However, the original Tech Package was discontinued in April 2015 as many of the original tech package features became standard. These were:
- Free long distance travel on the Tesla SuperCharger Network
- Automatic Keyless Entry
- Parking Sensors
- Power-folding and heated Side Mirrors
- Maps and Navigation with real time traffic updates
- LED daytime running lights
- Blind Spot Warning system
- Automatic emergency braking
- 8 year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty on all Model S
- GPS enabled Homelink
- Lane Departure Warning system
Many people ordered the Tech package for the power liftgate (bootlid) that is now part of the Premium package
Premium Package (Previously Premium interior and lighting)
The Model S already has a very smart cabin but should you want to raise the plushness levels in your Model S to maximum then this is the option for you. The ambient interior lighting adds a touch of class with puddle lights, LED lighting strips inside the doors, and footwell lights in the rear of the car.
On the outside, the lighting package continues with LED fog and cornering lights, and lighted door handles.
The most prized addition in this package for most people is the powered bootlid. Many people specify this option purely for this addition.
Finally, the interior materials are upgraded. The entire headliner is changed to a plush alcantara, and the artificial leather trim on the steering wheel, armrests, dashboard etc. is replaced with genuine Nappa leather.
Upgraded Sound (2 options)
The standard sound system in the Model S is good enough to keep almost everyone happy. However, for all the audiophiles, there are two options for upgrading the audio system in the Model S. The Sound Studio Package and the Ultra High Fidelity (UHF) sound system.
Both systems add a great enhancement in sound quality to those with sharp ears. Both options add a subwoofer and extra speakers.
We are led to believe that the system is actually the same with both options and the name has simply changed throughout the Model S’s history.
Leather and Seating Options
There are a few different options when it comes to seats and interior. The standard seats come in black, grey, or tan leather or a more basic black cloth option. Leather is an extremely popular upgrade and is present on most second-hand Model S’s. A car with the cloth seats is still wort considering as the seats are still comfortable, hard-wearing, and attractive.
The alternative seating option is the “Next-Gen” seats. These seats are made in conjunction with Recaro and offer a more supported and sportier seat. They can be electrically adjusted in every way and are a nice upgrade where available.
Tesla also offered an additional two rear facing child seats in the boot of the car as an additional option. This option is not very common and the seats are of limited use to children over 8-10 years old. Cars without this option have extra bootspace under the boot floor.
This is a nice upgrade but is normally further down on list of required specifications. We discussed the air suspension in the performance and drive section above.
Air suspension brings other benefits such as Auto-levelling, keeping the car level regardless of how much load is in the boot. The system is also GPS tracked so the car will learn to automatically raise itself if you lift it every day for the same speedbump or pothole.
It is not typically a requirement unless you live down a rocky road, however it is a nice upgrade to have.
These larger wheels are by no means a requirement when specifying a Model S but many do prefer the aesthetics of the larger alloys on the car. The ride quality remains largely unaffected by the larger wheels. However, some customers have preferred the softer sidewalls of the smaller wheels and speculate that the smaller wheels are better protected from puncture.
Same size, better design
Subzero (Cold Weather) Package
Another less common but sometimes desired option is the Subzero package. The package makes the car more liveable in the Winter months. Although a nice option, it is not a necessity in the UK.
It brings a heated steering wheel, individually heated rear seats (very fancy!), heated washer jets, and a portion of heated windscreen under the wipers to prevent them from sticking.
As you can preheat a Tesla from the app on your phone or a departure timer, we do not think this is a requirement for most people. We are still happy to see it on a car in Winter though. It’s always nice to show off when you have four passengers that all want different levels of seat heating.
The Pick of the Bunch
Choosing the correct second-hand Tesla for you depends on what you want to get out of the car. Performance enthusiasts will head straight to the Performance model Teslas, and if budget permits look at incredibly fast cars such as the Ludicrous models.
Most drivers will find the performance of the base model Teslas far superior to anything they have driven before and this will be plenty.
At Drive Green, we believe that the sweet spot for most owners will be a car with the 75 or 85 kWh battery as this provides more than enough range for almost any UK driver. The dual motor is a nice option but does not provide a massive performance benefit and slightly reduces storage capacity in the front of the car. This means you should not ignore a single motorcar at first glance.
Teslas are generally reliable vehicles, however it is nice to have the peace of mind that comes with a car under the original 4-year Tesla warranty. The sweet spot is often a car within warranty but manufactured before Spring 2017 as these cars still have free access to the Tesla Supercharger network.
Author Details: Andy Farmer, Director of Drive Green and Completely Green. A passionate green advocate with a wealth of specialist knowledge in electric vehicles