At a glance, its shape appears to be a cross between an Aston Martin and a Maserati, albeit its roofline is similar to BMW’s 5 Series Gran Turismo concept. It has conventional seating for five adults, but there are also two rear-facing jump seats for two children – just like an old Ford Taurus wagon. Tesla claims the spacious interior can simultaneously swallow a 50-inch television, a mountain bike, and a surfboard when the seats are folded down.
Under the hood is, well, nothing. In front there is actually a trunk, the battery pack lies under the floor. The battery is made up of 8,000 cells giving the car a range of up to 300 miles. Power from the battery goes to a liquid-cooled 9-inch motor with a single-speed transaxle sending power to the rear wheels. According to the company, all-wheel-drive will be an option on future models.
Charging the Model S is easily done through an 110V, 220V, or 440V connection to the car’s on board charger. Charging can take as little as 45 minutes, or a new auxiliary battery, mounted underneath the floor, can be swapped in less than 5 minutes. Tesla suggests larger versions of these battery packs can be sold, leased, or rented for long journeys.
Despite its large battery, the Model S weighs just 3,825 lbs. To keep the weight down Tesla used mostly aluminum in the body construction. It also gave the car a slippery drag coefficient of about .27, for comparison the Roadster’s is .35.
Early performance estimates say the EV will make the sprint to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and the quarter mile should take only 14 seconds. Top speed will be limited to 120 mph. Tesla says there will also be a performance model that will go zero to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
Inside, Model S features all the convenience of the latest iPhone. It has full-time 3G wireless connectivity to the internet, and also features both HD and satellite radio. A large 17-inch touchscreen is housed in the center stack and boasts customizable displays. Seating and surfaces in the cabin wear chrome-free vegetable tanned Italian leather, and the carpet is made of a material consisting of recycled plastic.
Tesla expects to start building the Model S in the third quarter of 2011. The company is hoping to receive a $350 million federal loan to build the Model S assembly plant in California from the Dept of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. The anticipated base price will be $49,900 after a federal tax credit of $7,500, with no word yet on options pricing.