Tesla Model X Electric Crossover New Interior: Detroit Auto Show Live Pictures

Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

HI-RES GALLERY: Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

  • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

    • Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto Show


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Unveiled live at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is giving us new ideas as to what the interior of its Model X crossover may look like.

Tesla calls it an “interior exploration”, giving a hint as to the different colors and trim materials you can expect from the production Model X.

The work has been done by Tesla Design Studio, and uses a mix of white and black leathers to bring contrast to the three rows of seats–the back rows, of course, accessed via the unusual ‘falcon wing’ rear doors.

The black and white theme continues to the dashboard facia, dominated by the same huge touchscreen display you’ll find in the Model S sedan–albeit mounted proud of the dashboard.

The exterior, also contrasting in black and white, is unchanged from the last time we saw the Model X.

Much of the Model X’s hardware is based on that in the Model S, with 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery options. Befitting its crossover body, the Model X will also offer electric all-wheel drive. Production is expected to begin in late 2013.

For more live photos, news and specifications from the show floor, head over to our Detroit Auto Show page.


By Antony Ingram

Can Supercharger Stations Restore Faith In Tesla? (VIDEO)

2012 Tesla Model S CAPTIONS ON | OFF

The 2012 Tesla Model S has long been heralded as ushering in the new era of an electric car society, but those predictions always seemed like pie-in-the-sky hyperbole. Until today.

Tesla has unveiled an innovative new charging infrastructure that is already up and running in six California locations, each charging at an impressive 100 kW – enough to fully charge a Tesla Model S with nearly 300 miles of range in less than thirty minutes. Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced the new Supercharger stations at a press event on Monday, in this video:

The stations have been installed in Folsom, Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch and Barstow. Tesla decided to position them around the large cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to allow drivers to charge once they leave the metro areas. In fact, Motor Trend recently proved that the Tesla Model S can already complete the L.A. to Vegas trip without charging stops (video here), but we’re sure no one is going to complain about being able to use the air conditioning and not worry themselves to death about breaking down on the I-15.

The goal is reliable long-distance driving, and the single biggest thing that needed to improve to allow that to happen is improved infrastructure. Even the biggest of dreamers saw Tesla as a company in need of that, but not a company capable of providing that. The automaker, partnered with industry leader Solar City, plans to install six more by next year and spread nearly across the country by the end of 2013.

The technology in the Supercharger stations is quite remarkable. They are not powered by electricity plants that themselves produce pollution, but by nearby solar grids that collect power from the sun. The power is provided at no cost to the driver, bringing the dream of free and limitless vehicle power to reality. Pretty neat stuff.

Unfortunately for Tesla, the news doesn’t seem to have immediately eased their financial issues. A recent review of customer orders revealed more than 1,200 cancelations of Model S reservations (video here), which will need to be repaid. In addition, Tesla reported reduced revenue expectationsand Wall Street acted accordingly, sending the TSLA stock into a ten-percent fall.

Tesla faces an uphill climb to financial solvency, especially with growing political pressure in an election year and continued leniency from the Department of Energy that is likely to tighten in the future. Is the Supercharger infrastructure the answer to electric car concerns, or another big gamble that Tesla has committed to before it’s actually ready? Only time will tell.


Tesla Motors – Official Site

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By Ryan ZumMallen

Spyshots: Audi R8 e-tron First Tests at Nurburgring

Audi will put the R8 e-tron electric sportscar into production this year, offering it to a very limited clientele. The fleet of 1,000 cars will be a testbed used by the Ingolstadt carmaker to find out what it need for a bespoke electric sportscar.

These are the first spy shots of the pre-production vehicle as it was testing at the Nurburgring track in almost complete silence yesterday. Audi is making no efforts to hide what the red electric rocket actually is, as ‘e-tron’ is plastered all over the side of the car.

The only major difference over the regular R8 is that the EV has no tailpipes, as it will even be equipped with an artificial sound to announce its presence. Also, a big sign on the driver's side rear quarter window warns us of the danger the car poses if it crashes.

If they get it right, what do we need Tesla for?!

