Tesla Introduces New Entry-Level Model S

Courtesy of Tesla Motors
Tesla Model S 70D

The new base model in Tesla's hot-selling electric line adds horsepower and range amid growing competition from Mercedes, BMW, Audi and other luxury brands.

As is its contrarian custom, Tesla Motors was MIA during the press preview at this year’s New York International Auto Show, which runs through April 12. But Tesla stole some thunder from the traditional auto industry with the surprise introduction Wednesday of a new base model in its Model S lineup of all-electric luxury sedans, for now Tesla’s only vehicles.

The new Model S 70D replaces the Model S 60 and incorporates a number of performance upgrades over the outgoing car, including all-wheel dual-motor drive train, more horsepower (514 vs. 380) and a range increase to 240 miles on a single charge. The base price before government incentives increases 7 percent over the S 60 to $75,000 and includes free charging at Tesla’s national network of Supercharger stations.

The 70D is equipped with Tesla’s recently introduced software upgrade that calculates the car battery’s remaining charge and prompts drivers to stay in range of charging stations. Autopilot hardware, when activated via an over-the-air update later this year, will enable the car to be operated semi-autonomously.

Tesla faces increased competition from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and other luxury automakers that are planning electric or plug-in hybrid versions of current models or entirely new vehicles.

BMW plans to double the sales of its $41,000 i3 electric city car and $137,000 plug-in hybrid i8 supercar this year. In March, Aston-Martin unveiled an electric crossover SUV at the Geneva Auto Show that, if built, would compete directly with Tesla’s much-delayed Model X crossover, expected to be introduced later this year.

At the New York Auto Show, Mercedes unveiled a plug-in hybrid version of its GLE SUV and will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its S550 flagship later this year. Porsche, meanwhile, is rumored to be planning an electric version of its Panamera sedan — dubbed the Pajun, for “Panamera Junior” — that would challenge Tesla’s Model S.

Tesla announced last week that it sold a record 10,300 of all versions of the Model S in the first three months of 2015, up 55 percent from the same period in 2014.