Ignore all the persistent problems for the Tesla Model 3 and focus on what it’s meant to be: the electric car much of the middle classes could afford, and should want. Things aren’t really going as planned for the car, which is amazing considering how relatively smooth the Model S’s birth was.
Funnily enough, Model Ss have become mainstream-affordable, for the well-paid middle classes. Demand is strong so residual values are too, but while the troubled Model 3 starts at $35,000 in the US, you can now put a UK-spec Model S on your drive for £36,000. Less, if you haggle. That’s the same sort of price as a base-spec Mercedes E-Class, but with free mileage for life.
Born into an ethos that saw constant evolution, from power upgrades to over-the-airwaves software additions, the Model S was a vision of an electric car future. And we liked it, despite it being about the same size as Belgium.
It delivers a serious kick of acceleration, a tech-focused interior and all-day cruising comfort, not to mention the lifetime free Supercharger access. Forget the Death Star-eclipsing mass; it was, and is, a brilliant car in any guise.
There are two sub-£36,000 Model Ss on Auto Trader right now, but none on Pistonheads or eBay at the time of writing. The reason these two are cheap? They’ve crammed-in the motorway miles over their short lives, with 76,000 and 80,000 miles to speak of. The former is a fiver cheaper but it’s also the mere 60kWh biffabout, with the least power and range of any S. Our pick is an 85kWh car, and it’s much more like it.
It’s rear-wheel drive so lacks the outright traction of the later four-wheel drive supercar-bashers like the P100D, but it will still hurl you to 62mph in 5.4 seconds (a figure that we find strangely difficult to cross-check via Google search due to the mind-scrambling array of 85-badged alternatives – P85, P85+, P85D). It’s brisk enough for you, sir, and will touch 140mph if you like.
What it doesn’t seem to have is a fastidious seller. Even if you’re being generous the advert description extends to just seven words; we’re including the price and the numerical ‘1’ in that count. That’s not good enough when you’re selling cars worth £1000, let alone a high-mileage EV worth over £35,000.
Nor does the seller, a private individual, seem to know how a Model S works, listing ‘CVT’ in the title line. Perhaps he or she means Crushingly Vicious Torque. Maybe you can think of something even more creative…
Anyway, the advert goes as far as to claim that the car has a Tesla service history, is green and has had one owner. We can see for ourselves that it has flat-based leather seats, floor mats and that both luggage spaces, the rear boot and the frunk, are in fair-to-good order.
Buying this would be something of a gamble, in the sense that we don’t yet know how long-lived the Model S’s batteries will be after having eaten 80,000 miles of Tarmac. Maybe they’ll last for tens of thousands of miles more… or maybe they’ll begin to degrade quickly until your range is little better than 100 miles per charge.
Nonetheless, a Model S with free Supercharger access is a mightily tempting alternative to a mid-sized exec car. You’d be mad not to at least think about it.