Check out the Audi R8 e-tron photo gallery

By Mihnea Radu

Tesla Now Delivering 60-kWh Versions Of Model S Electric Car

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

It’s now clear: Volume deliveries of the second version of the 2013 Tesla Model S began this month.

That would be the version fitted with the middle of three battery-pack sizes, with a stated energy capacity of 60 kilowatt-hours.

The news does not come from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], a company that can be bafflingly opaque about standard business metrics like production and deliveries.

Instead, it comes from scanning the “Delivery Update” thread of the Tesla Motors Club forum (that thread now runs to 400 pages, by the way).

Multiple reports have been posted during the month of owners taking delivery of their 60-kWh Model S cars.

While one such delivery might be an anomaly, it’s clear from the postings, photos, and general level of glee that Tesla is now chewing away at its reservation list for 60-kWh models.

Owner “Hans,” for instance, posted that he took delivery of his 60-kWh Model S at the Fremont, California, factory on Saturday, January 19.

He noted that everything was in order save for a missing piece of chrome trim on the charging cord, and attached a photo showing the chrome-free handle.

This is, his specialist told him, a supplier problem, and numerous Model S cars are being delivered without it.

The 60-kWh Model S was rated in December at 208 miles of electric range by the EPA, versus a 265-mile range for the 85-kWh version.

Once Tesla has blended production of 60-kWh and 85-kWh models into its line, next up will be the lowest-capacity Model S, with a 40-kWh battery pack.

That model hasn’t yet been rated for range, but its 160-mile range (at a steady 55 mph) stated by Tesla is likely to translate to an EPA rating of something like 140 to 145 miles.

Those deliveries are expected to start sometime between April and June.

One eager new owner of a 60-kWh Model S will be our own writer David Noland, who is slated to take delivery of his car within weeks.

Noland has written numerous pieces about the Model S delivery process and other aspects of the car.

His latest piece summarized minor quirks and issues identified in Model S cars delivered thus far.


By John Voelcker

Unlikely Rivals: Tesla Model S Challenges BMW M5 to a Drag Race in New Video

Unlikely Rivals: Tesla Model S Challenges BMW M5 to a Drag Race in New Video

We’ve tested the Tesla Model S and driven Elon Musk’s personal car to test its range — what else is left to evaluate about the fully electric premium four-door? A drag race with a new BMW M5 would be a good place to start, and that’s exactly what Automobile magazine has done in a new video.

The contender with an internal combustion engine is the new BMW M5 sedan, which is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 producing 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. Though the 2013 M5 still carries a gas guzzler tax, the eight-cylinder super-sedan is EPA-rated at 14/20 city/highway with the twin-clutch automatic and 15/22 with a six-speed manual — marked improvements over the last-generation M5′s 11/17 mpg with its V-10 engine.

Then there’s the Tesla Model S, which has “just” 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque from its electric powertrain but, in top P85 trim, is more expensive than the German four-door. The Tesla is EPA-rated at 88/90 MPGe. While the Model S of course lacks an engine note, the car can launch off the line far quicker than the M5.

Though one of the four-doors is clearly ahead by the time they reach the finish line, the other appears to be closing in. Watch the video below to find out which car wins in Automobile magazine’s drag race.

Source: Automobile magazine via YouTube

By Zach Gale

Tesla Model S Reportedly Coming to China

From its impressive acceleration to its practical layout, large storage area and 17-inch infotainment system, the Tesla Model S has managed to impress America… except the Republicans, of course. The single model they have on sale today has managed to outsell prestige motors like the Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class.

Both those cars are popular in China, so maybe Tesla could find willing buyers in the People's Republic. A news report suggests Tesla will enter the Chinese market this year with the Model S, which will debut at the Chengdu Auto Show in September.

Tesla want to have full control over the buying and ownership experience, so it will own and run all the dealers it sets up, starting with the first one in Beijing.

Story via carnewschina.com

By Mihnea Radu

Tesla's worst-case scenario


As electric cars become more popular, we are learning more about what it is like to actually live with them. According to theunderstatement, at least five Tesla owners experienced a major issue: after their car’s batteries were completely emptied, the cars became immobile “bricks” that could not be started or even moved.

