A high-performance version of the Tesla Model S saloon will be available from the car’s launch in 2012, giving the electric car maker a rival for the BMW M5.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed the fast saloon’s launch today alongside the unveiling of the near-production ready ‘Beta’ Model S development car at a special event for Model S reservation holders in Silicon Valley, California.
Musk said the performance version of the all-electric luxury saloon would be offered with a battery pack with a 300-mile range. Other versions of the car at launch come with battery packs that allow for 160-mile and 230-mile ranges, alongside a standard version of the 300-mile range car.
The performance version comes with enhanced power electrics to cut its 0-60mph time from 5.5sec to 4.6sec.
Musk also confirmed that the Model S would be offered with optional aerodynamic wheels, boosting the range of the 300-mile range cars by 20 miles. The range figure has already been ratified by the EPA, which publishes independent figures for electric cars in the US.
“People were sceptical about whether we could build an electric car with a 300-mile range,” said Musk. “And we’ve gone and made one with a 320-mile range.”
Tesla has also followed through with its promise to equip the BMW 5-series-sized Model S with seating for five adults and two children, with two rear facing seats in the boot offering accommodation for children up to 4ft11ins tall.
If those two rearmost seats are not being used, there is rear luggage space to match the 5-series as well as a front luggage space with equal capacity. “This gives us twice the luggage space of a BMW 5-series with similar exterior dimensions,” said Musk.
The PayPal co-founder, who also owns space exploration firm SpaceX, added that the Model S will have industry-leading aerodynamics, grand piano-quality paint finishes, the largest panoramic roof ever seen on a production car, a centre of gravity lower than most sports car thanks to the mounting of its battery pack in the floor, and a “sports car feel” in the way it drives.
Other features include self-adjusting air suspension and a DC fast-charging capability that will mean a full recharge of the 90kWh 300-mile range battery pack will take one hour. The battery pack can also be removed in less than a minute, a feature designed-in by Tesla in case battery swap stations ever catch on in place of fast charge stations.
The interior of the car was also shown for the first time today. It’s a dominated by a vast 17-inch touchscreen on the centre console that has 4G capabilities. The touchscreen uses Google Earth as the basis for its navigation functions and can also be used to surf the internet, respond to voice commands to search for music and display iPhone and Android apps, as well as all the control all the car’s major functions.
“It’ll be better than anyone thinks a car like this can be,” he added. “The goal with the Model S was to build the best car, not just the best electric vehicle. It can seat seven, has got two boots, a really low centre of gravity; no-one thought any of this was possible. I’m proud of this car and it’s a revolution that I hope the rest of the industry will follow.”
More than 6000 people have now paid deposits of $500 or more to secure the Model S, Musk said, which means the 2012 production run of 6000 units had already been accounted for. The 160-mile Model S will cost $50,000 with each incremental increase in the battery pack’s range adding $10,000 to the list price. The high-performance version will cost $80,000.
The UK will get right-hand drive versions of the Model S from around mid-2013 and Tesla aims to keep pricing consistent across the globe. That indicates a starting price of around £35,000 is likely, with final confirmation of European pricing to be revealed in spring 2012.