Tag archives for 2012 - Page 3

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.

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By John Voelcker

How Far Will A Tesla Model S Go? One Owner Did 405 Miles

Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

HI-RES GALLERY: Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

  • Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

  • David and Adam Metcalf beat 400 miles on a charge in a 2012 Tesla Model S (Image: David Metcalf)

  • David and Adam Metcalf beat 400 miles on a charge in a 2012 Tesla Model S (Image: David Metcalf)


  • Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

    • Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

    • David and Adam Metcalf beat 400 miles on a charge in a 2012 Tesla Model S (Image: David Metcalf)

    • David and Adam Metcalf beat 400 miles on a charge in a 2012 Tesla Model S (Image: David Metcalf)

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Back in May, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] released range estimates for the 2012 Model S.

While the company predicted that 250-300 miles would be typical for the largest, 85 kilowatt-hour battery, and the EPA confirmed this with an official 265 miles, insiders at Tesla had a sneaky feeling that 400 miles would be possible.

That estimate has now been confirmed by Model S owner David Metcalf, and his 12-year old son, Adam.

After a 405-mile journey through Florida, the father and son team is the first to break 400 miles in the Model S. That distance is now being verified by Guinness World Records, and could become a benchmark for other Model S owners as the car goes on sale around the world.

The trip ended with a congratulatory call from Tesla Vice President, George Blankenship, followed by a tweet from Tesla CEO and founder, Elon Musk. Musk may now be looking for a prize for the record-breaking duo, as promised for the first owner to pass 400 miles on a single charge.

According to David’s twitter feed, much of the journey was relatively flat, and done at constant speed on rural roads. There were few stops over the 400 miles and to eke out a little more range, the duo rolled down the windows a few inches rather than using the climate control. The car’s tires were also inflated higher than standard.

The car actually managed 423.5 miles before the duo finally stopped, ready to be towed home.

There’s another significance to the 400-mile record–it comfortably beats the maximum range attained in Tesla’s own Roadster, when two Australian owners hit 313 miles back in 2009.

It’s also a greater proportion above the official EPA ratings. The 313-mile record was set against an EPA rating of 244 miles–a 28 percent increase. The new drive is over 50 percent greater than the Model S’s EPA range of 265 miles.

Green Car Reports offers its congratulations to both David and Adam!

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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By Antony Ingram

2012 Tesla Model S Update: 100 Built, 74 For Delivery

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Tesla Motors may have been initially cagey about its production figures while the first few cars were being delivered, but as production gathers pace the company is revealing more details on Model S deliveries.

In one of his regular Inside Tesla features on the Tesla Blog, Tesla vice president of sales and ownership George Blankenship confirms production and delivery numbers, two months on from the first car reaching its owner.

Blankenship says that the 100th production Model S has now left the line, of which 74 are for delivery to the first reservation holders.

The other vehicles are being used for test drives–such as on Tesla’s ‘Get Amped’ tour–as well as in-store displays, engineering tests and service team training.

He also confirms that Tesla is still on course to increase production over the coming weeks, to meet the target of 5,000 vehicles by the end of the year.

And as CEO Elon Musk confirmed less than a week ago, this period is critical for the future success of Tesla–cars leaving the line really must be perfect.

While cars are trickling out of the factory, Blankenship also makes time to comment on the Model S’s impressive figures during Edmunds track testing, as well as the continuing Get Amped tour, where more than 5,000 people have got behind the wheel of a Model S, racking up over 38,000 miles.

We look forward to hearing more production numbers from Tesla–and seeing if they can meet that 5,000 car target by the end of this year.

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By Antony Ingram

2012 Tesla Model S: Electric Luxury Sedan Ultimate Guide

Tesla Model S Alpha build

Tesla Model S Alpha build

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Finally, after several years of teaser images, videos, clips, auto show appearances and more, there are finally production examples of the 2012 Tesla Model S driving around on the streets

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has been working tirelessly to put the Model S on the market, and CEO Elon Musk even won his $1,000 bet with journalist Dan Neil for keeping promises he made about the car way back in 2009–impressive, given the struggles young companies normally face.

But what lies beneath the Silicon Valley hype? What is the Model S like to drive, what goes on behind the scenes and what can you do to buy one?

Before you get any further, read our first drive review of the 2012 Tesla Model S, and then check out our brief drive video. Were we glad to finally get behind the wheel? You bet.

