Just because Tesla is discontinuing its Lotus-based Roadster doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening at the California-based electric vehicle maker to be excited about.
On the contrary, the startup was busy last week offering test rides in the pending Model S to around 2,000 customers who’d RSVP’d to invites after putting down $5,000 pre-order deposits.
Tesla says it actually has over 6,000 paid pre-orders for the far-more-accessibly priced series of luxurious and sporty EVs due to be launched mid-2012.
The company is also expected to introduce its Model X crossover in November at the LA Auto Show, and that vehicle is due in 2013 or 2014.
As for the S, Tesla opened the doors of its factory, and slotted in test rides for the vehicle now said to be able to zip from 0-60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds.
“That’s quicker than a 911,” said company CEO Elon Musk comparing his battery-powered car to the venerable Porsche Carrera. “Not bad for an electric luxury sedan.”
And to be sure, development of the S has come along a fair way since we last pre-reviewed it, and at the time sub-6 second 0-60 sprints were in the offing.
For that write-up, some readers spoke favorably, while a few others offered such choice comments as the S was nothing more than “vaporware,” and someone in the U.S. government would one day answer to a hearing for loaning Tesla $465 million.
Ah opinions. They make the world go round, don’t they?
As for us, we’ll just hand over a few brief facts.
The base Model S is to be sold for $57,400 and offer a range of 160 miles. For a respective addition of $10,000 or $20,000 more, buyers can get larger battery packs offering 230 or 320 miles range.
The max-distance version will be made possible by aero wheels to add 20 extra miles to an estimated 300 miles for the full-power S.
Although it looks like a sedan, the S is actually a cleverly disguised hatchback, meant to accommodate five people, plus two people under 4-feet, 11-inch (read: kids) in jump seats in the back.
It will be built in Fremont. Calif., at a plant once used by GM and Toyota to assemble compact cars, but this is a car being compared to the Maserati Quattroporte for its aesthetic features and performance.
Top speed is said to be a limited 130 mph – not enough to blow away Euro supercars, but enough to get you a free ride in a police car just the same.
Inside the sleek interior will be such amenities as a 17-inch touch screen displaying data from a 4G infotainment system.
Tesla will also get the ball rolling on this country’s still-limited recharging infrastructure with fast DC charging in several locations along California’s I-5.
The company says recharge time even for the 85-kwh battery pack in the 320-mile version will be under one hour.
A 240-volt Level 2 charger should take around 5 hours, Tesla says.
As for the Model X (sorry, no photos yet), Musk said “the time is right to unveil” that vehicle as well, which could be four-wheel-drive capable, although that’s not confirmed.
Musk has said previously that the Model X will be the “coolest SUV” available, and its existence has been known about since last summer.
Tesla’s manufacturing chief Gilbert Passan said Tesla’s Fremont factory “had been fitted and equipped with the ability to manufacture multiple body styles off the same platform from its conception.”
The X is expected to be as luxurious as the Model S, albeit more utility focused with ability to carry seven adults.
In June Tesla raised an additional $210 million to pay for Model X development, and this vehicle may sell for a bit more than the Model S.
Otherwise, the company has planned to introduce models in a descending order of price. It started at the high end with a $100,000-plus two-seater, but this was a splash leading toward more bread and butter cars planned in coming years.
First off, the base S takes the company a lot closer in that direction, and is just around $10,000 more than a fully-optioned 2012 Chevy Volt.
Assuming Tesla’s plans come to fruition, it intends to keep offering lower priced models, including an electric city car to sell in the $30,000 range, and who know what else in coming years?