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, Model X, or new Roadster — and the brand’s Semi 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 releases automatic windshield wipers
In nearly every category of automotive technology, Tesla is ahead of the curve. From battery tech to autonomous driving aids to aerodynamics, Tesla stomps most mainstream automakers. Unfortunately, as a startup, some of the more practical features slip through the cracks. Case in point — automatic/rain-sensing windshield wipers. Just about every premium segment vehicle (and many high-optioned mass-market cars) offer or include as standard, rain-sensing wipers. Alas, Tesla Model S vehicles have been missing this feature, and owners were a bit upset.
Finally, Tesla has announced that a beta version of automatic windshield wipers has gone live for Autopilot 2.0+ models as part of the latest software update. Like all betas, this feature might be a little clunky until it’s been fully vetted, but at least this long-awaited piece of tech. is available. Here’s how owners can enable and adjust the setting:
“Tap CONTROLS > Settings > Vehicle. and set AUTOWIPERS (BETA) to ON. Then adjust the sensitivity of the wipers so that they turn on based on how much rain is on your windshield. Want them to turn on intermittently when a medium amount of rain has accumulated? Choose the Auto 1 option on the wiper lever. Or, choose the more sensitive Auto 2 option if you prefer wiping as soon as the vehicle sense even just a light mist or drizzle, such as when driving out of the garage on a foggy morning. To make sure your windshield is clear, the wiping speed automatically adjust based on how much rain accumulates between each wipe.”
Dual-motor all-wheel drive, standard
As part of Tesla’s December update, the brand announced that every new Model S and Model X will feature dual-motor all-wheel drive as standard from here on out. That means the base rear-wheel drive Model S 75 is no more, which could widen the breadth between the Model S and Model 3, which will only offer all-wheel drive as an option.
According to Tesla, dual-motor all-wheel drive “can instantly control traction and torque to every wheel, in all weather conditions.”
Tesla cuts the price on top-end Model S and Model X
Tesla isn’t just refining its model variants, the EV automaker is narrowing the price gap between trims. Recently, Tesla eliminated the entry level 60D, creating a higher starting price for the Model S. At the time, Tesla compensated a bit by dropping the price of its 75D, but it also increased the price of its 100D and P100D.
Now it looks like Tesla is peeling back the price on its top-end trims, the 100D and P100D. Both the Tesla Model S and Model X 100D have been reduced by $3,500 for total prices of $95,200 and $97,200, respectively. The ludicrously fast P100D, meanwhile, gets a larger decrease of $5,000, putting the Model S P100D at $136,200 and the Model X P100D at $141,200.
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.
— 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. While you used to be able to enter Tesla’s luxury market for $66,000, it will 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update: Added news that the Tesla Model S now features automatic windshield wipers.