Tesla unveils the Model S electric sedan

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Tesla may be getting the smallest loans, but it's set to benefit the most with Model S production now possible

Tesla may be getting the smallest loans, but it's set to benefit the most with Model S production now possible

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Tesla's first all-original car, the upcoming Model S plug-in electric sedan, has just been unveiled. The surprisingly attractive vehicle also offers very good performance and, when technological features are taken into consideration, almost impossible value.

The prototype was unveiled today at Tesla's design studio inside CEO Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket factory in Hawthorne, California. Tesla's Elon Musk demonstrated its functionality outside the plant, confirming it is in fact drivable. The company says that the final production model will be almost identical in appearance. Just last week Tesla released official pricing info for the car, with a target of $57,400 before the $7,500 tax credit it will be eligible for, which brings the final effective price down to $49,900.

A quick run-down of the car's stats reveals the Model S will carry on the Roadster's mantle of green performance, while expanding considerably on its utility: a 300mi (480km) range is complemented by an expected 0-60mph (96km/h) time of 5.5-6.0 seconds. There's even work being done on an optional 600mi (960km) extended-range battery pack. Despite the range of the 300mi pack, Tesla is claiming a 45 minute quick-charge time. The battery pack itself will be warrantied for 7-10 years, while the car will be warrantied separately for a period of 3-4 years.

The official photos of the car reveal an exterior more or less as expected, though the flavors of Jaguar, Maserati and Karma are more upscale than its price would suggest. Tesla's hiring of Mazda's former chief designer for the project probably explains that, however. The unfinished interior shown in leaked photos threw the 'drivable' aspect of the prototype into doubt, but the official shots reveal a car that is in fact ready to run - though probably not ready for volume production.

A huge central screen area will house a haptic (read: touch feedback) touchscreen interface, while a second LCD serves as the instrument panel. The presence of such a huge display hints at the highly reconfigurable nature of the system, perhaps even allowing customized gauge and feature layouts. Again, this feature seems to be well beyond the $57,400 price tag of the Model S. A unique interior configuration allows seating for seven with the installation of a pair of child-sized jumper seats in the rear of the car.

The car will also have a few high-tech and high-performance toys that further build the mystery of just how so many features fit into the price tag, including full-time 3G connectivity with Internet, HD and satellite radio, a six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brake system, 21in wheels and LED/neon head and tail lights.

The Model S is already on pre-order at a reservation fee of $40,000 for the Signature Edition model and $5,000 for the standard Model S. The car should be launched by late 2011 if Tesla can secure the funding necessary to produce the car, and the plant in which it will be built.
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