After showing us that electric cars can be a whole lot more than just boring, short range, commuter vehicles with their high performance Tesla Roadster, Tesla has turned its attention to the luxury sedan market with the Model S. So let’s find out what this California cruiser brings to the segment and if will have luxury buyers plugging in to something new…
JOHN DAVIS: The luxury sedan market is comprised of two distinct groups of buyers; die-hard loyalists who automatically head to the dealership whenever their “fave” gets a redesign, and early adopters who want the latest and greatest and aren’t afraid to pay for it. It’s the latter group that Tesla hopes to attract with the 2013 Model S.
The second model to come from the Silicon Valley manufacturer, the 5- or 7-passenger Model S offers room and luxury that vastly transcends the Roadster, yet still packs almost as much street-wise performance. Using the 5-door luxury sedan form favored by European prestige models like the Porsche Panamara and BMW 5-Series GT, the Model S is also similar in size with a 116.5-inch wheelbase and 196.0-inch overall length. Its flowing design has much more in common with high dollar alternatives than any other EV, and includes such slick features as the hidden charging port in the tail light.
The Model S with come standard with a 40 kWh Lithium-ion battery-pack for a range of well over 100 miles. But, initial production is limited to this Signature model with an 85 kWh battery pack and a government certified range of 265-miles, by far the most of any pure EV available today. The Signature is loaded with features too; 21-inch wheels, Xenon headlights, power rear hatch, active air suspension, and a larger 20kw charger that allows “filling up” is as little as 4 hours.
While we were waiting for Tesla to supply us with a Model S for testing, Bill Clarke, a local viewer, took delivery of his and offered it to us to try it out. After picking up the car in California and driving back here to Maryland he can attest to its long range capabilities. We didn’t get quite that much time behind the wheel, but in a day of driving, we did find the Model S to be every bit the luxury car that it aims to be. The ride is incredibly smooth and, except for a little wind noise, very quiet.
Compared to the typical rear drive luxury sedan, the Model S feels even more solid thanks to the heavy batteries and a very low center of gravity. Our concerns about squeaks and rattles; common for new manufacturers, were completely unfounded. The car is quick. Tesla claims 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds. But, the 2-mode regenerative braking may startle some when set to strong; it’s very aggressive. Take your foot of the throttle, and it almost stops itself.
Inside the Model S, is a rich mix of luxury and super high tech. Virtually all controls are located on a 17” center touch screen that dominates the IP. Seats are comfortable, and there is plenty of legroom front and back.
For you number crunchers, Government Fuel Economy Ratings in miles per gallon equivalent are 88-City, 90-Highway and 89-Combined. That’s about 10% less than a Nissan Leaf. Model S pricing is certainly not out of line for the luxury class with a base of $59,350 and our Signature model going for $97,350. And good news, the usual government tax incentives can still apply!
The 2013 Tesla Model S is clearly in a class by itself, and EV’s are still not for everyone as they do come with limitations. So for what it’s like to live with it on a daily basis, we turn to our Model S owner Bill Clarke:
BILL CLARKE: …I look forward to being able to drive it as my daily driver every day and continuing to be part of the development process. It is the kind of thing that I am very happy to do as part of my ownership of this vehicle and part of my driving experience.”
0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
EPA: 88-City, 90-Highway