Tesla is entering a new decade after rolling out four models to the market. In 2020, his posture is not the same. The brand has made its place, defied criticism, and was built around a certain hype more similar to some brands of tech rather than auto companies. Despite everything, it is in a market more consolidated towards the energy transition that Tesla is heading. A market marked by competition that will not wait any longer to dethrone the Californian.
Tesla is on the cusp of the arrival of its big German rivals in the market, like Audi. For better or for worse (Elon Musk always says he hopes the competition will come up with more electric cars), those interested in Tesla can now lend themselves to comparisons with competitive models. For Model 3, Volkswagen has rolled out its new ID3. For Model X, Audi and Mercedes have developed their respective e-Tron and EQC.
Only the worthy Model S, which made Tesla known around the world in 2012 and 2013, is still pretty quiet. The brand's gigantic sedan is also the oldest, already with seven candles to its credit on the French market. For Lemon squeezer, it was an opportunity to ask a question: in 2020, should you still buy a Model S? Our trial in the Large Autonomy version, to the test of the new decade.
Where is Tesla at? What is Tesla capitalizing on?
A different context from 7 years ago
To start this test of the Tesla Model S in 2020, let's come back to the competition a bit. It took a while, and followed a questionable strategy in the past, namely to modify already existing models to make electric cars. Result: the cars were heavy and not very autonomous; limited to city cars or compact sedans.
But now brands are finally arriving with models and chassis designed entirely for electrics. Their advantage over Tesla? Premium quality standards to be respected, in terms of assemblies and choice of materials. Audi, Mercedes, BMW but also Volvo, the traditional brands that some would have thought buried are initiating their plan of attack. Now instead of "Challengers", they arrive more organized than ever.
Tried last July by the editorial staff, the Audi e-Tron Sportback is a good example. 100% electric SUV, cockpit flawless in the quality of materials and assemblies, the model also innovated in other areas such as projectors, mirrors and infotainment screens.
73% new parts
At Tesla, and especially the Model S, the seven-year lead can seem like a drag today. It's true, aesthetically, the Model S, we know it. And she has changed little. Its latest stylistic evolution dates back to 2016, when it was thought to be mid-career. The grille disappeared in favor of a front profile recovered from all of the brand's models. A bodywork recognizable by electric cars, with no specific need for air intakes to cool any heat engine.
At the rear, the lights have not changed. Tesla simply dwelled on the rims, especially those on our test model. They are supposed to save 2% of range in addition to strengthening the line of the car. Ours are 21 inches (this is the "Twin Turbine" model), which is far from the most interesting for an electric car, but who let's face it, do almost everything on the exterior of the sedan. compared to the 19 inch alternative.
That said, Tesla is a long way from aging its sedan. Although these are changes that are not immediately visible, they are developments in software, the lifeblood of Tesla, at the crossroads of automotive and industrial high-tech. In its 10th version, the software allows the brand to offer advanced connectivity, and improve its cars by remote updates. Each year they have improved capabilities and brought new features.
On the technical side too, a lot of changes should be noted. In fact, 73% of the parts are new, and the Model S has overhauled its engine on the front axle. Since 2019, it has been using permanent magnet technology, which is more efficient for autonomy. The power has been revised and the Long Range version offers a 0 to 100 km / h in 3.8 seconds. Finally, depreciation. The suspensions are now adaptive, thanks to a pneumatic and piloted system. Enough to connect handling to the brain of Tesla, and offer improvements over time in relation to customer feedback and the behavior of the car.
Buy a Model S in 2020
Let's kick off our test in Model S and first look at the arguments in its favor. This is displayed from € 83,990 as standard in Large Autonomy. Our test model raised the score to € 91,890 with its options: 21-inch Twin Turbine rims (€ 4,700), beige leather upholstery and oak wood inlays on the dashboard (€ 1,600) as well as a metallic blue color (€ 1,600) €).
