Payne: Used 2015 Tesla Model S P90D is a Ludicrous bargain

Posted by Talbot Payne on May 27, 2021

The OG has still got it.

It’s been over three years since I’ve been behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S. The Original Gangster. The breakthrough electric vehicle that redefined what a battery-powered vehicles could be. Since that time, I’ve owned two Model 3s — the more affordable junior version of S that made the Silicon Valley brand a luxe best-seller when it was introduced in 2017.

But here’s the thing. The Model S is not only still state-of-the-art, it’s now affordable too.

What are you waiting for? This used, 2015 Tesla Model S P90D with 60,000 miles can be had for under $50,000 - a far cry from the car's new price of $140k - yet the S is as modern as ever.

The used market is awash in Model S cars going back to its original 2012 model year. Good cars. Like the 2015 Model S P90D with 60,000 miles I drove for two days while my Model 3 Performance was in the shop (to clean out a mouse that tried to escape from Michigan’s winter by nesting in the floorboards).

Ludicrous mode. Zero-to-60 in 2.8 seconds. All-wheel drive. Leather and Alcantara interior. Panoramic sunroof.

Tesla’s Clarkston dealership was using this P90D as a loaner for customers like me, but I’m sure they’d sell it to you. Offer 45 grand. That’s right, $45,000, a few grand more than the average $38,900 new car price paid in 2020. If they won’t sell it to you, there’s one in Glendale, Arizona, for $46.4K with 55,000 miles. Or Chattanooga for $49.9K with 50K miles, or …

You get the idea. They’re out there at accessible prices for a sedan that sold new for $140 grand. A new, 2021 Model S starts at $79,990. The performance version (now called Plaid instead of P90D)? $120k.

Despite its six-year age, a used Model S still feels like the most modern car in the midsize market. Other manufacturers have pedaled hard to catch up — most notably Mercedes, which now sports most of the tech features found in the Model S. But S remains as fresh as the first time I saw it on the Detroit auto show floor in 2012.

The 2015 Tesla Model S P90D wows with its 17-inch console screen and all-digital displays. The rest of the industry is still catching up to S tech.

Crowds were three deep to get into it. They ogled its big screen. Its simple interior. My Model 3 took that simplicity to its logical extreme — an iPhone-simple interior with everything located in a 12-inch center screen. It was the Model 3’s radical design that enticed me to put $1,000 down after Elon Musk unveiled it in April 2016. I put a deposit on a $50,000 car without even sitting in it. Before a single model had even rolled off the line.

Because I knew its potential after driving multiple Model S’s.

Turning right onto Interstate 75 after leaving the Clarkson dealership, I matted the throttle and … curses! The Tesla mother ship in Silicon Valley had restricted the loaner car’s drive mode to “Chill.” No Ludicrous mode for loaner drivers. Insurance reasons, I get it.

But the 4,800-pound sedan still surged forward nicely — an appetizer for the dizzying, face-flattening torque that Ludicrous mode offers. Yet for all its heft (equal to a base Ford F-150), the Model S felt planted, its battery underneath me creating a center of gravity lower than a Porsche Boxster Cayman, for goodness sake. I hustled around the clover leaf.

I barked a restaurant destination — “Zao Jun in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan” — and the system didn’t miss a thing, perfectly interpreting my southern West Virginia command for an Asian restaurant. I set sail using the beautiful Google Earth-rendered display that still wows nearly a decade after I first saw it on the showroom floor.

In Ludicrous mode, the 2015 Tesla Model S P90D will hit 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds.

Significantly, the S felt current — its software updated through 2020 by over-the-air updates to contain the latest infotainment and toybox features (like Fireplace) that Tesla offers. That is, despite being six years old, the Model S has gotten better, its graphics and features updating all the while.

What the used Model S did not have, however, was Autopilot.

Though all cars Tesla manufactured from September 2014-October 2016 contained the hardware necessary for driver-assist, my car likely didn’t have the updated software for the same reason it was denied Ludicrous mode: so loaner customers didn’t play with it. It can be, um, intense for the uninitiated.

That will be fine with most folks (a friend of mine has a Model S with Autopilot and never uses it) since the vehicle’s standard adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and emergency braking are excellent. I cruised happily around town barking navigation instructions, deferring to the auto windshield wipers to clear muck from my screen, and watching the auto high beams switch on/off when they sensed another car.

The 2015 model still has the “nose cap” (as Tesla-philes call it) — that awkward faux plastic grille that S sedans had until designers removed it for a simpler “falcon beak” in 2016. My Model 3 looks awkward with no grille at all — its nose as featureless as bad guy Voldemort in a Harry Potter movie.

Best of both worlds. The 2015 Tesla Model S P90D features low-center-of-gravity sedan handling with the hatchback practicality of an SUV.

For $1,750, you can buy an updated front clip for the Model S from TSportline.

Unlike Model 3, Model S is equipped with a hatchback, opening massive rear cargo space just like an SUV. Or an A7, my favorite Audi sedan. It’s the best of both worlds: SUV utility meets sedan’s low center of gravity.

The Model S is also solid as a rock at high speed. Mrs. Payne remarked on how hushed the interior felt compared to the Model 3 — which has had numerous build issues as Tesla rushed them out the door to fill demand. Pals who own Model S’s have remarked to me how reliable theirs have been — a testament to the simplicity of the Tesla’s build. Electric motors and batteries don’t require much maintenance.

So for your $45,000 luxury yacht, you also get low maintenance costs. And — finally! — a dealership nearby.

The Clarkson dealership is the first in the state for Tesla after the incoming Whitmer administration lifted restrictions on manufacturers (i.e., Tesla) selling directly to customers. The state legislature tried to reverse the order, but the effort died in the Senate.

The interior of the 2015 Tesla Model S P90D. In addition to its tablet-like, 17-inch screen, the Tesla has received regular updates over the air that have made the car better on six years. Updates like Autopilot self-driving and audio features.

Just a half hour up I-75 from my Oakland County home, I returned the S and picked up my repaired Model 3. The 3 remains my preferred Tesla for its compact size and more track-worthy nature (we motorheads like track days).

But a low-mileage, sub-$50,000 P90D is a tempting dish indeed. Especially as it tastes as fresh as when it came out of the oven.

2015 Used Tesla Model S P90D 

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive, five-passenger luxury sedan

Price: est. $45,000-$50,000 ($139,700 when new in 2015)

Powerplant: 90 kWh lithium-ion battery with twin, electric-motor drive

Power: 532 horsepower, 713 pound-feet torque

Transmission: One-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 2.8 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 155 mph

Weight: 4,842 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA MPGe 89 city/98 highway; range, 270 miles

Report card

Highs: Exotic EV at an affordable price; Ludicrous mode

Lows: Charging on long trips tedious; “nose cap”

Overall: 4 stars


Comments are closed.