If the charge in a Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries is fully depleted, the batteries are essentially destroyed. They can no longer hold a charge and, in the five documented cases, there was no power available to tell the motor to engage Tow Mode. Without the Two Mode, the motor stays engaged with the driveshaft (like a gasoline-powered engine when left in gear), making it impossible for the the car to roll freely, hence the “brick” scenario.

Unlike the Nissan Leaf, which shuts down completely before the battery is fully drained, Tesla Roadsters’ secondary systems stay on regardless of the battery’s state of charge.

According to the Tesla Roadster owner’s manual, the car takes 11 weeks to fully drain its battery after being fully charged. One owner left his car unplugged while his house was being renovated; it only lasted six weeks because he had driven the Roadster before putting it into storage.

Other owners did plug their cars in, but the power source was not able to keep the batteries charged. One used a 100-foot extension cord, which apparently reduced the amount of electricity flowing into the car’s batteries. Another owner, in Japan, plugged his car in only to realize that the voltages were incompatible.

Tesla is looking to expand its customer base with the Model S sedan and Model X crossover, both of which use lithium-ion batteries. Tesla claims the Model S can be parked unplugged for long periods of time without losing its charge, saying that “Model S owners can park at the airport for extended vacations without plugging in.” The Roadster loses fifty percent of its charge after seven days.

The “brick” scenario is not covered under Tesla’s warranty; the only remedy is to pay roughly $40,000 to replace the battery pack. According to theunderstatement, the Roadster owner’s manual does not include a statement about fully depleted battery packs needing to be replaced.

Tesla is aware of the problem, telling Jalopnik that emptying an electric car’s batteries is like driving a gasoline-powered car without changing the oil. In other words, it’s a maintenance issue, not a warranty issue. The company also claimed that “Tesla batteries can remain unplugged for weeks (even months) without reaching zero state of charge.”

In the same statement, the company claimed that it “avoids this problem in virtually all instances with numerous counter-measures.” Customers who bought the Roadster 2.0 can have the car alert Tesla when the battery is running low; the feature was not available on earlier models. Tesla also said that “all Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below five percent SOC,” and that “Tesla provides extensive maintenance recommendations as part of the customer experience.”

Drivers of gasoline-powered cars never have to worry about their vehicles becoming unusable if they run out of gas, but they do have to fill them with fluids. Whether Tesla or its customers are at fault, the “brick” scenario shows that electric cars are still cars, and that they require their own unique form of maintenance.

By Stephen Edelstein

Tesla Sued Over New Mexico Model S Factory That Never Was

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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Tesla Motors’ decision to purchase the former NUMMI automotive manufacturing facility in Fremont, California might have been one of its shrewdest business decisions to date. 

Not only did Tesla Motors [NASAQ:TSLA] obtain a pre-built facility –complete with the essential machinery it needed to build its 2012 Model S Sedan — at the heavily-discounted fire-sale price of $59 million, but it helped offer skilled jobs to those who had previously been made redundant when the factory closed under General Motors’ bankruptcy

But now a developer in New Mexico, where Tesla had originally planned to build a factory, is suing the electric automaker for picking California over New Mexico.

According to Gigaom, the claimant in the case, Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities, filed a law suit back in May against Tesla for fraud, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and negotiating in bad faith.

The developer claims it entered into a binding development agreement with Tesla in February 2007 to build a new factory in New Mexico that Tesla would then lease from it for $1.35 million a year for ten years, plus a 2 percent annual increase. 

In early 2008, the deal became public when New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson publicly announced Tesla had chosen the Cactus State as the home of Model S manufacturing. 

NUMMI plant in Fremont, California

NUMMI plant in Fremont, California

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Less than six months later however, the then-Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger leaked the news that Tesla had decided to build the Model S in California, scuppering New Mexico’s hopes of being home to Tesla.