For its autonomy and the Supercharger network
We left Lyon, in the direction of Vercors and a small village not far from Mont Aiguille. A one-way trip of 160 kilometers, for a total after four days of 500 km, during which we will have done most of it by motorway, and the rest on ascending secondary roads. The 2020 Model S, in the Long Range version, shows 610 km in a theoretical load according to the European WLTP cycle. In reality, it will take more between 450 and 530 km of autonomy, depending on the route. A journey entirely on the highway, during which the consumption of the Model S is almost at its maximum (around 22 kW according to our measurements), it will take 450 km.
Seven years ago, in 2013, the Model S's range was estimated at 480 kilometers. Subsequent developments concerned the batteries in particular, but also the engine. Initially, the sedan was offered in different versions, including the popular P90 and P100. They did not necessarily have two engines (one for the front axle, the other for the rear), which is now the case with two versions currently available in the catalog: Long Range and Performance.
Tesla continues to dominate the electric market in terms of range as the competition lags behind releasing large SUVs. The Model S benefits from this advantage as well as from the fleet of Superchargers. At the end of 2020, they number 640 in 75 stations for France. We went twice to load the Model S, after having driven several hundred kilometers in the Vercors.
Our test model gave us completely free top-ups, as is the case with a few customers who took advantage of Tesla's offer. If not, the price per kW is 0.24 €, or about twenty euros for a full charge. Charging power can go up to 148 kWh for the Model S of this generation.
For Tesla V10
Buying a Model S in 2020 means above all enjoying resolutely fluid management of the car via its 17-inch touch screen, placed in the center of the center console. It has been the same for a few years now, but the software versions have been numerous and the functionality is certainly the most advanced on the market.
We retain, of the practical order: the possibility of displaying a route in a visible way for all the people on board and the great fluidity without any hitch of the use of the screen (a rare case in the automotive industry) . On the entertainment front, Tesla is really strong. The car unveils the beginnings of a living space rather than a cabin : it is possible to watch Netflix, YouTube, or browse the internet easily.
Of course, it is also from the central screen that all driving, air conditioning, music and charging settings are available. Tesla always follows the logic of the most minimalist interior possible (a good technique to last over time) and the entire car is under the control of Tesla software, currently in its V10 version. In a geek spirit or indifferent to automotive standards, we love it. For an opulent appearance and for the ergonomics of the shortened buttons, we will go our way.
In France, the legislation is far from the same as in the United States when it comes to autonomous driving. The shift is found in other European countries. The result is a much less extensive Autopilot for the Tesla of the Old Continent. In other words, it is currently mainly used on motorways or in traffic jams. We have used it in both of these cases, and Tesla continues to give confidence to its passengers on board. For the driver, the 3D feedback of the information taken into account by the car (other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic signs, red lights, obstacles on the road) is a real plus for agreeing to delegate driving.
Important clarification on this subject: since August 30, 2020, Autopilot uses panel recognition in addition to GPS data. Two sources of information that Tesla took a long time to integrate.
In rest that the manufacturer offers all the same two versions of Autopilot. The first is the basic version, with no financial surplus. The other costs 7,200 euros. She suggests being able to let the car change lanes according to the GPS route data and overtake cars. Tesla is currently working on a level of self-driving that is supposed to be at its peak, and has presented the effects on the occasion of the release of third quarter 2020 results.
However, we will have to wait for European legislation to soften to be able to take advantage of it. According to the current performance of Autopilot on Model S, we can say that it is more reliable and more precise than that of Volvo, but that more and more models – including electric ones – are arriving equipped with such a feature. adaptive cruise control with lane keeping.
In 2020, move on
7 years after its launch, it is still fascinating to see how Tesla has managed to create a brand stature more special than the others. However, the Model S is positioned in a segment where the thermal equivalents are called Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but it is clear that Tesla gives off a very different image of its cronies in the street. However, here are several arguments for not buying a Tesla Model S in 2020.
Assemblies still below
Comparing with the first copies of the product, some would say that Tesla has taken a giant leap forward. When it comes to the assembly qualities and finishes of its cars, the brand has come a long way. But in 2020, the Model S still does not compete in the same class as the German models in terms of build quality. A few years after my first test of a Model S, I still have a problem with assembly concerns for a car selling for over € 90,000. The opinion, objective, cannot turn a blind eye to the standards that the automobile industry has become accustomed to adopting for these rates.