 

The basics

If you’ve been following Tesla’s progress as closely as we have here at GreenCarReports, you’ll be able to relay Model S details without a moment’s thought.

That includes details like its EPA-rated 89 MPGe efficiency and 265-mile range (with the largest battery), with a projected range of up to 300 miles on the highway. Elon is even thinking up a prize for the first verified 400-mile run on one charge. When you’re not conserving range, a 0-60mph run of under 4.5 seconds is for the taking.

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2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

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The technology 

This is a car that’s selling on the back of its technology. The whole car is something of a gadget, but with a crystal-clear display screen in the center of the car and support for third-party apps, the spec list reads like a wheeled iPod. Even the manufacturing process is suitably advanced.

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2012 Tesla Model S body-in-white

2012 Tesla Model S body-in-white

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The history

We’ve been running stories on the Model S since 2008, and each new morsel of information has whetted our appetite for more. Here, you can read about Tesla’s $42 million investment in its Fremont plant, information from the first running of its Model S Alpha prototype, and catch Toyota CEO and gearhead Akio Toyoda checking out the Model S at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

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Buying a Model S

Some buyers are lucky enough to already have their Model S, but for those that don’t, there’s plenty of information available. Some buyers are still waiting on their cars, but already finding out little things they’d change. Others are listing plenty of things they love about their new Model S.

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2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Social media and marketing

While much of the goings-on inside Tesla have been kept relatively quiet, the Model S has still been on the news on occasion, with everything from appearances on Letterman to in-house videos of the sleek sedan and its sports car parent ripping up the asphalt.

Of course, Mr Musk has kept himself in the news too. Are predictions like “half of all new cars will be electric in 15-20 years” clever pieces of marketing by the Tesla CEO? Perhaps, but after Dan Neil lost that $1,000 bet, we’re not willing to do likewise with Mr Musk…

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  • Tesla Releases New On-Road Shots of 2012 Model S
  • Official Tesla Model S Electric Sedan Teaser Photo

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla CEO Musk: We’ll Build 80 Model S Electric Cars This Week

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 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan is now in a race with time.

The first production Model S was delivered in June, and Tesla has cautiously been ramping up production numbers while trying to keep initial quality high.

But the company has said repeatedly it will sell 5,000 of its new electric car by the end of this year, and indeed, its cashflow needs may require that volume to be delivered.

Tesla news often seems to come first from the personal Twitter account of CEO Elon Musk.

So it was with a message late last night, in which Musk tweeted, “Tesla made 100 vehicle bodies this week for the first time. Really proud of the team!”

Accompanying the message was a photo of a partial aluminum frame that Musk identified as “S/N 396,” or serial number 396–indicating that almost 400 production bodies have now been assembled.

[UPDATE: In SEC paperwork filed on September 25, Tesla Motors stated, “As of September 23, 2012, we have produced a total of 255 Model S vehicles, including 77 Model S vehicles produced during the week ended September 23, 2012. ” That number presumably refers to completed vehicles, not body shells.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Five days after this article ran on September 17, we were contacted by Christina Ra of Tesla Motors, who said the number of 400 bodies built was inaccurate. She would not provide any information to back up this claim, beyond saying that the serial number is not indicative in this case. In the absence of actual facts, you may draw your own conclusions.]

Separately, Musk said four days ago in a Fox Business video interview that the company was likely to build 80 completed cars this week, after assembling 40 last week.

In the same interview, Musk predicted a “tsunami of hurt” coming for investors that have shorted the stock of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], of whom there are substantial numbers.

When we drove early-production Model S cars in mid-July, the serial numbers of the four different models were 106, 108, 111, and 116.

Eight weeks later, the company has built 280 more cars.

To hit its goal of 5,000 sales, the company likely needs to build something like 5,500 cars.

Model S vehicles are personally delivered to a location of the buyer’s choice, so the company’s “pipeline” holds less inventory than for companies that offer conventional dealer distribution.

To build 5,200 more cars in the 14 weeks between now and Christmas, Tesla Motors will have to hit a production rate around 400 cars a week, or the 80 cars a day Musk has mentioned in the past. That’s five times the current rate.

Thus far, and unlike startup Fisker Automotive, Tesla has not had any major quality flaws reported in the media.

Will the company achieve its goal of 5,000 deliveries by December 31?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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By John Voelcker

2012 Tesla Model S ‘First-Rate Car’: AutoNation CEO

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

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

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While many are in agreement that lower prices will be a major catalyst for tempting people into electric cars, some things are worth paying that little bit extra for.

