Eleven days ago, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] unveiled a face lift for its Model S electric sedan. Essentially a mid-cycle refresh for the popular all-electric luxury car, the new Model S gained a refreshed nose with the same grillless design found in the Tesla Model X electric SUV and upcoming 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric sedan.
It also featured a new, more powerful on-board charger, as well as the addition of a few new interior trim options and the inclusion of the same Bio Defence HEPA Filtration system offered on the Tesla Model X as an optional extra on the Model S for the first time.
The refresh also managed to increase the range of the Tesla Model S a little too.
As InsideEvs noted over the weekend, the official EPA rating for the 2016 Tesla Model S 90D — Tesla’s mid-range Model S — states that the Tesla Model S 90D now gets an impressive 294 miles combined, made up of 285.7 miles in city driving and more than 303.2 miles on the highway. Not only does this mean that new Tesla Model S 90D owners can look forward to travelling a little further every charge (with a suitably light right foot) but it also means that the Model S is the first mass-produced electric car to offer an EPA-approved range of more than 300 miles per charge.
But before we all get too excited, there are some caveats to this all, just as there are with any EPA ratings. Namely, the fact that the Model S 90D is passing this magic milestone in some very specific circumstances.
For a start, the EPA test at which the Tesla Model S 90D gets its magic 303 mile range estimate is the highway test, designed to replicate a 10.26-mile trip at an average speed of 48.3 mph and a maximum speed of 60 mph. This test — while adjusted with data from three additional tests to account for higher-speed driving, air conditioning use and cold temperatures — isn’t a real-world range test. Instead, the results of the range test are mathematically extrapolated to give the theoretical maximum range, just as they are for other electric cars.
But perhaps more importantly, the highway-only test assumes you’ll be travelling at moderate speed on a freeway and doesn’t account for the start/stop surface street driving that’s usually needed to get on the highway in the first place. It’s one of the reasons that most car buyers look at the combined fuel economy figure rather than city or highway as it better represents the mixture of roads that most drivers encounter on a daily basis.
The range test also appears to be with the Tesla Model S 90D with 19-inch wheels, rather than the larger 21-inch wheels chosen as an optional extra by many Tesla owners.
We’d also be amiss if we didn’t mention that Tesla’s own interactive range prediction tool estimates a range of more than 400 miles per charge for a Tesla Model S 90D with 19-inch wheels at a constant 50 mph at an outside temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caveats aside however, the EPA-approved highway range for the 2016 Tesla Model S 90D isn’t something to be sniffed at. That’s because while most owners will see fluctuations in real-world range due to environmental factors such as temperature and weather and driver skill, the Tesla Model S 90D is still the longest-range electric car you can buy today. Moreover, while we’re sure some Tesla Model S owners will be able to push their Model S 90D well beyond the 303 theoretical range indicated by the EPA highway test, the improved range of the Model S, combined with Tesla’s advanced route-planning software and range prediction algorithms, should mean that for all but the longest of trips range anxiety should be a long-forgotten memory.
At $89,500 before incentives, the Tesla Model S 90D isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s certainly the best choice if you regularly need to push the limits of range in an electric car. Although we should remind you the Model S 90D isn’t the fastest Tesla Model S model you can buy — that honor is reserved for the P90D — it is the longest-range, simply because the P90D trades range for acceleration.
Just remember to order the 19-inch wheels if you want the very best range for your buck.
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