In many ways, specifying and ordering a Tesla Model S is very similar to ordering any car. You can visit the Tesla Motors website to view details, pricing and options for the car, you can organise a test drive or talk to a sales assistant at a store, and once you have decided to go ahead you place an order, pay a deposit, and wait for your car to be built, shipped and delivered.
However, while the overall process may seem similar to that of other manufacturers, in practice there are significant differences, all of which generally benefit you the customer.
Tesla Stores & Test Drives
Tesla operate stores in all the countries in which the Model S is sold. Some are located at the same site as service centres, but many are in shopping centres or city centre retail locations. They’re bright, spacious, quiet, and much more like Apple Stores than traditional car dealerships.
Tesla do not operate a dealer franchise model anywhere in the world – they own and operate all their stores, and they sell their cars directly to the public.
If you want to organise a test drive simply contact Tesla by phone, email or on the web and they will arrange something for you. If you’re not near to a sales centre there are regular driving days organised at many locations, and they may also be able to bring a car to you.
Tesla’s insurance will cover you for your test drive. However, in the UK (at least) you cannot test drive a P85D unless you are at least 25 years old. There are no exceptions to this rule: even Tesla staff who are younger than this are not permitted to drive these cars!
If you would like another test drive, ask for one. If you would like to drive a different variant of the car, with different options, ask to. If you would like to drive a different route, or at a different time of day, ask. You won’t be pressured to make a decision after a drive, and you won’t be made to feel like you’re being unreasonable if you ask for a second or third try.
Tesla sales advisers are there to help you understand whether the car is right for you and to answer your questions about options, practicalities, the technology, and anything else you can think of. They will not pressure you to make a purchase or to add options, and they are not paid commission in the way that most car “salesmen” are. If they think that you’ll be better off without a certain option they will say so, and if they think that the Model S is not for you at all (unlikely!) they will say that too.
There are no discounts. None.
Seriously, don’t even ask. Just enjoy the fact that the price you see is the price you pay, and everyone is paying the same as you.
Confirming your order and locking your configuration
When you’re ready to buy a Model S you simply go to the Tesla website, choose your options, enter your details and pay a deposit. You can do it at home or in a store, but either way you simply sit at a computer and use the Tesla Motors website.
A £2000 deposit is required to secure a car, which you can pay either by debit/credit card or bank transfer. Once that payment is made you have 14 days in which you can adjust the chosen spec of your car, or cancel and get your deposit back with no penalty. At the end of the 14 day period (or earlier, if you choose to confirm sooner) your order is locked and your car enters the “build queue”.
In theory, after final confirmation you are unable to make further changes to specification, but in practice this is often possible; especially early on. Contact your sales adviser and they will see what they can do. Once your car is built it’s impossible to make any changes to it.
If prices rise after your order (which historically is quite common) you will not be affected. If prices fall after you order you will not get a refund.
If the list of options (or even model variants) changes after you place your order, then as long as your car has not yet been built it is usually possible to cancel and reuse your deposit to place a new order. However you lose your place in the build queue, and you will then only be able to choose from today’s options, at today’s prices.
List of Options
The list of options on the Model S is quite short compared to some of its German rivals and, with only one real exception, everything on the list really is an “option” without which the car is still every bit as capable and impressive as a fully loaded model.
Tesla do not operate a “model years” system, so the car can change without warning, with new features added, old options removed, changes to pricing etc. The only way to be sure of what you will get is to confirm an order and pay a deposit.
The following list of options is valid as of 11 April 2015.
Base Car (70D)
The base car is a capable, comfortable and luxurious 5 seat all-wheel drive (AWD) saloon. It’s fast, quiet, refined, spacious, and includes many of the technology features you expect in a premium car such as satellite navigation with live traffic and google maps, Bluetooth telephone and audio support, streaming internet radio and media services, Autopilot safety features such as emergency brake assist, speed limit and blind spot warnings, keyless entry, parking sensors, power folding and heated mirrors, and an 8 year, infinite mile drivetrain and battery warranty.
It also has free lifetime access to the Tesla Supercharger network.
Commonly Ordered Options
Autopilot Convenience Features
Autopilot safety features are included in the base Model S. This option adds all the convenience features as well, which today includes radar guided cruise control, automatic lane keeping (the car steers itself), self-parking and automatic high/low beam headlights. Further autopilot features will be added over time via software updates.
85kWh battery upgrade
Upgrading to the 85kWh battery increases “typical” range of the car from 200 to 245 miles (UK) as well as increasing motor power, performance and top speed.
