For fledging automotive manufacturer Tesla, the upcoming launch of its Model S is highly significant. An obvious reason is that the new sedan will be Tesla's sole offering (as its Lotus-based Roadster is in dwindling supply). Particularly important for the company, it's further proof that Tesla is more than just some green-tinged flash in the pan; it's a genuine budding automaker. While only time and sales numbers will confirm this, a visit to Tesla's facility in Fremont, California, 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, proved that things look promising.
While sedans are nothing new to the burgeoning electric car scene, the Model S is touted by Tesla as the world's first premium electric sedan. (The Fisker Karma, remember, is a series hybrid, not a pure battery electric.) And with an exterior hinting of Maserati, Aston Martin and Jaguar, the Model S certainly looks the part. A panoramic roof is optional and the cabin is outfitted with h leather and other features found in luxury Japanese and European makes. A technology highlighting its Silicon Valley roots is the 17-in. touchscreen in the center dash. Almost twice the size of an iPad, the huge infotainment system displays and controls media, navigation, HVAC, communication and mobile connectivity. Steve Jobs, R.I.P., would be proud.
New from the ground up, the Model S carries the following measurements: 56.5 in. height, 77.3 in. width, 196 in. overall length and 116.5 in. wheelbase. Front and rear tracks are 65.4 in. and 66.9 in., respectively. Adults fit comfortably in either front or rear seats, however not so much in the optional third row. Located beneath the rear hatch, these two rear-facing jump seats are kids-only. Curb weight has yet to be announced but aluminum is used extensively in the construction for weight savings. To enhance handling, the battery pack is built into the floor pan assembly, thus lowering the center of gravity and improving the balance. In fact, Tesla says the Model S achieves near 50/50 weight distribution, regardless of battery choice.
And, in fact, the Tesla S will have three available battery packs with differing range: 160 miles, 230 miles or 300 miles. Capacity of the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery is the primary difference between the models, with powertrain hardware remaining essentially unchanged. An AC induction electric motor produces a peak 306 lb.-ft. of torque from 0-7000 rpm and 362 hp from 6500-10,000 rpm. Sparking its rear wheels, Tesla claims the standard Model S will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds and achieve a top speed of 130 mph. In 300-mile battery trim, an available performance option using its own drive inverter will reduce 0-60 mph time to 4.5 sec. The car accepts 120-volt Level 1 or 240-volt Level 2 recharging; it also carries a quick charge function capable of an 80-percent replenishment in 45 minutes.
The Model S starts at $57,400 for the standard 160-mile version. Add another $10,000 for the 230-mile battery pack or $20,000 for the 300-mile model. The first 1000 of the Model S will arrive in mid-2012 as a Signature Series with 300-mile range, specific badging and a host of options. Look for the others to arrive in the second half of 2012.