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Future models - Tesla - Model S

Tesla’s electric sports sedan draws nearer

Sleeker sedan: Tesla's tweaked Model S appears almost ready for production.

New frontal styling for Model S as Tesla readies battery-powered seven-seat sedan

Tesla logo8 Jun 2011

By MIKE COSTELLO

NEW pictures of Tesla Motors’ revolutionary Model S sedan reveal fresh frontal styling for the battery-powered luxury car that will hit Australian roads in two years.

The Californian electric vehicle maker, whose $220,000-plus plug-in Roadster was the first factory EV to become available here in March, has been conducting ‘Alpha’ phase testing of the Model S since last year.

Priced between about $120,000 and $150,000 depending on the size of the battery pack, the Model S will enter the final – or ‘Beta’ – range of tests before production commences in the middle of next year.

Right hand-drive production is set to follow within a year and the rear-wheel drive sports sedan will be the first car in Australia to be priced according to driving range, as opposed to engine output.

Three battery options are likely to be offered here from mid-2013 – all of them offering a spirited 0-96km/h acceleration claim of just 5.6 seconds and a top speed of around 200km/h.

Tesla will launch the Model S in Australia in style, however, with a special-edition Signature version set to be the first variant delivered.

Close to 50 Australians have placed orders for the all-electric luxury sedan (among 4000 pre-orders worldwide), including 14 for the Model S Signature.

As well as a range of colours and options not likely to be available on lesser models, the flagship Signature grade will come with the maximum 480km-range battery pack – up from 255km for the entry-level Model S and 370km for more expensive variants.

Prospective customers will have to fork out for the privilege, however, with a hefty $40,000 reservation deposit required. The standard Model S can be locked away for a more sensible $6000 down payment.

Tesla Motors Australia national sales and marketing manager Jay McCormack told GoAuto that, as in the US, the Model S will be pitched at established premium large sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class when it arrives in Australia.

It will, however, have a distinct accommodation advantage over its German sedan rivals, with clever packaging design accounting for the fitment of a third-row of rear-facing children’s seats similar to those in the E-class Estate.

55 center imageLeft: Tesla Model S 'Alpha' prototype. Second from bottom: Model S concept. Bottom: Model S Alpha earlier this year.

It is not clear whether Australian Design Rules will allow the Model S to offer the token seven-person seating option here but the ground-breaking sedan, which appears for the first time in a menacing black paint scheme, appears to have retained the aggressive front intakes that debuted on the first Alpha prototype.

Tesla’s latest images reveal a chrome grille design that was absent on the original Alpha prototype first revealed earlier this year, but which mirrors the sleek design of the original Model S concept from 2009.

Tesla plans to produce a total of 20,000 examples of the Model S annually and claims the battery packs will retain 70 per cent of their initial capacity after seven years or 160,000km.

The Model S will be Tesla’s second production vehicle after the Roadster, but it will be left to fly the company flag solo after the Silicon Valley-based company ceases production of the latter this December.

It won’t be alone in the Tesla stable for long, however. Tesla recently announced its plan to end Roadster production in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in which it also detailed plans to make a public offering of 5.3 million shares to help fund the development of the Model X crossover SUV it has previously spruiked.

Little else is known about the Model X at this stage, although Tesla hopes to develop a prototype by the end of 2011 before releasing it in the US by the end of 2013.

Mitsubishi’s pioneering i-MiEV city-car was the first factory EV to hit Australian roads last year, but is yet to become available to the public.

Before the Model S and X arrive here, the Roadster and i-MiEV will be joined on sale here next year by up to three plug-in five-door mid-sizers - Nissan’s all-electric Leaf city-car and two plug-in hybrids in the Holden Volt and Toyota Prius PHV.

The plug-in Prius’ maximum zero-emissions driving range of 20km is a quarter of the Volt’s electric-only range of up to 80km, which in turn is half of Nissan’s 160km claim for the pure-EV Leaf.

The plug-in Prius, however, can travel as far as the existing Prius hybrid, while the Volt employs an engine-generator that extends the car’s total range to a Tesla-beating 600km – about the same as a conventional small car.

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