In the official court filing with the New Mexico State Court, Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities claims it spent money on creating environmental reports, obtaining relevant government permits, and drawing up engineering designs for the site as a consequence of signing the 2007 contract with Tesla.

When Tesla changed its mind about where to site its Model S factory, Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities said it suffered financially. 

Tesla Motors does not comment on pending litigation, as it has consistently told reporters.

At the moment, Tesla has mad no official statement concerning the case, other than to deny the allegations. 

It has also sought to move the trail from New Mexico State Court to Federal Court. 

The first hearing is on September 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Have $110,000 lying around and want a Tesla Model S today? You’re in luck!

Tesla Model S

For most Tesla buyers, the wait between order and delivery has been around three months, despite the Tesla website insisting the wait is closer to two. But that’s all about to change, well at least for a few high-rolling buyers. Tesla says it has some fully-loaded 85-kWh 2013 Tesla Model S Performance models as inventory vehicles ready for delivery today.

Even with a price tag around $110,00, buyers won’t be able to specify options or color combos because supplies are limited and the cars have already been built. If you’re the kind of wealthy EV enthusiast who hates to wait, however, this opportunity could be just what you’ve been hoping for.

This deal reminds us of the old Henry Ford quote about the Model T, “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.”

Why does Tesla have top of the line inventory vehicles sitting around, awaiting buyers? It’s simple, really; some of the inventory vehicles had been ordered by buyers who were unable to come up with the funds by the delivery date and others were used as in-store display cars.

All the inventory vehicles have been spec’d with 21-inch wheels, the Performance Plus handling package, panoramic sunroofs, and the technology and premium sound packages. As for colors, the inventory fleet has every color that Tesla offers, including the highly anticipated multicoat red, according to Green Car Reports.

So here’s your chance. If you have the funds and hate waiting, your Model S awaits. We’d run down and grab a few but our money is tied up in some offshore deals right now. You know how it is.

By Nick Jaynes

2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive Of All-Electric Sport Sedan

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

After an hour in a 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan, one thing became clear: It’s a viable car.

The Model S gives Tesla Motors a shot at turning into a real car company.

That’s a provisional judgment; as many journalists have noted, 10-minute drives or an hour driving and riding in limited New York City traffic hardly provides the time or mixed conditions for a proper review.

But the Model S can make the case for electric cars in a way that the odd-looking Nissan Leaf or the politically controversial Chevy Volt never will.

It’s good-looking, in a Jaguar vein. The performance of the top-end Model S Signature Series Performance model we drove was quietly spectacular.

We saw no major quality flaws or obvious manufacturing defects (unlike the 2012 Fisker Karma we tested earlier this year).

And with EPA-rated range of 265 miles and an 89-MPGe efficiency rating, the Model S should eliminate any trace of range anxiety for regular daily use (outside of long road trips).

So the 2012 Tesla Model S sedan is about as promising a new product as the industry has seen for many years.

Now Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has to get the car into volume production, fill the portion of almost 11,000 reservations that turn into paid orders–and generate enough cash to do all that plus develop its next models.

Sleek but not radical styling

If you’re going to echo a luxury-car shape, you could do considerably worse than the profile of the Jaguar XF and XJ. Those were by far the most common comparisons from journalists and passers-by at this morning’s Tesla event.

The proportions of the Model S are those of its competitors–the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Audi A6, and the Jaguar XF–though with a slightly longer wheelbase and shorter rear overhang.

Overall, the Model S isn’t as noticeable on the street as the Tesla Roadster or the low, swoopy, curvaceous Fisker Karma. But it’s also far more practical than either of those cars.

Deceptively fast

Tesla made its mark with the Roadster sports car. It was a crude, basic, all-electric open two-seater whose sins could be forgiven because its stunning performance was so addictive.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Embarrassing some supercars costing twice its $109,000 base price, the Roadster knocked off 0-to-60-mph times of less than 4 seconds, courtesy of a 53-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and a 175-kilowatt (248-hp) electric motor powering the rear wheels.

The 2012 Tesla Model S has a larger battery pack that forms the floorpan of its all-new design, but its 270-kW (362-hp) motor still powers the rear wheels. The Performance model has a more powerful 301-kW (416-hp) motor.

