Tesla Model S Bringing The Heat

Tesla's Model S sport sedan will be part of a significantly more crowded market than when it was initially under development even as little as a year ago. Whether competition from the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus, the Coda sedan, or even the Chevy Volt will truly hurt Tesla's sedan remains to be seen.
photo from Tesla Motors

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Dedicated electric vehicle
  • Class: 5-passenger sport sedan
  • Manufacturer: Tesla Motors
  • Propulsion system: "Proven powertrain from leading EV mfr" (?)
  • Top Speed: 120 mph
  • Zero-to-60: 5.6 seconds
  • Vehicle range: 160 miles (standard), 300 miles (enhanced)
  • Fuel(s): Electric
  • Battery system: 42 kWh lithium-ion
  • Time to full battery recharge: 8 hours at 110V outlet
  • Price: $57,400 ($49,900 after a $7500 Federal tax credit)
  • Availability: 2011

The manufacturer says

"With the 45 minute QuickCharge or a 5 minute battery swap, you can drive from LA to San Francisco, Washington to New York or take even longer road trips in about the same time as in a conventional car."

Overview

Tesla's follow-up to the Roadster debuted in March of 2009 at—where else—the Geneva Auto Show. Formerly known as the Whitestar, the Model S is still awaiting a real name, but her go-time is fast approaching. The Model S has two trunks, including one under the hood; the rear seats fold down, and the hatch opens up a bit, giving the sedan "passenger carrying capacity and versatility rivaling SUVs and minivans", according to Tesla.

What we like

The design: Former design director for Mazda Franz von Holzhausen is the sedan’s chief designer, and he’s put together an attractive-looking sedan than should compete with the likes of the BMW 5-series, and is significantly hotter than either the Nissan Leaf or the Coda sedan.

The brand loyalty discount: Tesla is giving Roadster owners a number of advantages over the general public in acquiring a Signature Series Model S—chiefly, they get a $10,000 price discount, bringing the cost of the vehicle under $40k. Now's a good time to buddy up to a lonely Roadster owner and see if you can't buy his Model S, even if the chances of this scenario, from every angle, are exceedingly small.

The onboard touchscreen: Tesla's promising a 17-inch onboard touchscreen with in-car 3G connectivity. Will it really be part of the production model? Seems unlikely but it sure would be sweet if it is.

What we don’t

The unknown battery supplier: What futuristic super-battery maker will be supplying the promised premium battery pack, the one capable of an astonishing 300 miles on a single charge? Will it matter? On the heels of the record-setting 313-mile journey of a Tesla Roadster during the Global Green Challenge, we're suddenly confronted with the notion that, if you drive conservatively, your battery may be capable of much more than you might imagine.

Conclusions

Tesla's Model S sport sedan will be part of a significantly more crowded market than when it was initially under development even as little as a year ago. Whether competition from the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus, the Coda sedan, or even the Chevy Volt will truly hurt Tesla's superior sedan remains to be seen. But few of us at FutureCars.com think Elon Musk will have any trouble at all moving enough units to make the Model S a smashing success.

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