The Tesla Model 3 may be the talk of the town, but in the car world, it’s important to know where you came from. Tesla debuted the Model S luxury sedan back in 2012, and without that vehicle’s success, there would be no Model 3 or Model X — and the brand’s rumored pickup truck would likely not have gotten off the ground, either.
In many ways, the Model S is the frontman of a generation, the face of a movement. With its special combination of insane electric performance, undeniable style, and forward-thinking tech, the Model S helped make electric vehicles seem normal, while remaining unique enough to carve out a niche for itself. It’s an imperfect and divisive machine, but we can all agree it’s been an incredibly important one as well. The electric vehicle is constantly being updated and improved. From performance to safety to self-driving tech, here’s everything we know about the luxury sedan.
Tesla Model S regains top Consumer Reports rating
Consumer Reports has once again elevated the Tesla Model S as its top-rated ultra-luxury sedan, according to Left Lane News. In April of this year, Consumer Reports had dropped the Model S from its highest ranking because Tesla didn’t offer emergency autonomous braking (AEB) in older cars. This feature is worth two points on CR‘s scale.
The EV automaker had also transitioned to an in-house system that required an over-the-air update and reduced the activation speed from 90 mph to 28 mph. Even though Tesla released the update soon after CR lowered the Model S (and Model X) score, the review agency didn’t adjust its ranking until Tesla raised the activation speed back to 90 mph (which happened this month).
“Automakers should never treat safety as a luxury item,” says Consumers Union policy analyst William Wallace. “Proven, life-saving safety features should be in every new car sold, and automakers certainly should not wait until 2022 to make automatic emergency braking standard.”
Tesla discontinues its 60 and 60D versions
After a short lifespan, Tesla’s entry-level Model S 60 and 60 D (dual-motor) are being taken out of production due to low sales. The $ 67,200 Model S 60 was intended to introduce more customers into the Tesla fold — at least until the more affordable Model 3 arrives — but it would appear customers are more interested in the longer-range versions of the S.
For just a few thousand dollars more, many buyers have been choosing the Model S 75 ($ 74,000) and 75 D ($ 79,500) over the 60 counterparts. It’s important to note that the Model S 60 has the same hardware as the 75, but has been programmed to operate at lower output. That means 315 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque is available in both cars, but only the 75 is “tuned” for an additional 39 miles of range (totaling 249 miles per charge). As for the 75 D, its all-wheel drive configuration produces 328hp and 387 lb-ft of torque with a total range of 259 miles (compared to 218 miles for the 60D).
Supercharging now comes at a price
Up until now, Tesla’s expansive Supercharger network has been free and unlimited. The automaker recently announced that supercharging will come with a price from here on out, although it only applies to cars ordered after January 15, 2017. Anyone have the sudden urge to buy a used Model S?
The details of the charge are as follows — Model S and Model X vehicles ordered after January 15 will receive 400kWh of free supercharging credits each year, which works out to about 1,000 miles of usable range. According to the brand, 400kWh a year “covers the annual long-distance driving needs of the majority of our owners.”
Once 400kWh is used up, Tesla customers will be charged a fee, with the amount depending on where you live. In North America, the cost will be fixed within each state, and it will be fixed within each country overseas. To give you an idea, Tesla says a 400-mile road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles costs about $ 15. Traveling farther? A 2,800-mile trip from Los Angeles to New York is still pretty reasonable, running $ 120 if you’ve already exhausted your credits.
For full details and pricing by location, click here.
Apparently when you get this fast, you start running out of adjectives. Tesla has rolled out an over-the-air software update for the Model S and Model X P100D, and it adds a new driving mode called Ludicrous+. As its name suggests, Ludicrous+ adds about 33 horsepower to the already impressive Ludicrous mode, dropping the 0 to 60 mph time for the Model S down to just 2.4 seconds. That’s on par with the incredible Ferrari LaFerrari and other high-end exotics, further proving the performance potential of electric powertrains.
Autopilot avoids crash
Can Tesla’s Autopilot save lives in an emergency situation? That’s the question most drivers want answered, and the goal of Tesla’s Autopilot 8.0 system. Elon Musk has already claimed the autonomous safety technology is fit to task, and this dashcam footage from the Netherlands supports his statement. The video shows what we presume to be Tesla’s best-selling vehicle, the Model S, warning its driver of a potential collision before hitting the brakes automatically. As a result, the Tesla avoids plowing into what becomes a horrific crash.
@elonmusk Finally the right one. pic.twitter.com/2fspGMUoWf
— Hans Noordsij (@HansNoordsij) December 27, 2016
According to the video’s source, no one was seriously injured, but a third source of twisted metal could have changed that outcome. When Autopilot 8.0 was introduced this summer, Musk explained that the updated system could “see” through vehicles in front, and that appears to be precisely the situation here.
The Model S is a luxury car, and as such, it has a luxury price tag. Tesla has now confirmed that the base price of the least expensive Model S will be $ 2,000 more than before — whereas you used to be able to enter Tesla’s luxury market for $ 66,000, it’ll now be $ 68,000. That price increase will go into effect on November 22.
Tesla’s controversial Autopilot system is getting a significant upgrade with Version 8.0. The update sees Tesla shift from cameras to radar sensors as the primary control sensors for its vehicles, meaning the cars will “see” very differently than they used to. Radar is more adept at operating in low-visibility conditions than a camera is, making the cars safer. However, the automaker admits switching to radar brings challenges along with benefits.
Namely, radar sensors have a tendency to reflect and distort metallic objects such as road signs, which is obviously a major drawback. Tesla is well aware of this though, so it’s developed a more detailed scanning process and is implementing higher-level fleet learning into its cars. That means the vehicles will be able to communicate with each other to record and ignore objects like bridges to avoid false alerts. Before that happens though, Tesla’s fleet will simply note the position of these stationary items to compile what the automaker calls a “geocoded whitelist.”
All the necessary sensors are already in place in Teslas newer than October 2014, with the 8.0 software going out via an over-the-air update near the end of September.
Faster than Ludicrous?
The Model S is no newcomer to the EV scene, but in typical Tesla fashion, the vehicle’s development never stops. The automaker debuted a new, 100kWh battery pack for the Model S in August — calling it the P100D — and it pushed the car’s performance past “Ludicrous” levels into an arena so extreme Tesla hasn’t even named it yet.
The new battery allows the sedan to sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a mind-boggling 2.5 seconds, making it the quickest accelerating production car in the world. The P100D also features an extended range of 315 miles, however it’s important to note that number only applies to ideal weather conditions. In colder temperatures, that figure can shrink significantly.
The Model S flagship costs a whopping $ 134,500 before incentives are factored in, and the 100kWh power unit is also available for the Model X SUV.
Autopilot crashes fuel concerns over autonomy
Self-driving cars are an inevitable progression in the automotive climate, but it’s important to note that they’re not here yet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a policy on automated vehicle development back in 2013, and it features five distinct levels of autonomy. Tesla classifies its vehicles as Level 2, which NHTSA defines as “automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison.” A good example of this would be adaptive cruise control used in concert with lane keeping.
Others in the industry have argued that Tesla’s Autopilot system is in fact Level 3 technology, which would allow the driver to “cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions.” Either way, it’s clear that misconceptions about autonomous driving are everywhere, which has resulted in some unfortunate incidents.
On May 7, the first known fatality involving Autopilot occurred when a Model S crashed into a tractor-trailer that had crossed a divided highway. NHTSA is currently investigating the collision, but it’s only fair to note that the system has saved lives as well. Despite the controversy, Elon Musk claims Autopilot is twice as safe as the average human driver, but with outside pressures mounting, the system is likely to undergo big changes and upgrades in the coming months.
Bioweapon Defense Mode
In 2016, we’ve come to expect that modern cars will help protect us from crashes, but it’s nice to know that Teslas protect us from a little something extra. Namely, military-grade chemical attacks.
While it may sound like a joke, the new Model S and Model X vehicles offer what Tesla calls Bioweapon Defense Mode, which uses a state-of-the-art HEPA system to filter “99.97 percent of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria, and other contaminants from cabin air.”
To test it, Tesla parked a Model X SUV inside of a giant plastic bubble filled with toxins. In other words, another day at the office. In less than two minutes, the HEPA filters had returned the air inside the vehicle to hospitable levels, while also somewhat purifying the air outside.
Nip and tuck
Back in April, the Model S received its first major face-lift since its 2012 debut. The revised four-door now features a grill-less front fascia akin to the Model X and Model 3, making the car look cleaner, smoother, and more distinct.
The upgrades weren’t all superficial though, as the Model S also gained the HEPA air-filtration system from the Model X and an updated onboard charger to go along with its new skin. The most prominent improvement, though, came in the vehicle’s range, as the face-lifted Model S 90D finally broke the coveted 300-mile mark. Tesla has since beaten its own record with the P100D, which can travel up to 315 miles without recharging.
UpdateD: Added news that Tesla’s Model S once again has a top Consumer Reports rating.