With a weight of about 4,700 pounds (a ton heavier than a Roadster), the Model S feels quite different behind the wheel than the attack-jet Roadster.

The Performance model we drove, with higher-spec power electronics and other modifications, is quoted at a 4.4-second 0-to-60-mph time (the standard Model S is quoted at 5.6 seconds).

We couldn’t test acceleration times, but the Performance edition certainly offered the ability to surge swiftly away from any other vehicle on Manhattan’s West Side Highway (sadly, we encountered no supercars).

Acceleration vs range

The deceptive part is that the Model S is so calm and quiet inside that there’s virtually no mechanical noise on acceleration. Tire noise is obvious with the stereo off, and then wind noise kicks in above 40 mph or so.

Only once, on full acceleration from 0 to a high number, did we hear a high-pitched humming whine, presumably from the power electronics.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Just as in the Roadster, however, keeping your foot in the Tesla Model S will do a lot of damage to your range.

The car showed a maximum potential range of 290 miles on a fully charged battery, but based on the last 30 miles of driving, showed us a predicted range of 165 miles–meaning owners will rapidly learn to trade off the sheer fun of acceleration for longer range.

Air suspension

The air suspension provides ride quality that’s firm over small road imperfections, with a little more feedback transmitted than might be expected. We didn’t test the various suspension settings, including one that our Tesla minder candidly described as “mushy.”

Over the bad stuff, including the uneven, potholed, cobblestone streets of Manhattan’s West Village, the Model S rode superbly. 

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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In the Tesla Model S, you can easily find yourself not only pulling away from traffic, but traveling 20 mph over the speed limit. And as in the Roadster, at least in the Model S Performance model, you’ll want to do it again and again and again.

Michael Sexton, who runs the Tesla Store in Manhattan, says that it took him about six months before he stopped using his Roadster that way and just drove it–knowing that he had sheer acceleration on tap when he wanted it.

Less regen than Roadster

Smooth but aggressive regenerative braking was a hallmark of the Tesla Roadster. There are only two settings for regenerative braking–Normal and Low–in the Model S, and the (highest) Normal setting felt less aggressive.

Experienced electric-car drivers often prefer “one-pedal driving,” planning ahead enough to use solely regenerative braking to slow down almost to a stop. That’s not quite as easy in the Model S, since its weight gives it more rolling momentum.

But the new and much larger pool of tech-oriented luxury car buyers who will consider the Model S (Tesla hopes) are likely to want it to drive in a familiar fashion, like an automatic BMW or Audi sedan. In that, Tesla’s new sedan succeeds.

The handling inspires confidence, with an obviously low center of gravity, but the Model S is a little heavier-feeling than we’d expected. It was more like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class we recently tested than the last BMW 5-Series we drove a couple of years ago.

And we look forward to the head-to-head comparison tests that traditional auto magazines are likely to do whenever they can get a Model S for more than an hour at a time.

Big fast touchscreen a generation ahead

Sitting behind the wheel, the driver sees three control stalks on the left and one on the right, all seemingly identical to those in Mercedes-Benz cars.

The two on the left are an upper cruise control and a lower turn signal, meaning that Model S drivers will try to signal with the cruise lever until they retrain themselves, just as in a Benz. There’s also a tilt-and-telescope adjustment for the wheel.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

On the right, a drive selector offers simply D, R, and P, with an automatic parking brake built in, without any separate lever or switch for that. There’s a small amount of idle creep built in, mimicking an automatic transmission car.

[UPDATE: After speaking with Tesla the next day, we learned that we were wrong: There is no idle-creep built into Model S cars right now. We're baffled as to what we experienced; the only thing we can imagine is that we were on an almost imperceptible downward slope when stopped, and the car has such low rolling resistance that it began to roll. In any case, we apologize for the error.]

But by far the most noticeable feature of the Model S interior is the giant 17-inch touchscreen display that takes up the entire center stack. The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is entirely a digital display too.

