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First Look: 2012 Tesla Model S Surfaces

By KBB.com Editors on March 30, 2009 2:42 PM
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Boasting sleek lines, a spacious interior, a choice of range-enhancing battery packs and a pricetag barely half of the original Tesla Roadster, the 2012 Tesla Model S luxury plug-in sedan has finally arrived, at least in prototype form. Revealed in Hawthorne, California inside of the SpaceX rocket factory that's also owned by Tesla's head man Elon Musk, the Model S is due to go into production in late 2011. It's now set to sticker at $57,400 but will be eligible for a $7,500 federal income tax credit.

Styled by ex-Mazda styling ace Franz von Holzhausen, the Model S has an aggressively elegant flair that recalls current Jaguar and Aston-Martin offerings, but brings its own unique grille treatment and also incorporates a full panoramic roof. Big 21-inch wheels match with relatively short overhangs to further accentuate the athletic stance of this zero-emissions sedan. Inside, the Model S provides formal seating for five with an option to add a pair of rear-facing fold-down kid perches that can occupy the otherwise huge glassed-in trunk. A 17-inch center touch-screen display links all of the car's on-board electronic systems into a highly-customizable matrix and incorporates both 3G wireless Internet and HD/satellite radio into the mix. In keeping with its fundamentally green character, the Italian leather upholstery in the Model S uses a chrome-free vegetable tanning process to bring out its suppleness.

Like its Roadster cousin, the 3,825-pound Model S promises to deliver scintillating performance. Musk pegs the 0-60 mph time of a base vehicle at under six seconds and says the top speed will be electronically limited to 130 mph with future Sport variants being even quicker and faster. Big Brembo anti-lock brakes will handle the stopping chores in all models. Buyers will be able to choose between three different Lithium-ion battery packs that offer ranges of 160, 220 and 300 miles. All three can be replenished via the car's on-board charger using 120, 240 or 480 volt circuits. At the maximum juice jolt, a full recharge will take roughly 45 minutes. The design also will accommodate a complete battery swap-out in five minutes. An all-wheel drive package is also under development.

For all its ambition, the ultimate fate of the Model S is still somewhat contingent the approval of Tesla's petition for a $350 million federal loan from Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. However, Musk is confident that the money, which is earmarked to build a dedicated assembly plant somewhere in Southern California, will arrive shortly. Tesla, which has already build and delivered over 300 Roadsters, anticipates turning out some 20,000 units per year after this new facility achieves its full capacity sometime in 2012. Currently the Roadster is assembled by Lotus Cars at its plant in Hethel, England.

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