Now that the competition is moving to market their electric models, the sentiment is even stronger. Despite millions of dollars invested in the design of competing electric cars, quality standards have not been lowered. The exception may be the Volkswagen ID3, which competes with the Model 3.
Soundproofing: Tesla is no longer the best student
Driving a Tesla, still impressive in 2020? To logical question logical answer: it is yes. Tesla enjoys the radical possibilities of accelerating electric motors, while still outperforming the competition. The 0 to 100 km / h data is displayed for all models and in each of their version. No matter what Tesla is, the acceleration will always be so drastic. The Long Range version of the Model S, for example, crosses 100 km / h in 3.8 seconds. The instantaneous torque when starting is still surprising.
Driving a Tesla is all about one pedal. With regenerative braking activated, it adds sufficient deceleration when lifting the foot to be able to negotiate bends or apprehend an interception without going back and forth on the brake pedal. This new driving habit is a real plus, and the car is sharp enough and well balanced (the center of gravity thanks to the batteries is low enough to eliminate the taking of roll) not to show itself behind on winding roads. For the brake pedal, some blame it for a lack of sensitivity and bite. But the excuse is valid: like any electric model, the Model S has a first phase in the path of the pedal where the discs are not actuated, to leave the batteries far to recover this energy.
Tesla on the other hand takes a small old blow on its soundproofing. During our test, the 21-inch wheels obviously didn't play a role in discretion, but Tesla generally lags behind competing electric models. On the highway, the Model S suffers from a lack of soundproofing and you can hear the rolling and air noise quite loudly. A concern to be classified in the chapter of the overall care taken in the construction and assemblies of the car.
The Tesla Model S is a 4.98-meter-long sedan. It turns out to be a bit bigger than an Audi A6, and smaller than an Audi A8. Same thing at Mercedes, with a shorter E-Class by 5 cm, and a longer S-Class by 19 cm. The Tesla sedan is therefore one of those models at nearly five meters that do not shine by their agility in the city. Its turning circle, measured at 11.28 meters, is in the category average (the Audi A6 is close to 12 meters) but it is certain that it is very limited in its use outside national and highways. The problem seems to be a classic between Model S and Model X, and one only needs a glance at the other vehicles at the Superchargers to see that all have had mishaps with their rims and sidewalks.
In the cabin, there is optimum space for all passengers. The trunk does not denote, with a capacity of 800 liters and the possibility of adding luggage in the storage space under the front hood. On the other hand, the Model S continues to disappoint with its obvious lack of storage on board. The rear passengers are drastically punished, when the front seats have to console themselves with the center armrest. The concern for an interior that is cheaper to produce and more minimalist, but which leaves one final argument against the Model S: go his way, and look at an alternative model: the Model 3.
We tried it and you can find our test here. Model 3 is Tesla's flagship model that helped it become the leading automaker of electric cars. Its size is shorter, more practical, while resting on a compact sedan silhouette with space, comfort and finishes that are not necessarily derisory compared to a Model S.
Tesla Model S test report: a transitional period
Tesla achieved its goal in 2020 by offering indicators in the green on the side of its financial results (thank you for the resale of carbon credits), and by respecting its sales targets and delivery times. Enough to forget that Tesla was negotiating its 2012-2020 financial year like a real startup, under constant stress in the face of all its stakeholders.
The Model S shows the limits: the car was designed in the 2010s to focus on the added value on which Tesla capitalizes: software and batteries. The rest was not a priority and the decision was to cut the budgets.
The result is a transitional period during which the Model S deceives by its regular updates, deliberately hiding its seven-year career. Let's be honest: we want a new generation of the model. The current recipe makes Model S a Tesla. But faced with a competition which manages to catch up, the sedan will now have to rub shoulders with more traditional criteria for customers. A need to be able to justify its price, approaching 100,000 euros.