The brilliant graphics, instant response, and easy-to-learn control screens of the central display immediately relegate any other car’s system to second-class status. The Mercedes-Benz COMAND system, BMW’s notorious iDrive, the mass-market MyFordTouch, and others are instantly outdated and primitive.

We were initially skeptical about having such a big screen to control most functions in the Model S. And, to be fair, an hour is nowhere near enough time to put it through its paces. But based on early use, we may become converts.

And Tesla’s Silicon Valley roots show through in a high “surprise and delight” quotient in unexpected places.

Want to open the sunroof? Just swipe your finger along a plan view of the Model S, toward the rear. Or you can use a large slider to open it to any percentage you want.

Switch on a turn signal, and if you happen to be on the Lights screen, you’ll see it flashing brightly on a photo-realistic image of your car. Ditto the parking lamps, the headlights, and so on.

You can connect a portable storage device to play digital music through the Tesla’s stereo system, though such web apps as Pandora, Switcher, and Spotify aren’t yet implemented.

You can likely expect those soon, along with voice commands, which haven’t yet been activated.

Remarkably, there’s also full web browsing via the built-in cellular connection. Or at least there will be until the Feds weigh in on that one.

Space for five

Inside, the cabin is wide, and five adults should be able to travel in comfort.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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The front seats are supportive, the driving position is good, the controls are well-placed, and outward visibility is good to the front and sides–though the steeply angled rear window glass offers little more than a slit in the rear-view mirror.

The rear door openings are smaller than they look, and the windows slope inward as they rise toward the roof rail. That makes access to the rear seat more challenging than you might expect.

Once seated in the rear, outboard passengers will notice that that the cabin is wider at shoulder height than at head level and the rear seat back is angled a bit more steeply than customary.

Because the battery pack is in the floorpan, front and rear footwells aren’t as deep as they would be in a conventional luxury sedan.

This means rear passengers are seated in a more reclined, knees-up position than in cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series. It’s not necessarily uncomfortable, but it’s noticeable.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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If the Model S has a sunroof fitted, a six-foot man sitting in the rear seat comes within a fraction of an inch of the headliner. But most adults should be comfortable riding in the rear over long distances.

Practical electric car for the family

Once you’re past the wow factor of the central touchscreen, the Model S interior is relatively plain and unadorned.

Soft-touch materials cover any surface an occupant might come into contact with, but there are fewer of the kinds of power accessories for passengers than the lengthy options list of competing cars offer. 

The total interior volume of the Tesla Model S is rated at 95.1 cubic feet. There’s 26.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the load bay with the rear seat up, a total of 58.1 cubic feet with the seat folded down, and another 5.3 cubic feet in the surprisingly large front trunk.

That makes it a practical family vehicle, in stark contrast to the subcompact interior of the Fisker Karma, with its absurdly tiny 6.9-cubic-foot trunk.

The early-production Model S cars appear to be well-built, at least after scanning four different models (serial numbers 106, 108, 111, and 116, for those who keep track).

About the biggest quality flaws we noticed among the four were a misaligned Velcro fastener patch on the front-trunk liner, and a recalcitrant rear shoulder-harness retractor.

Overall, A for effort

Overall, our early and brief impressions of the 2012 Tesla Model S are favorable.

It appears to be the first electric car that’s simultaneously good-looking, fully digital in the best tradition of Silicon Valley innovation, and requires very little compromise for around-town use.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Whether it will become a viable distance traveler depends entirely on whether Tesla launches its much-discussed SuperCharger network of quick-charging stations.

And whether Tesla will become a viable independent car company depends on whether it can ramp up Model S production while keeping quality high, and continue to add digital features.

The company will also have to manage the inevitable tweaks, updates, or quality recalls graciously, swiftly, and decisively in a way that convinces customers they’re being taken care of by this audacious new carmaker.

The last car company started from scratch in the U.S. by entrepreneurs whose brand is still with us today was Chrysler, in 1924. Tesla still faces very, very long odds of survival.

But on first impression, it appears that they’ve at least gotten the product pretty much right.

Now the hard work begins.


By John Voelcker