Tesla Reveals “Production” Model S Sedan

By Chris Haak


model-s-official-4bToday, Tesla took the wraps off of its Model S sedan.  The company actually did an unusually good job of keeping the car hidden until only a few hours before its live reveal, with the exception of one leaked interior photo and two leaked exterior photos earlier in the day.  (Digg founder Kevin Rose “accidentally” leaked those photos on Twitter a few hours before Tesla’s live reveal news conference.)

After seeing photos of the Model S (both the press photos from Tesla and the live reveal photos from Autoblog), I’m very impressed with the car’s appearance both inside and out.  It has a very curvy shape that seems to take many of the best styling cues from Jaguar (there’s a lot of XF in the rear end), Aston Martin, and Maserati and combine them into a more or less cohesive design.  It’s definitely a curvy affair, with prominent rear haunches, large 21 inch wheels that fill the openings, and swept-back headlights and roofline, plus swept-forward taillights.  The Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sedan, with which the Model S will surely be compared, also has a similar shape, but reports of the Karma’s interior volume – even for just four passengers – have been less-than-glowing.

There are many who, fairly, question whether Tesla will actually be around long enough to see the Model S reach production, which is scheduled for third quarter 2011.  Yes, that’s 2 1/2 years away – or an eternity in terms of an auto industry that is in the midst of daily gut-wrenching changes.  I thought that GM revealed the “production” Chevy Volt too early before its true production date, and I think Tesla revealed the Model S way too early before its true production date.  Bearing these caveats in mind – the fact that Tesla may or may not be around in 2011, and that a so-called “production” car made its debut 2 1/2 years before its mass production begins – the remainder of this article will assume that everything Tesla said the car will do or will have is actually the truth.

model-s-official-2bThe Tesla Model S features a seemingly massive interior – it doesn’t seat five, but instead seven (five adults and two children in rear-facing seats under the rear hatch area).  Because there’s no need for an engine (just 1,200 pounds of batteries), the Model S has luggage space under the front “hood.”  According to the company, if the car isn’t carrying passengers, its interior is large enough to carry a mountain bike with its wheels on, a surfboard, and a 50 inch television at the same time.  Zero to sixty acceleration performance is estimated at 5.5 seconds, with a future sport model said to complete that task in “under five seconds.”  The Tesla Roadster, by comparison, is able to accelerate to 60 in under four seconds.  When it comes time to bring the fun to a halt, the Model S features Brembo brakes and boasts of a stopping distance of 135 feet from 60.

The car will feature a one-speed transmission (as the roadster now does) and comes standard with a 144-mile driving range for its $49,900 base price (which factors in a $7,500 federal tax credit).  Driven conservatively, that’s two hours of highway driving.  At this point, Tesla also plans to offer optional higher-capacity batteries that will provide either 230 miles or 300 miles of range, respectively.  Again for comparison purposes, the Roadster has a 244-mile range in a smaller and lighter car, but the Model S has 8,000 battery cells versus about 6,000 in the Roadster, and also has a far more slippery shape than does the Roadster.

model-s-interiorThe Model S can be charged at any standard electrical outlet, although a standard 110-volt household outlet will take forever to charge the car’s batteries.  A better choice would be to have your home wired for a 220-volt outlet in the garage, which can bring the car to a full charge in four hours.  Tesla is also offering 440-volt charging capabilities, and it’s possible to swap out the car’s battery for a fresh one in about five minutes, making the car compatible with the Better Place initiative.

Tesla makes no reference to whether the base car is front- or rear-wheel drive in its media information or press release, but does note that all-wheel drive will be available as a future option.  And, good news for our readers in Australia and the UK – the Model S will be available with right-hand drive as well.

One of the coolest interior features is an enormous 17 inch touch screen LCD on the center stack that replaces all switches, knobs, and buttons that would otherwise reside there.  The display is fully 3G Internet-capable, and includes satellite navigation, satellite radio, HD radio.  From the photos, it reminds me of a gigantic iPhone, and that’s a pretty cool device to emulate in my opinion.  Interior photos also show nicely-stitched leather or leather-like coverings on the center console and dashboard.

Aside from the better performance from the Tesla Roadster, I see no reason to spend twice as much money (to get the Roadster) rather than buying the Model S, which provides more room, better looks (in my opinion), better range, similar performance, and is half the price.  Now Tesla just has to figure out where to build the thing and get production of both the Model S and the Roadster (of which only 250 units have been delivered) ramped up as quickly as possible.