Could the 2012 Tesla Model S be one of those things?

For Mike Jackson, CEO of auto retail company Autonation, then the answer is probably yes.

Detroit News reports that in an interview before his speech to the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Jackson described the new Model S sedan as a “first-rate car”–going on to say that it’s the best electric car he’s driven to date.

That’s despite noting that the Model S is still a relatively expensive car. “The economics will still be the limiting factor. It’s still very expensive, but it’s really a first-rate car.”

That’ll be music to the ears of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], as it gets ready to step up production, following completion of its first 100 cars.

Expensive it may be, but for eager buyers, that high price is something they don’t seem to mind paying…

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By Antony Ingram

2012 Tesla Model S Electric Sedan: 238 Miles Of Range, Says Motor Trend

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

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

Enlarge Photo

Whether you drive gas, electric or anything else, there are dozens of different factors that affect your car’s efficiency.

That’s why, even though Tesla Motors claims a range of 265 miles for its 85 kWh Model S, we’ve been eager to see how far it can go in realistic day-to-day driving.

Thanks to Motor Trend, we now know. The magazine borrowed Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s own Model S and ran it through a series of tests, culminating in a drive down I-15 and then up the Pacific Coast Highway to measure its range.

Starting with a full charge from the California Speedway, where the team logged performance figures, the car was driven down to San Diego on I-15 in 55-69mph traffic, before heading North again using I-5, where much of the driving was stop-and-go.

The rest of the journey North to Redondo Beach was on the PCH, with plenty of stops at intersections. Overall distance? 240 miles.

With a brief stop to top-up within a few miles of their destination, Motor Trend calculated a total range of 238 miles.

That’s 11 percent short of the claimed 265 miles, and they note that the trip involved fairly careful driving too. A failure, then?

Not necessarily. While the quoted range wasn’t reached, the driver did point out that the trip involved five hours of continuous driving. That’s the sort of distance and time that few drivers would go without needing to stop anyway, regardless of how far their battery or gas tank can take them.

The other figures are equally impressive. The drive depleted 93 percent of the battery’s capacity, or 78.2 kWh of electricity. Using a gasoline energy equivalency of 2.32 gallons, the car achieved 100.7 mpg-equivalent. Their chase car, a BMW 528i, managed 30.1 mpg. And quick though the BMW is, it doesn’t have anything like the potential performance of the Model S.

The 265-mile range may be achievable over long stretches at lower speeds, but even for those drivers not reaching the official target, a range of over 200 miles isn’t to be sniffed at.

And save for a criticism about under-padded seats, the car attracted plenty of praise in other areas too.

You can read our own thoughts on the Model S by clicking on our first drive report. And you can leave us your thoughts on the Tesla’s range in the comments section below.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Model S To Offer Handling Package Option?

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

Enlarge Photo

The 2012 Tesla Model S electric sedan is already competent handler, but it could get even better for Model S Performance buyers.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced that it’s developing a new suspension setup aimed at improving the car’s already-talented dynamics.

According to Wired (via Motor Authority), the new setup will be available as an option on Performance versions of the sedan.

Inspiration for the car’s new attributes comes from one of the world’s top performance cars–the McLaren MP4-12C supercar, following a conversation between Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and former Motor Trend editor in chief Angus MacKenzie. Tesla went as far as renting a McLaren for a few days to delve deeper into its talents.

The suspension changes are subtle, with rear wheels a half-inch wider than the standard car, high-performance Michelin PS2 tires, and revised suspension bushings and end links.

Though the suspension package hasn’t yet been confirmed as an option, Tesla is developing the kit with a view to offering it at a later date, if the changes prove successful.

As the changes don’t affect the car’s air suspension, nor require any changes to the running gear, range and straight-line performance should be unaffected–though the price will certainly creep up from the Model S Performance’s $84,900 MSRP.

One thing is for sure–the handling tweaks are sure to appeal to Tesla’s performance-minded buyers.

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By Antony Ingram

Buying A 2012 Tesla Model S: Pros & Cons Of ‘Tesla Way’ To Order

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

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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

  • 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 painting process

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

  • 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 Charging Connector

  • 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 beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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

    • 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 painting process

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

    • 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 Charging Connector

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

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

At last, my number’s been called.

