YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Saturday Drive: 2012 Tesla Model S

Start off your weekend of motoring with a quick take on something fast, fun, rare or weird that's recently grabbed our attention in the automotive world.

June 30, 2012|By David Undercoffler | Los Angeles Times

The car: 2013 Tesla Model S

The power: 362 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque coming from an 85 kWh battery and a rear-mounted, liquid-cooled, AC induction motor routing power to the rear wheels.

The photos: Tesla Model S

The speed: 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds

The bragging rights: World's first all-electric luxury sedan (though it's technically a hatchback).

The price: Between $57,400 and $95,400 without options and before any federal or state tax credits. As tested: $81,150 (estimated).

The details: The first of the Tesla Model SÂ’ vehicles are finally starting to roll into owners' hands after several years of gestation, customer deposits and partnerships with the likes of Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. This is the first vehicle the Silicon Valley company has built from the ground up; its first car was the all-electric, two-seat Roadster that was loosely based on the Lotus Elise and is no longer in production. The company recently announced a third vehicle, the Model X crossover, which is expected to land in customer hands in 2014. Tesla says it expects to build 5,000 Model S cars this year and an ambitious 20,000 in 2013.

The Model S is an all-electric vehicle powered by one of three battery choices. A base model with a 40 kWh battery and a projected range of 160 miles will be available this winter for $57,400. It's expected to hit 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Its battery has an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and the rest of the car (as is the case with all Model SÂ’ vehicles) has a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty.

An additional $10,000 will get you an estimated 230-mile range and a 5.9-second 0-60 time from a 60 kWh battery. It should be available this fall and the battery'Â’s warranty jumps to 125,000 miles. Horsepower and torque figures for this and the base model have yet to be released.

Finally, for $77,400, you can the model we tested. It comes with an 85 kWh battery pack good for an EPA-estimated 265 miles (Tesla says it wiÂ’ll get 300 miles on one charge) and a 5.6-second 0-60 time. Power comes in at 362 horses and 325 pound-feet of torque, and thereÂ’'s unlimited mileage on the battery'Â’s warranty.

If you have $15,000 more lying around (and frankly, who doesnÂ’'t these days?), Tesla will grant you a performance variant of this top-end model. It uses the same battery but swaps in a more powerful inverter, netting in the process 416 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque and a scant acceleration time of 4.4 seconds. This model also comes standard with the Tech package (HD backup camera, LED foglights, turn-by-turn navigation, power liftgate and Xenon lights) that runs $3,750 on other models, and an upgraded sound system and an active air suspension.

(Note that all the above availability dates are for customers who have already put down a fully refundable $5,000 deposit. Tesla says if you were to walk into a showroom today and order a Model S, you could expect to get it in your grubby little paws next May. Also, all prices mentioned do not include any state or federal tax incentives or rebates. And no, we're not going to fall into the rabbit hole of how many of your tax dollars did or did not go to Tesla and why that is or is not a complete waste of your money. We're here to drive, people, not to debate.)

All versions come with a mobile charging unit that can use a 110v, 240v or public charging station, which Tesla says can recharge fully the batteries in six to 10 hours. The company says a home charging station will run buyers about $1,200 and will recharge the batteries from empty to full in less than four hours. Finally, Tesla says it is working to build public "supercharging" stations along major interstates where it has a high density of customers. The company says these outfits will give owners a 50% charge in 30 minutes, though this method isn't recommended for regular use since it affects the long-term storage capacity of the batteries.

The Model S is pegged as a mid-size luxury car, in line with something like a BMW 5-Series, and its size backs this up. Five adults fit comfortably inside, with the added benefit of a flat floor in the back seats so the middle passenger has plenty of legroom. A pair of rear-facing kid seats are a $1,500 option for the car's trunk (remember, it's a hatcback, so your precious cargo has a view out the back. And air to breath). Because the Model S is electric, it also has the benefit of a second, smaller trunk in the front of the car (where most of our gas-burning hogs keep their engines), which Tesla adorably calls the Frunk.

Los Angeles Times Articles