Buying a Tesla

Choices choices. This short guide talks you through the models, the batteries and the options. It also touches upon buying a used car as there are now many around. Like this whole site, it tries to give an unbiased view rather than just repeat what Tesla’s own web site publishes.

Which model?

Tesla currently have 3 models although only 2 are available to order.

Model S

Ignoring the Roadster, the Model S is the first production Tesla to reach any production volumes. The car has gone through many updates, tweaks, enhancements and problems since its inception and a car you order today will be considerably different to the early cars. The design is similar, but items such as batteries, autopilot hardware, quality of trim, even tyre sizes have changed over time, and sometimes changed back. This guide is based on the versions since AP was introduced so just check if you're buying a used car that it has anything that's important to you.

Exterior

The exterior looks have remained pretty much unchanged since introduction with just one major update in 2016, easily determined by the change in the front nose, but which also included painted side sills, a changed rear and notably slightly better head lights. Small details that vary between cars are extra chrome bits on the rear and front in the premium pack is fitted.

Interior

While the basic interior has changed little, the introduction of the next gen seats gave a lot more lateral support to drivers although the rear is still a bench. There were some cars delivered with a next gen rear seat too, but as the seats didn't fold as flat, it's now been dropped. All cars now come with another version of seats which are more like the next generation seats but with a few tweaks. The various cabin components have all been tweaked over time to give a better finish, there is also now a centre console and rear cup holders, but it's no premium German car. The flat rear floor is great and 3 can sit comfortably in the back. It's also available as a 7 seater with 2 small seats in the boot but these are limited to small people (ie children) but the absence of heating or ventilation can make them a bit uncomfortable.

Model X

The car with the Falcon doors and the size of, well, the millennium falcon. It's the Tesla SUV and its huge. Built on pretty much the same platform as the Model S it shares many of the same good and bad points.

Exterior

The exterior is just big. Lots of styling from the model S but in a bigger shape with that enormous windscreen. No modifications yet as its only come out but does have some seriously large alloy wheels as options. The doors have given some owners issues as they didn't work well on anything but a level surface and its rumoured that Tesla deactivated some of the sensors to make them more reliable, although its believed these were linked to safety. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of the doors chopping things in half. Care is needed, but then care should be taken when closing any car door. But it is impressive and it certainly draws the crowds.

Interior

It's big and spacious and various seating options to suit all tastes including a third row and combinations of individual seats and a bench. The quality feels a touch better than the Model S but as Tesla continually improve, that quality will start coming through on that car too, for instance the Model X seats are now on the Model S. The dash is all but identical to the Model S.

Model 3

The car with hundreds of thousands of deposits already down, but will it live up to the expectation?

The car is now in limited production but it won't be reaching the UK until the end of 2018 at the earliest and we imagine that will translate into 2019 as there is a degree of engineering that needs to be done on the production line to move to right hand drive

The current information is only party relevant for us in the UK, its only the long range version, options are limited, colours are limited, but may of these things are said to change prior to reaching us, so the best bet is to sit tight, and if you can't wait until 2019, then look at a used Model S, the prices are tumbling fast at the moment.

Competition

I guess people are buying for the name because we know very little and the competition are already getting close to the model 3 claims today. The i3 has 150-mile range and with the REX, over 200. The Leaf is getting up there too. You pay your money and all that. And let’s face it, you are not going to get P100DL performance for £35k. Another concern for Tesla is the build quality has taken a noticeable downturn in 2017 coupled with both lots of software delays and glitches and increasingly demanding owners as its slowly moving away from being an early adopter. Tesla have some work to do to ensure those expressions of interest convert to firm orders.

If you're looking at a model S, especially the P100D, then cars like the Panamera Turbo S e-hybrid has all the performance and handling you could want and a glorious interior.

Jaguar have promised to launch the e-Pace early in 2017 and that may be a contender for Model X buyers.

Battery

The battery choice is now largely a question of range. The 75 is, as the name suggests, approx 3/4 of the capacity of the 100. Recent updates means cars built from July 2017 with the 75 battery are noticeably quicker than before then, and now close to the performance of the 100. Buyer beware if buying used as to which version you get!

