Putting the “new” in the ULTIMATE NEW CAR GUIDE.
Tesla, known for its Lotus-based electric Roadster, started from scratch with this effort. The aluminum chassis, the streamlined styling, and, most important, the battery-electric power source, were all internally developed. That motor will eventually come in four varieties that scale up in battery range — Tesla estimates the increments at 160, 230, and 300 miles — and straight-line performance. The top-of-the-line Model S Signature Performance will hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. It also handles extraordinarily well, a credit to the low center of gravity provided by the floor-mounted batteries and some fine chassis tuning. An enormous touch screen dominates a modern, austere cabin. There’s plenty of room for five adults. If you opt for rear-facing third-row seats, two children can fit, too. Front and rear compartments offer plenty of room for luggage. All these qualities make the novel Model S a rather sensible alternative to the typical mid-size luxury sedan. Be mindful, though, that this is an unproven product from a young company. There’s also the matter of recharging. Tesla is installing so-called super-chargers throughout the country that can replenish a 300-mile range in only an hour, but a more typical 240-volt charger will need about five hours to accomplish the same feat.
new for 2013
Practically everything, beyond some familiar Mercedes Benz–supplied switchgear.
Front head, knee, and pelvis air bags; rear side curtain air bags; ABS; stability control; and rollover and crash sensors (the latter disconnects the battery in an accident) are standard.
Impressive battery range
Base Price Range: $57,400–$106,570
TRIM LEVELS: Model S, Performance, Signature, Signature Performance
BODY STYLE: Sedan, 5-passenger
MOTORS: AC induction, 362/416 hp, 325/443 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 1-speed direct drive
PASSENGER VOLUME: N/A
CARGO SPACE: (rear seats up/down) 31.6/63.4 cu ft