As the holder of reservation number P 717 for a 2012 Tesla Model S, I’ve waited more than three years after putting down a $5,000 deposit on the sleek, all-electric sport sedan.

Since then, Tesla has kept my interest percolating with e-mail updates and promotional swag, including a coffee mug, a T-shirt, and a remote-control Roadster model.

But last month came the news I’d been waiting for: my production slot has been scheduled, and it was time to place my order and specify the color, battery size, and options I wanted. Delivery is slated for November or December.

The ordering process I’ve just gone through spotlights the ways in which the Tesla car-buying experience differs from the traditional one.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has no franchised dealers, but rather a network of  factory-owned retail “stores,”  typically located in high-end shopping districts and malls.  (Their resemblance to Apple stores is no coincidence;  Tesla hired George Blankenship, the guy who led the design and placement of the Apple stores.)

Introductory presentation at 2012 Tesla Model S

Introductory presentation at 2012 Tesla Model S

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Tesla’s vehicle service centers will be separate from the stores.

The primary purpose of the stores is to introduce casual passers-by to the Tesla brand, educate them about the cars, and direct them to the company website. The sale and delivery are handled on-line from company headquarters in Palo Alto.

In my case, the stores played no role in my buying decision; I was hooked long before the first Tesla store even opened.

With the arrival of the “It’s Time to Build Your Model S” e-mail, I had 30 days to finalize my order without losing my place in the queue. I went to the online configurator, selected my colors and options, filled out some basic personal info, and pressed the send button.

After a couple of phone conversations with a young, helpful Tesla product specialist to smooth out some online bumps, I signed a Pre-Delivery Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement.

And that’s where it stands today.

Based on my experience so far, the Tesla system has its pros and cons.  Among the pros:

Less sales pressure.  A lot of people hate dealing with  car salesmen, who have an often-deserved reputation for deception and high-pressure sales tactics.

For these buyers, the online sales approach will be a welcome relief. (Although Nissan has ended its attempt to sell the Leaf this way, handing the car over to dealers to sell conventionally.)

It’s possible to buy a Model S without ever setting foot in a Tesla store. Based on the two stores I’ve visited, if you decide to visit one, the atmosphere will be friendly and low-key–offering info displays, interactive design-your-Tesla screens, and samples of interior fabrics and colors.

There will also be an actual car or two. But the prime role of Tesla store representatives is to educate the customer, not to close the deal. No surprise; they don’t get commissions on the cars they help sell.

No price haggling.  The price you see on the screen is the price you pay. Again, for people who hate the traditional car-buying process, this is a welcome relief.

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at

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Delivery to your door.  A Tesla rep will deliver the car to a location of your choice. I’m specifying my own driveway, but one early customer reportedly asked that his car be delivered to Disneyland. “Wherever makes you smile,” says Blankenship.

However, based on my experience so far, there are also some downsides to the Tesla system:

Not enough cars to look at.  Two big decisions I had to make were the exterior body color and the interior style and color. Tesla’s online and in-store configurator shows a pretty picture of a car in any available color, and with any of the various interiors. But a picture on a screen is a long way from the real car.



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

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

Enlarge Photo

The two Tesla stores near me each had only a couple of cars, in colors that were either unavailable or of no interest to me. None of the cars on display had a production interior. (Eventually the stores will have production cars on display–but only a few.)

So I had no choice but to pick my color and interior without ever seeing them in a real car. I’m not particularly happy about that.

No trade-in.  Instead of taking trade-ins, Tesla forged an agreement with an as-yet-unnamed nationwide company that buys cars for cash. If you want to “trade in” your old car for a Model S, Tesla will put you in touch with the cash-for-cars outfit–and you make your own deal with them.

Limited test drives.  With only a handful of cars available at each store, customers may not be able to test-drive the configuration they want. The Model S, for example, offers four different power levels and two suspension choices.

No price haggling.  Some people just hate paying retail. Buyers who enjoy beating a salesman down to a rock-bottom price will have to grit their teeth and pay the sticker price.

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For three years, I’ve been telling people my 2012 Tesla Model S would cost $49,000 (approximating the base price of $57,400 minus the $7,500 Federal tax credit).

But “options creep” and sales tax bumped up the final number on the check I’ll be writing  to more than (gulp) $70,000.  I won’t realize the tax credit until next April 15.

The big option bombshell was my move up to the mid-size 60-kWh battery, at a cost of $10,000.

