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Driven: Tesla’s Model S to spark new era

Re-energise: Tesla said its Model S is an extremely important car which it hopes will jump start the electric vehicle movement and keep it running.

Free charging and 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and make Tesla’s Model S a game-changer


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12 Dec 2014

TESLA’S all-electric Model S sedan officially arrived in Australia this week with the American company announcing it was embarking on a pioneering plan which will see free charging stations connect Brisbane to Melbourne by 2016.

It’s a move which could dramatically change the landscape of transportation in Australia and jump-start the electric vehicle movement after years of stalling due to a lack of charging infrastructure and overly expensive models that lacked the good looks and performance abilities of their combustion cousins.

Speaking at the launch of the Model S this week Tesla United States spokesperson Alexis Georgeson said the company firmly believes its green machine ticks all of the boxes that buyers have been seeking in an EV.

“We have built a product that I truly believe is no compromise and that is something perhaps no manufacturer has successfully been able to do with an electric vehicle so far,” she said.

“I won’t name names but a lot of the other electric vehicles you see aren’t particularly compelling in the sense that they are either low range, their performance isn’t great and the styling isn’t always beautiful.

“I think we’ve designed a car that doesn’t scream ‘I’m electric’, it looks like a beautiful sedan, it has incredible performance and with 500km of range you don’t have to worry abut charging in day-to-day driving.

“That is how you really break the barrier for an electric vehicle – you create a car that is no compromise and compelling.”

Tesla communications and marketing manager Heath Walker stressed the significance of the car in attempting to win over an Australian market with an apathetic view to EVs.

“It’s extremely important,” he said.

“I think what’s great about Model S is that it’s been proven to work elsewhere.”

Australia is the last major market to launch the Model S, but Mr Walker said this gives the car a better chance of success as it features the latest software, while the delay has also allowed brand awareness to grow.

Mr Walker refused to outline sales goals, adding it was not Tesla policy to do so, but said expectations are high.

“I don’t think that it’s uncommon for Elon [Musk – Tesla’s CEO] to say that demand is outstripping supply and that is pretty similar here. We have big expectations for this country but we’re also outdoing those expectations as well.”

The Model S’s price point is also seen by Tesla as a major part of its strategy to attract customers.

Ms Georgeson said the company’s no-dealership policy with direct sales between the manufacturer and customer means the price is fixed throughout Australia and relatively low for a premium sports sedan.

“We really don’t believe in price gouging people,” she said.

“We want this car to cost the same throughout the world. We want our profit margin to be the same across all boards because we truly believe it is unfair if we charge double for this car simply because other manufacturers have figured out a way of doing it in this country.”

Consisting of four variants the Model S line-up kicks off with the 60 for $91,400 plus on-road costs, steps up to the 85 for $103,400, then $109,500 for the 85D, while the range topping P85D costs $133,500.

The 60 gets its name from the 60kWh battery that supplies electricity to the 285kW motor driving the rear wheels. It’s enough to propel this base variant from 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds and onto a top speed of 190km/h. Range is 390km.

The 85 has the same motor but is equipped with an 85kWh battery which provides enough juice to cut the 0-100km/h time to 5.6 seconds with a top speed of 250km/h and a 502km range.

A dual motor version called the 85D has less range at 475km, but has a 140kW motor on the front axle and another on the rear providing even better acceleration with 0-100km/h coming in 5.4.

With a range of 460km the P85D is the performance variant and packs a serious punch with a 350kW rear motor and 165kW motor at the front throwing the car from 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds. That’s as quick as a Ferrari 458, but costs a fifth of the price and seats five adults. Tesla has declared it the fastest accelerating production four-door sedan on the planet.

Standard across the range is 19-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights and LED running lights, a massive 17-inch touchscreen and media system, keyless entry, driver seat on-off function, reversing camera, climate control, power and heated front seats, plus a 40 Amp single-phase wall connector.

Tesla said that with the number of personal touches that can be added, no two Model S cars are likely to be exactly the same.

The cars come standard in either solid black or white. Metallic paint in silver, grey or blue costs $900, while pearl white and red multi-coat is $1800.

Adding 21-inch wheels costs $5100 and a glass panoramic roof is $3100.

In the cabin, buyers gets imitation leather and piano black trim as standard but can option leather upholstery for $1800, while wood trim costs $800 and carbon trim for $1000.

Other options include air suspension for $2800 which uses GPS to raise and lower the car’s ride height, the Premium Interior Package brings Nappa leather and LED lighting, a Tech Package adds Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system and navigation for $5200, while the $3100 Ultra High Fidelity Sound has 12 speakers.

Optional only on the P85D is a carbon-fibre rear spoiler for $1200.

The aluminum-bodied Model S has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating with six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, plus a crash sensor for high-voltage disconnection.

Owners can charge the car at home with a wall unit which they must install at their own cost and pay for the electricity used. Public units called Superchargers are being installed first between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne at 200km intervals next year, with Brisbane connected in 2016.

The Supercharger will be free to use and can fill a car’s battery to full capacity from empty in about an hour or halfway in 20 minutes. Tesla said Superchargers will be free to use for the life of the car.

The 85, 85D and P85D come Supercharger-enabled as standard, however, it is a $2700 option for the 60.

The top three Model S variants come with an eight-year/unlimited kilometre battery and drive unit warranty. The 60 is covered for eight years and 200,000km.

Potential buyers should be aware that they will not get immediate delivery of their new ride. Tesla’s retail model has owners coming into an outlet, ordering their car after picking its options and waiting for the car to be built in California before being shipped to Australia.

Tesla said that if a buyer was to order a 60 or 85 today they can expect a March 2015 delivery time.

Free fuel for life with supercar performance at a relatively low price though could make this well worth the wait.

Tesla Model S pricing*
*Excludes on-road costs.

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