The Model S will change electric car naysayers forever
To be built in the former General Motors-Toyota plant in Fremont, on the edge of northern California's Silicon Valley, the flagship Model S Performance edition will be available from the start of production next summer, with a sticker of $87,400, as will the uplevel Model S Signature ($77,400). The midlevel Model S ($67,400) arrives in the fall, followed late in the year by the base model ($57,400).
On a new dedicated Model S Web page, Tesla detailed the car's specs, features and options.
The base Model S will feature a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack, good for a range of 160 miles and a top speed of 110 mph. The $57,400 price will include an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Next up the ladder is a midlevel model with a 60kWh battery pack, a range of 230 miles, a top speed of 120 mph and a 125,000-mile warranty — all part of the $67,400 price tag.
The uplevel Model S Signature's $77,400 sticker buys an 85kWh battery pack, a 300-mile range, a 125 mph top speed and an unlimited-mileage warranty.
The top-of-the-line Model S Performance edition also gets the 85kWh battery pack, 300-mile range and unlimited-mileage warranty, with top speed nudged to 130 mph and 0-60 acceleration in 4.4 seconds. The Performance version adds nappa leather upholstery, carbon-fiber exterior accents, active air suspension and high-performance wheels and tires.
All Model S variants come standard with 19-inch wheels and tires, a 17-inch touch screen display and a universal mobile connector with three adapters that will allow owners to charge the car at home or on the road.
Among the available options are a Tech package ($3,750), an all-glass panoramic roof ($1,500), rear-facing third-row seats ($1,500), nappa leather ($1,500), air suspension ($1,500), 21-inch performance tires ($3,500) and metallic paint ($750). Edmunds Inside Line
“The guy who did the screen for the iPad touch was in charge of this screen–we recruited him out of Apple,” Musk told Forbes Magazine. “He wanted to be part of something that was really changing the world in a positive way. Apple makes great consumer devices, but it’s not saving the world, you know. We feel a little bit like we’re saving the world by bringing electric cars out.”
They should also be just as accessible, he says. Tesla has sold out of all 5,000 Model S units planned for next year, with a waiting list 1,500 people deep; Musk says he’ll produce 20,000 a year by 2013. Most of the initial buyers are Californians, with a 50/50 split between men and women. Only 10% own the $109,000 Tesla Roadster–the rest are newcomers.
“Most have never bought an electric car or a hybrid,” Musk says. “That’s good because you want people to buy the car because it is the best car. You don’t want them saying, I’m going to accept something else because it’s electric. You want them saying, To hell with that. I want the best car!”
Model S will appeal to BMW 5-Series and Porsche Panamera owners who, Musk says, want something that handles better and drives faster than the standard luxury sedan. But he doesn’t hesitate to add that competitors will also include the similar-looking $200,000 Aston Martin Rapide and $128,000 Maserati Quattroporte.
With a 300-mile-range lithium ion battery and a claimed 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, the Model S will beat them both on the road.
“From a performance standpoint we did consciously intend to beat them,” Musk says. “This is intended to be the best performance sedan out there.”
The jury’s still out on just how well the Model S handles—Musk declined to let me drive it but said he’ll have a press-ready version in a few months. I did ride with him, though, for 20 minutes around lower Manhattan and along the West Side Highway. It’s a smooth-driving, quick, roomy sedan, with a fantastic sound system and what is likely the largest panoramic sunroof available in any production vehicle.
The front seats are comfortable, with ample head- and legroom. So, too, the rear. In the far back of the car, two (optional) child-size rear-facing seats bring the passenger capacity to seven—the goofy-foot seats fold flat as well, leaving room under the hatchback for the surfboard, 50-inch TV, road bike and Great Dane Musk says he’s had in the car. (There’s also a dual-golf-bag-sized trunk in front where the engine sits in a conventional car.)
Inside, that 17-inch center console controls navigation, heating, cooling, radio functions and systems management. It will sync with an iPhone or Android to report the driving range, location, temperature and other vitals of the car wherever the owner is. It’ll also pre-heat and unlock the car remotely.
Exterior design notes include handles that rest flush with the sidebody and a plug outlet hidden behind an electro-magnetized portion of the rear lights. (Charging on a 240-volt outlet will give 62 miles of range per hour.) The profile of the car looks seamless—and it has a Boxster-beating drag coefficient of .22.
Musk is justifiably proud that Tesla designed all of the internal systems in-house rather than buy them elsewhere (“We’re hard-core technologists!”). He’s also acutely aware of the margin for error allowed to fledgling automotive companies.
“There must be no flaws Tesla can detect of any kind once the car leaves the factory because customers are going to judge us particularly by the early quality,” he says. “Every car must be perfect.”
Indeed, the Model S is Tesla’s make-or-break vehicle. The company counts Daimler, Toyota and Panasonic as investors but has yet to turn an annual profit (it did briefly in 2009); analysts expect it to lose $437 million in fiscal 2011 and 2012.
It also drew scrutiny, along with Fisker Automotive, for taking the same kind of federal loans that now-defunct Solyndra received in 2009. But so far Tesla stock is rising, and Musk says the company will be profitable by 2013.
If the Model S meets expectations, don’t bet against it. Musk has a way of defying his critics. Forbes.com
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