Reviews

2015 Tesla Model S 70D: Around the Block

The novelty goes mainstream.

With just the whine of electric motors and the whoosh of tires against pavement, we’re blasting past slow-moving traffic on Woodward Avenue without using a drop of gasoline. The 2015 Tesla Model S 70D may be the company’s entry-level model, but the performance from its twin electric motors has us seriously wowed.

Like every Tesla Model S, the 70D’s acceleration is instantaneous and unending. With no shift points or drops in torque, planting your right foot forces your passengers into their leather seats as the numbers on the digital speedometer soar. All-wheel drive now comes standard on the base Tesla Model S, as the 70D replaces last year’s rear-wheel-drive Model S 60 at the bottom of the food chain. The extra traction helps our car hustle away from a stop on rain-slicked pavement with no drama.

As the name suggests, the car’s battery pack has been enlarged from 60 kWh to 70 kWh, and driving range on a full charge climbs from 208 miles with the outgoing Model S 60 to 240 miles with the 70D. The dual-motor powertrain also means quicker acceleration (5.2 seconds to 60 mph versus 5.9) and a greater top speed (140 mph instead of 120 mph) than the outgoing Model S 60.

Electric propulsion comes with more benefits than just smooth, torquey acceleration. Without an internal combustion engine, the 2015 Tesla Model S 70D is eerily silent on the road; we can eavesdrop on pedestrians’ phone calls at crosswalks and we barely need to raise our voices to hold our own conversations. You don’t even need to use the brake pedal very often, as the regenerative braking kicks in as soon as you lift the accelerator to slow the Tesla as briskly as you’ll need for city driving.

What’s most impressive about this 2015 Tesla Model S 70D is that it proves electric cars don’t have to be toys. Though it’s built by a startup known for a quirky Lotus-based electric sports car, Tesla’s Model S sedan is refined enough to compete with cars from long-established automakers. And with more than 67,000 copies sold worldwide, the Model S is starting to look like more than just a fad.

“More than any other Tesla before it, the 70D strikes me as a legitimate competitor to cars like a BMW 5 Series or a Mercedes-Benz E-Class,” said associate web editor Joey Capparella. “Before, it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky early-adopter’s toy, but now I can see many more buyers considering a Model S.”

The 70D packs more standard equipment than before, including navigation on its enormous centrally mounted touchscreen, and the addition of all-wheel drive makes it easier to sell the Tesla to shoppers who drive in snow. While the starting price of $76,200 puts the Model S 70D squarely into luxury-car territory, it’s less than you might pay for a comparably equipped German sedan with this much horsepower on tap. That’s only a $5,000 increase over the previous entry-level Model S 60, which is how much Tesla usually charges just for adding AWD to a Model S. Given that the new car also has improved performance, a longer driving range, and extra standard features, the 70D’s price tag is actually a bargain.

As much as we enjoy driving the Model S, we also like that it makes life easy for its driver and passengers. The Model S boasts super-intuitive controls on the touchscreen (only the hazard lights, transmission, windshield wipers, and power windows have physical switches), build quality rivaling a Lexus, and a comfortable ride that soaks up the worst potholes we can find. Fitting five people into the Model S reminds us how easily the Tesla could work as a family sedan, especially given the generous sizing of the front and rear trunks.

“This cabin is airy, spacious, and thoughtfully packaged,” said senior editor David Zenlea. “The center console is scooped out in the back to provide more room for the middle-seat passenger, and there is no transmission tunnel to eat up his or her legroom. Small details, but it’s part of what makes the Model S special.”

The Tesla Model S blew us away when we first drove it three years ago, and the magic continues today. From minor software updates to the addition of all-wheel drive, Tesla has continued to tweak and refine its pioneering electric sedan into something any car shopper would lust after. Its blend of efficiency, a super-futuristic driving experience, and a luxurious cabin helps the car appeal to a far greater swath of car shoppers than just tech-savvy Silicon Valley residents. With all those virtues and a competitive starting price, the 2015 Tesla Model S 70D makes a serious case for switching from a gas-powered luxury sedan.

2015 Tesla Model S 70D Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Base Price: $76,200
  • Engine: Twin electric motors/329 hp, N/A lb-ft
  • Battery: 70-kWh lithium-ion
  • Transmission: 1-speed automatic
  • Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-/rear-engine, AWD sedan
  • EPA Driving Range: 240 miles
  • 0-60 mph: 5.2 sec
  • Top speed: 140 mph
  • L x W x H: 196.0 x 77.3 x 56.5 in
  • Wheelbase: 116.5 in
  • Weight: N/A lb
  • Headroom (first/second row): 38.8/35.3 in
  • Legroom (first/second row): 42.7/35.4 in
  • Shoulder room (first/second row): 57.7/55.0 in
  • Cargo room (rear/front trunk): 26.3 / N/A cu ft

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