If you are looking for the best luxury cars and dealerships in the UK, look no further than Tesla Motors – the ultimate in performance, technology, green credentials and design.
Having shot from relative obscurity back in 2003 to become one of the most talked about car companies in the world, Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors has consistently pushed the agenda when it comes to fully electric vehicles. The launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008 captured the attention of the automotive press with its blistering performance redefining the idea of what an electric car could be.
In the last few years however, the company has grown from a relative outsider creating proof-of-concept sports cars, to become a genuine competitor to the high end German, Japanese and American luxury automotive brands. This change began as the Roadster ended production in 2012, when Tesla introduced a new vehicle, the Model S luxury sedan, shortly followed in 2015 with a crossover SUV, the Model X, based on the same platform.
While inheriting the Roadster’s experimental DNA, these models are much more squarely aimed at the traditional luxury sedan/SUV market, pitched to take market share from competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ and luxury 4x4s such as the Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7.
To enter this space, Tesla has had to combine the unique use of technology, stunning performance and arresting looks which made the Roadster famous with the comfort and utility of the luxury vehicles with which it seeks to compete. To achieve this has required innovation in several distinct areas.
Design and build
While the newer model Teslas don’t quite share the same head-turning looks as the 2008 Roadster, the company has not shied away from bold design decisions.
Key features of the S and X include expansive use of glass, particularly in the enormous single piece windshields and panoramic roofs, and streamlined bodies which eschew softly rounded curves in favour of angular, defined lines. This is reflected in the distinctive “face” of the two models, where the traditional grille required by combustion engines for cooling has been replaced with a simpler flat panel, immediatley distinguishing the Tesla from other cars on the road.
The overall effect is supported by innovative details such as automatic door handles which pop out when the driver approaches, or the Model X’s Falcon doors which fold up and out to provide easy access to the rear cabin, even in tight parking spots. Optional extras pitched at the luxury market include smart air suspension, additional carbon fibre trim and components such as spoilers to subtly enhance the exterior look.
The result is a pair of vehicles which look futuristic enough to differentiate themselves from their petrol powered counterparts without seeming brash, ostentatious or overbearing.
Comfort and quality
One of the benefits of an all electric car is the interior space gained by the lack of a transmission tunnel. This gives Tesla a particular edge in the luxury sector, where front and rear legroom is all-important. The sense of space in both the Model S and X is further enhanced by the extensive use of glass mentioned above, and the minimalist dashboard centred around a large 17” touchscreen display.
With no combustion engine, engine noise is virtually absent, and Tesla have built upon this with sophisticated soundproofing to reduce ambient road noise, resulting in the quietest cabin of any luxury vehicle on the market.
Storage space is another crucial element in luxury vehicles, and in both the Model S and X this is increased by Tesla’s patented “Frunk” – the lack of an engine allowing the front bay to be used as an extra trunk.
Luxury car buyers expect a wealth of optional extras to further enhance and personalise their vehicle, and Tesla addresses this with a catalogue of refinements to the fit, finish and materials, as well as innovative improvements such as a HEPA air filtration system,
dynamic LED turning lights, a power liftgate, lighted door handles and interior accent lighting.
Performance and automation
Whilst supercar performance is not expected of a luxury sedan, least of all an SUV, the popularity of tuning firms such as AMG boosting the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Jaguar Land Rover’s own SVO division producing an explosively powerful Range Rover Sport SVR shows that there’s certainly demand for a luxury car with a bit extra under the bonnet.
Tesla’s defining difference, the all-electric powertrain, means that both the S and X models easily surpass the competition in terms of performance. The low centre of gravity afforded by the heavy battery packs mounted deep in the cars’ middle sections gives much improved handling, and the lack of a gearing system deliver maximum torque even at low speed.
This gives the top spec versions of both the Model S and X astounding acceleration, with 0-60mph times of under 3 seconds – more comparable to a high-end Ferrari or even the legendary Bugatti Veyron.
At more sensible speeds, where Tesla are really leading the market is in the development of a variety of “self driving” features, which allow the driver to cede control of basic tasks to the vehicle’s on board computer.
The Model S and Model X each feature Autopilot, which allows automatic steering, traffic-aware cruise control, automatic lane changing, detection of parking space and automated parallel parking, and even a “Summon” feature, launched from a mobile phone app, which enables the car to start up remotely and drive itself a short distance, for example from a parking space to the driver’s front door.
Economy and environmental impact
Even the luxury market is not immune to the constantly rising cost of oil, with running costs on petrol or diesel vehicles increasing year on year. In addition, the environmental cost of the traditional combustion engine has become ever more apparent, and even the best efforts at improving engine efficiency and cleanliness cannot fully obviate these issues.
Tesla’s vehicles, running solely on electricity, address both of these issues. The calculated cost of running a Model S versus a comparable sedan from Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar is up to four times lower over an average yearly mileage of 15,000. Further easing the burden, Tesla offers Model S or X owners free lifetime charging at its rapidly growing network of high speed Supercharger stations, which can give an 80% charge, or 200+ miles of range, in as little as 40 minutes.
The most recent announcement from Tesla has been the upcoming Model 3, set to launch in 2017, a mid-luxury car aimed at the $35,000 bracket for the base model. Not much information has been forthcoming so far, but it would seem to be pitched to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and similar models.
The new model would extend Tesla’s share of the luxury car market, indeed, establish it more as a luxury brand than a niche technology company. In response however, several established manufacturers have hinted at all-electric models of their own, with BMW rumoured to be planning an electric 3 Series to launch in 2020.
It would seem then that Tesla’s strategy to bring electric vehicle technology to the luxury car market is an ongoing project, with the Model S and X amply covering the higher and, and the inbound Model 3 expanding that reach. The response from its competitors is yet to be seen clearly, but as ever, it looks like Tesla is driving the agenda.
So, where can you buy a Tesla in the UK? You can find the latest on their showrooms on the Tesla UK website, but here is a list of local Tesla luxury car dealers in England and Scotland:
Tesla Luxury Car Dealerships
149-159 High Street
Leeds – Victoria Quarter
42 Queen Victoria Street
London – Oxford Street
449 Oxford Street
Manchester – South
396 Wellington Road North
Edinburgh – Multrees Walk
8 Multrees Walk