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

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

Enlarge Photo

My Model S has to be able to make it from my home in upstate New York to New York City and back, about 120 miles. At first I assumed the base 40-kWh  battery, with a listed range of 160 miles,  would do the trick.

But after watching the electric range of my Chevrolet Volt drop by 40 percent when the temperature fell to the teens, I began to doubt that the Model S would have sufficient winter legs for the NYC trip.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told me he expects the winter range loss to be “closer to 20 percent than 40 percent.”  That would put me at 128 miles, right on the bubble. But Tesla has no hard data on range loss in cold weather at the moment.

Faced with this uncertainty, I felt I had no choice but to go with the bigger battery. Yeah, it’s a lot of money for a little peace of mind. But presumably I’ll get some of that extra cost back in added value when I eventually sell or trade it.

Air suspension is a $1500 “option” that’s mandatory on all cars delivered before 2013. Not willing to delay delivery to trade down, I had to check the box.

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

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

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Only two body colors–white and black–are available at the base price.

Not fond of either color, I opted to spring for an extra $750 for metallic dark green paint. I’m hoping it’s something like the  British Racing Green I remember on my Dad’s MG many years ago.

Having already spent $12,250 on options, I figured $1,500 more for a leather interior would hardly matter.  (I know, I know…..)

At least I had the willpower to forgo the 21-inch wheels, moon roof, high-tech package, and super sound system.

The total came to $71,150.  Add in a delivery fee ($990), inspection, prep, and coordination ($180), sales tax ($5,876), and registration fees ($157.50), then subtract the $5,000 deposit I putdown three years ago, and the final number on the check will be $73,357.

Holy crap.

Will the car be worth it?  Stay tuned.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fourth article for High Gear Media.

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By David Noland

Want To Trade Your Tesla Roadster In For A 2012 Model S? Now You Can

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

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

Enlarge Photo

If you’ve ever purchased a car, the chances are you’ll be familiar with the concept of trade-ins: giving the dealer your old car– and the equity contained within it–as a down-payment on a newer model.

Now electric automaker Tesla Motors is offering a similar trade-in deal for owners of its first electric car: the Tesla Roadster. 

Sell Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA} your old two-seat roadster, and it will give you a substantial discount on a brand new 2012 Tesla Model S. 

Traditionally, although trade-in deals offer car buyers a convenient way to get rid of their old car, trade-in values are much less than private sale prices. 

After trade in, unless your old car is still relatively new or in demand, the dealer then sells your car on for profit at a used car auction. 

From there, it makes its way to a used car lot. 

At face value, Tesla’s trade-in deal seems to operate like any other, but there’s a few twists which make it very different. 

First, there’s no dealer. Tesla customers ordering a 2012 Model S can opt to sell their car back to Tesla. 

Thanks to extensive service records and remote diagnostics, Tesla can accurately value a traded-in Roadster before it even arrives. 

And rather than go onto a used car lot, Tesla is planning to sell traded-in Roadsters at its stores, ensuring used Tesla customers get the same level of service it offers it new car customers. 

Second, thanks to a limited production run of around 2,600 cars, Tesla Roadsters have kept their value. 

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

Enlarge Photo

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Tesla expects a 4-year-old Tesla Roadster with 31,000 miles to sell for around $73,300. 

Even assuming a lower trade-in value, Tesla Roadster owners with cars in good condition could end up buying a brand-new top-spec Model S–which costs upwards of $100,000, depending on options– for less than $30,000.

In order to do that, they will have to trade their old Roadster in, of course. 

With the base level Model S costing $57,400 before incentives, and a good-condition 2010 Roadster selling for much more, some owners may find that Tesla has to cut them a check for the difference. 

Third, because Tesla still offers upgrade packages for Roadster owners, allowing them to upgrade a 1.5 or 2.0 Roadster to the same specification as the last Roadster to roll off the production line, almost any age Tesla can be given a new lease of life. 

This means that instead of waiting for the right spec Tesla Roadster to come along, those looking to buy a used Tesla can simply ask the automaker to upgrade their car to the right specifications. 

Finally, by starting a trade-in program for its iconic Roadster, Tesla gets an extra model of car to sell alongside the 2012 Model S. 

And of course, for those who couldn’t afford the Tesla Roadster first time around, there’s just a slim chance that maybe, just maybe, they can grab a used one at a more sensible price.

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By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield