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2017 Tesla Model S Overview

James Flammang
Contributing Editor - March 8, 2017

Tesla will soon have three battery-powered vehicles on the market, once the new, more affordable, Model 3 arrives. But until then, it’s the bigger Model S, launched for 2012, that spells Tesla to a lot of people. Its combination of luxury, spaciousness, stirring performance, and zero-emissions driving is almost impossible to find elsewhere. Perhaps best of all, the Model S' estimated range reaches far beyond that of most other electric cars. Even the new base model promises 210 miles before recharging is needed.

What's New for 2017

Unlike most automakers, which only update their vehicles once a model year, Tesla issues software updates "over the air" using a vehicle's built-in internet connection and makes upgrades to its models as they're built throughout each year. That makes it difficult to pin down what's new in a given year.

In spring 2016, Tesla made several updates, including a new front fascia, body-colored side rockers, revised rear diffuser, and full LED adaptive lighting. A higher-current charger also was added. Later in the year, a sweeping software update introduced enhanced radar processing for the Autopilot (semi-autonomous driving) option. It now uses four cameras and a dozen sonar sensors, promising twice the range of the prior version. Full self-driving capability, when available, will use eight cameras, available as a separate "Enhanced Autopilot" package.

Tesla Model S

Choosing Your Tesla Model S

Tesla offers four distinct batteries for 2017 and names its various Model S trims after them. The base Model S 60, introduced in 2016, uses a 60-kilowatt-hour battery, for example. There are also 75-kWh, 90-kWh, and high-performance 100-kWh trims. All-wheel-drive versions employ a dual-motor system and attach the letter "D" after the trim number. Range for all Model S sedans is measured in estimated miles on a single charge, which varies according to the size of the battery. Owners can charge the Model S at 120 or 240 volts, or quick-charge via Tesla's Supercharger network.

Mounting the battery on the floor gives the Model S a lower center of gravity, which enhances handling and reduces rollover risk. Because there’s no gas engine, the front crumple zone is considerably larger than on other performance sedans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the early Model S five-star ratings, but the 2017 model has not been crash-tested by that federal agency. Standard active-safety features include collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking. Optional Autopilot allows the Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes automatically, and manage speed by using “traffic-aware” cruise control.

The Model S comes in four battery ratings, with rear-drive or four-wheel drive:


Starting at $75,000 ($1,200 destination charge included), the new base model has rear-wheel drive and a 75-kWh battery that's limited to 60 kWh. Owners can pay for an over-the-air update to access the additional storage capacity. In its base form, the Model S 60 has a range of about 210 miles. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.5 seconds. Standard equipment includes power-folding heated mirrors, navigation with real-time traffic updates, full LED adaptive headlights, and GPS-enabled HomeLink. Both 19- and 21-inch wheels are available.


For an additional $5,000, the 60D substitutes all-wheel drive for the 60's rear-drive. Range is about 218 miles and the 75 upgrade is still available.


Priced at $81,500, the midrange Model S holds a 75-kWh battery and has a range of about 249 miles. Acceleration is similar to the 60 sedan.


For $5,000 more, the 75D adds all-wheel drive with the same 75-kWh battery. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.2 seconds, and the EPA-estimated range is 259 miles.


The 90D version has all-wheel drive, uses a 90-kWh battery, reaches 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and extends the sedan's range to about 294 miles. Pricing starts at $96,500.


Topping the Tesla S range, the P100D starts at $139,000 and offers an estimated range up to 315 miles. But you don't buy this model for the extra range – you buy it for speed. With the “Ludicrous” driving mode that’s included, the P100D can reach 60 mph in an electrifying 2.5 seconds. For passing, 45-65 mph acceleration takes a mere 1.2 seconds – hardly more than an eyeblink. Standard features include all-wheel drive and a “smart” air suspension.

Options include a high-current charger, 11-speaker audio, and Subzero Weather Package that adds heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and other cold-weather plusses. Tesla gives Model S owners 1,000 miles of free charging via the company's expansive Supercharger network. Once that's exhausted, small by-the-minute charges pile up, although it's a small price to turn the Model S into a proper road-trip vehicle.

CarsDirect Tip

Teslas are eligible for EV incentives from the federal government as well as certain state or local agencies. Incentives lower the price somewhat, but Teslas are expensive automobiles. Options add up quickly, too. The 90D is probably the most logical compromise between price and range; but earnest battery-power aficionados seeking a supremely serious sports sedan might well be satisfied with nothing less than the P100D.

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