Sneak Peek: 2012 Tesla Model S
Consumer Guide’s Impressions of the 2012 Tesla Model S
An electric vehicle for the masses? Not quite, but this $ 50,000 sedan from Silicon Valley is a practical battery-powered midsize car that’s also sleek, fast and luxurious.
What We Know About the 2012 Tesla Model S
It’s only the second act from Silicon Valley’s only automaker, but the recently revealed 2012 Tesla Model S is generating more buzz than even the slick battery-powered Tesla Roadster. Unlike many pure electric vehicles (EVs) that resemble glorified golf carts and run out of juice after a few miles, the Model S is a midsize luxury sedan that can carry five to seven passengers at least 160 miles on a charge and will blast 0-60 mph in a claimed 5.6 seconds. You can recharge it in as little as 45 minutes, or swap out its advanced lithium-ion (LI) battery pack in just five. And of course, it emits not a whiff of planet-warming carbon dioxide or any other gases.
Moreover, the 2012 Tesla Model S is a looker. Some liken the styling, penned by former Mazda designer Fritz van Holzhausen, to Jaguar XF-meets-Maserati Quattroporte. Yet the sleek lines disguise a practical hatchback design with a 60/40 split-fold rear seat and enough claimed total cargo volume to tote a surfboard, a 50-inch flat-panel TV and a mountain bike all at once. There’s also a separate trunk under the hood, where an engine would normally be, reflecting the compact electric drivetrain with batteries tucked beneath the seats.
All very impressive, but is the 2012 Tesla Model S too good to be true? Well, the price is rather steep at $ 56,400, though a $ 7500 “green car” federal tax credit trims that to $ 49,900. More crucially, production is over two years away and depends on–you guessed it–federal funding. Shades of Chrysler LLC and General Motors. Yet despite the deepening recession, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is confident that Washington will approve at least one of his company’s pending loan applications: A $ 250 million grant under a 2005 clean-energy appropriation and a separate $ 450 million request from a 2007 authorization for EV ventures.
However that plays out, Musk declares the Model S “will be manufactured, it will come to market. You should have zero doubt about that.” Assuming the feds come through with fair dispatch, production should be underway as planned by the third quarter of 2011, with initial deliveries slated for early 2012.
Musk is a co-founder of the PayPal online service, which made him a fortune when it was sold to eBay. He joined Tesla in 2004, a year after the firm was founded. Tesla has since made a big splash with its $ 109,000 electric Roadster sports car, based on the British Lotus Elise, but is now low on cash due to delays and cost overruns on that project, plus a $ 50 million tab to develop the Model S. To date, Tesla has delivered some 300 Roadsters and has a 1000-customer waiting list, but it needs more money to buy a larger factory and to set up a dealer network. Tesla raised $ 186 million from private sources, including $ 55 million from Musk himself, but that’s well short of near-term capital needs that total a reported $ 250 to $ 300 million. Recently, German automaker Daimler AG acquired an equity stake of nearly 10 percent of Tesla, but the official statement announcing the move did not reveal the amount of the investment.
But let’s get back to the Model S. Tesla hasn’t yet released details on motor type and output, battery supplier, suspension design, or even dimensions. However, it does confirm the car is close in size to a BMW 5-Series wagon and has a base weight of around 4,900 pounds. Tesla also says that buyers will have a choice of three battery packs: A standard setup giving a maximum 160-mile range, an optional array good for up to 230 miles, and a premium pack that could run up to 300 miles per charge. In all cases the company quotes a “useful” battery life of 5-7 years depending on driving style, operating temperatures and charge cycles, but notes that “proper care can result in a 10-year life.”
For more inside information on hundreds of new cars of today and tomorrow, check out:
- Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for hundreds of new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide.
- Fuel-Economy Leaders: The EPA admits its fuel economy numbers are estimates. Ours are real. Here are the fuel-economy leaders as determined in Consumer Guide tests.
- Electric Cars: The 2012 Tesla Model S will compete in the Electric Car class. Here’s Consumer Guide’s roundup of all the electric cars on sale today.
- 2009 Consumer Guide Best Buy and Recommended Award Winners: Check out which cars won our Best Buy and Recommended awards for 2009.
- Future Cars: Step into the automotive showroom of tomorrow with reviews, analysis, pictures, prices, and preliminary specifications on scores of vehicles that will be appearing next year and beyond.
- SP-REPAIR BOOK
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