A gallery of Model S press photos as well as Tesla’s full press release follow below.


At a Glance: Production Model S

With a 300-mile range and 45-minute QuickCharge, the $49,900 Model S can carry five adults and two children in quiet comfort – and you can charge it from any outlet, without ever stopping for gas. World’s first mass-produced electric vehicle offers performance, efficiency and unrivaled utility with twice the energy-efficiency of hybrids, making Model S the only car you’ll ever need.

Convenience and utility bullet points:

• Up to 300-mile range
• 45-minute QuickCharge
• 5-minute battery swap
• Charges from 110V, 220V or 440V
• Seating for 5 adults + 2 child seats
• Unique hatch for oversized items
• 60/40 flat-folding rear seat
• 2nd trunk under hood
• EPA Roominess Index 121.6
• More room than station wagons
• 17-inch infotainment touchscreen
• 3G wireless connectivity

Model S powertrain includes a liquid-cooled 9-inch motor, floor-mounted battery pack and a single-speed gearbox, delivering effortless acceleration, responsive handling and quiet simplicity — no fancy clutchwork or gear-shifting required. Model S costs as little as $4 to fully charge – a bargain even if gasoline dropped to $1 per gallon. You can have affordable fun while being socially responsible.

Technical specs:

• 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
• ¼ mile in 14 seconds
• 120 mph top speed
• Braking 60-0 mph 135 feet
• 42 kWh battery storage system standard
• 70 kWh and greater battery storage systems optional
• 9- inch liquid cooled electric motor
• Single-speed transaxle gearbox
• Curb Weight 3825 lbs
• Overall Length 196″
• Wheelbase 116.5″
• All-wheel-drive available (option available in future production models)
• Right hand drive available

At a Glance: Model S Show Car

The Model S Show Car is a drivable vehicle that exemplifies Tesla’s “no compromises” philosophy – an elegantly refined luxury sedan delivering optimal performance without sacrificing efficiency. Designed by Franz von Holzhausen, the car’s aggressive stance gives way to a modern silhouette, with minimal front and rear overhangs for maximum space efficiency. The car’s mature face defines the future of the Tesla brand and incorporates the touches from the Tesla Roadster. Environmentally friendly materials are incorporated throughout, including water-based paint for the exterior, chrome-free vegetable tanned Italian leather on interior, and 100 percent recycled PET carpeting from Futuris.

Other details:

• Panoramic roof with sliding moon roof
• Retracting door handles for improved aerodynamics
• Full-time 3G connectivity with Internet, HD and satellite radio
• Push button “gear” selector
• Brembo brakes
• Automatic rear lift gate
• 21-inch wheels, Front Tires 245/35ZR21, Rear Tires 285/30ZR21
• 17-inch haptic touchscreen and customizable vehicle information display
• Fully digital instrument cluster
• LED and neon headlight and taillights, with xenon Hella low beams
• Smart-key power and push button gear selector
• Brembo brake system with new one-piece monobloc calipers and integral stiffening bridge to optimize performance
Front brake system:
• Brembo Gran Turismo
• Brembo 6-piston Monobloc Calipers
• Brembo 405x34mm 2-Piece Floating Slotted Discs with Billet Aluminum Hats
Rear brake system:
• Brembo Gran Turismo
• Brembo 4-piston Monobloc Calipers
• Brembo 380x28mm 2-Piece Slotted Discs with Billet Aluminum Hats

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. I LOVE the way this car looks, especially from the front 3/4 view. The fact that it seats 7 (!) while looking like sleek sport sedan adds practicality to the promise of a lively drive. While the automotive industry is not in a good place right now, this car would find plenty of buyers (and, I think, would beat the Chevrolet Volt at its own game) if it actually makes it to market as shown and as promised.

  2. Why do they call it a sedan, when it is in fact a hatchback?

  3. This car looks cool. I’d love to see pictures how the back opens and what those two additional seats in the rear for the kids look like. This would be a great around town car. I hope they do make it to production.

  4. Thats just a beauty,
    i personally dont like sedans much but this one is just amazing,
    i heard that this is not going to launch until 2011,
    Too far hope it Gets out Sooner

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