Paint Colours and Interior Trim Options
The car comes in a variety of colours in solid, metallic and multi-coat finishes. Internally you can specify piano black gloss, obeche wood matte, obeche wood gloss or carbon fibre effect trim. Samples of all of these are available at every sales centre, and sales advisers will advise you on which combinations are generally ordered together if you wish.
There are 2 types of seats: standard and next-generation
Standard seats come in black cloth, and black, grey and tan leather. The only difference between the 4 is the covering material – the seat mechanism, springs, cushions etc are identical. Most buyers choose leather but the cloth seats are also comfortable, practical and smart.
Next-gen seats come in leather only. They are made by Recaro, provide more support, and are more sculpted and “sporty”.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split formation. They do not lie completely flat but the effect is similar to what you would get in an equivalent premium saloon.
Replaces the solid roof of the standard car with two large panes of glass, which are UV and IR reflective so as to keep the interior cool. The front pane opens to create a large sunroof, controlled from the centre console, steering wheel controls or smartphone app.
Headroom is slightly increased (especially in the front of the car).
If you want to use a roof rack with your car you must specify the Panoramic Roof – solid roof cars do not have roof rack mounting points.
Allows you to manually raise and lower the car for greater ground clearance at low speeds and greater efficiency at high speeds. The system is GPS aware so if you raise the car to clear a speed bump or a pothole it will remember and automatically raise the next time you are in the same place.
Coil spring cars have headlamp levelling adjustment options to allow you to adjust if the car is heavily loaded. Air suspension cars are self-levelling so do not need this option.
Dual Motor Performance
Adds a front motor in addition to a high performance rear motor. Very, very fast indeed. Range is very slightly reduced.
The UHF sound package adds more speakers, a subwoofer (which fractionally reduces the storage space available in the boot), a DSP processing system with Dolby Surround effects (and different tuning for solid and panoramic roofed cars), and either DAB radio (Europe) or XM Satellite Radio (North America).
It is universally agreed that the UHF system is a significant improvement over the standard audio, although whether it is worth the significant extra cost is a matter of debate.
Standard wheels are 19” alloys fitted with Goodyear Eagle RS-A2 all season tyres and TPMS sensors.
Cyclone wheels are the same size as the standard wheels, and come with the same tyres. They are marginally more efficient (around 2% greater range) because of their more aerodynamic design.
Turbine wheels are larger than the standard and cyclone wheels, but the same width. They are supplied with Continental Contisport Silent summer tyres designed by Continental to work with the Model S. They have a foam insert inside the tyre which significantly reduces noise at high speeds.
Cars with 21” wheels have around 5% less range than those with 19” wheels and the ride is noticeably harder.
Since the 21” wheels are supplied with summer rather than all season tyres, the use of winter tyres is recommended in colder climates.
Premium Interior and Lighting
This includes ambient interior lighting (LED lighting strips underneath the armests in all four doors, puddle lights on the underside of all 4 doors, and footwell lighting in the rear) and the substitution of artificial leather with genuine nappa hides on the armrests, steering wheel and lower dashboard.
It also adds LED fog and cornering lights, lighted door handles, and a powered bootlid (tailgate).
Finally the headliner of the car (whether solid or panoramic roof) is upgraded to either beige or black alcantara. This includes the entire roof interior, A and B pillars, sun visors, and the roof member separating the two glass panes on panoramic-equipped cars.
Specialist / Less Commonly Ordered Options
Single Motor Downgrade
The Model S comes with dual motor all wheel drive as standard, but the 85D model can optionally be downgraded to single motor RWD, which results in a cost saving.
Rear Facing Childrens’ Seats
Fitted into the boot floor, these provide seating for 2 additional passengers aged roughly 3 – 10 years. They include 5 point harnesses and are considered extremely safe for younger passengers.
Cars which do not have rear facing seats have an extra storage compartment under the boot floor.
Subzero Weather Package
Includes heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, heating for the area of the windscreen where the wipers rest, and seat heating for all 3 rear seats.
Note that rear seat heating can only be controlled by a front-seat passenger using the main centre console display.
Executive Rear Seats
Replaces the three rear seats with 2 fixed seats with two zone heating and a premium rear centre armrest. These seats do not fold and are incompatible with third row seating, but do include ISOFIX mount points.
Historically an option at time of ordering, dual chargers are now only available after delivery, fitted by a service centre. Adding a second charger to your car enables you to charge twice as quickly at three phase charge points (22kW instead of 11kW). For most owners this does not provide a significant benefit (since most AC charging occurs overnight when there is ample time to fill the car at a lower rate, and because public rapid DC points using the CHAdeMO protocol are now accessible using the Model S CHAdeMO adaptor).