Tesla have also muddied the water further by putting 85 battery packs in 75 cars, it's hit and miss in which cars or why!

So which variant?

Well there are only a few to really choose from. The 60 and 90 have been dropped from the range and so the 75 is the entry level car, with or without the dual motors (designated by the D). The 100D is the long distance car. Both offer 0-60 performance in a little over 4 seconds. At the top is the P100D but significantly more expensive again, but then some just have to have the fastest. There's very little justification for the var though as everything else about the car is the same.

The available range changes quite considerably depending on two major factors: the speed you drive and the outside temperature. Range falls of as you travel above 50mph, and at 90mph the lower efficiency reduces the range by as much as 30%. In cold weather, especially below 3 or 4 degrees C, range also reduces noticeably and in sub-zero temperatures range can also drop 30% on a long run. Because the car will be heating the batteries when you first start if they are too cold, a short run of 4 or 5 miles could see double the consumption you would see in summer. A high speed run in freezing weather is really bad for range!

The performance of the cars also change based on battery (and also if dual motors are fitted). A 100D is approx. 1s quicker to 60mph than a 75D, and a P100D is about a further second quicker than a 100D. A P100D can be quicker still but as the car needs to have a high battery charge and the batteries fully warmed up to get the absolute maximum, the 2.5s to 60 performance requires planning so in every day driving is worth thinking of it as a 3 seconds to 60 car - still blisteringly fast.

To the point..

So the choice boils down to value (75/75D), range (100D) or money no object performance (P100D). The incremental price for the P100D is significant especially when you consider the 100D is already a 4s to 60 car.

Options

Options on a Tesla can be expensive. Everyone has a view on their “must haves” so I'll not try to convince you otherwise, but here are the good and bad about them.

Option List

  • Autopilot, Enhanced autopilot and Full Self-drive

    We've added a topic on this as there is a lot to know, but in essence, autopilot is one of the reasons for owning the car. All cars built from late 2014 have the hardware (on the early cars you can tell by looking at the lower front bumper and if there is a little window, it’s the radar, this changed with AP2 hardware in late 2016). If the car has the hardware, the software can be turned on for a fee if not already enabled. Even though Enhanced autopilot (which is autopilot in the later cars with the different hardware) is still not on a par with the original autopilot, it’s worth ordering. Full self-drive however is probably not unless you want to be at the leading edge. You can always buy it later for a small premium when there is actually functionality to use.

  • Common questions

    To P of not to P

    The 64-thousand-dollar question - or not far off. If you want to go the whole hog then the choice is the P100D, but you are paying an extra £40k+ for either a Model S or Model X for essentially worse range and a more performance. The performance is addictive although the regualr cars are far from slow. If you are looking at used cars then be aware older P cars originally game with "Insane" mode, later upgraded to "Ludicrous" which is what new cars have. Insane is limited in its performance and is barely distinguishable from non P cars above 30 mph.

    Paint protection

    The Tesla paint is quite soft so many opt for a paint protection of some kind. The two most common are either a ceramic coating like GTECHNIQ Crystal Serum, or a paint protection film like Ventureshield or Paintshield. The ceramic coatings chemically bind with the paint and make a hydrophobic layer (water repellent) that makes it easier to clean and also slightly harder helping to reduce swirl marks that dull the paintwork. The films are literally that, a clear coating over the paint that is a physical barrier to the paint and will self-heal either in sun light or with a hair dryer. A film still won't prevent a determine stone from chipping the film and possibly the paint, but can help reduce the damage and less determined stones.

    The choice comes down to cost as the films cost much more, especially if having the whole car treated. As a result, some have a combination, the film on high risk areas like the front and the ceramic coating everywhere else. Whichever way you go, the paint needs to be professionally detailed to get it perfect before either are applied. Or do neither

    Finally

    Expect to be bombarded with questions from people wanting to talk to you and tell you they know someone who's on the waiting list for a Model 3. It gets boring after a while.