Ever since the Tesla Model S luxury sedan hit the roads back in 2012, we’ve seen Tesla gradually improve the specifications of its flagship long-range electric car. These improvements have not only added desirable features such as an improved charging station-aware navigation system and advanced range prediction algorithm via over-the-air software updates but also improvements to the car’s design such as the introduction of larger battery packs, a more efficient dual-motor drivetrain and of course Level 2 autonomous driving thanks to the Autopilot hardware and software first introduced in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Generally, when Tesla introduces a better-specced model to its lineup it quietly retires that model’s obvious predecessor. The original flagship Tesla Model S P85 was replaced by the Tesla Model S P85+, which was then replaced by the Tesla Model S P85D and more recently, the Tesla Model S 95DL as Tesla’s fastest car. Similarly, the Tesla Model S 40 was replaced by the Tesla Model S 60 as Tesla’s entry-level model, followed most recently by the Tesla Model S 70, each model offering improved performance and longer range than its predecessor.
Along with those improved specifications have come an increased price tag, slowly lifting the entry-level Model S sticker price up over the past few years, essentially making the dream of a Model S less achievable for thousands of would-be owners. And that’s left some Tesla fans to complain bitterly to the California automaker.
Which is why Tesla says, it’s breaking with tradition today and reintroducing a previously discontinued model in the form of a new Tesla Model S 60 and Tesla Model S 60D — and halting production of the Tesla Model S 70 and Model S 70D altogether.
In an official announcement made earlier this morning, Tesla conceded that the slow price hike over the past few years for Model S had locked some buyers out and, consequently, it was launching a refreshed Model S 60 with better specification than its previous Model S 60 starting from just $66,000 before state or Federal incentives.
“We’ve heard from a number of people who would like to buy a Model S, but can more easily afford it only at a lower price point. To respond to these requests, on Thursday June 9 we’re introducing two new variants of Model S – Model S 60 and 60D, offering a compelling feature set and a great value at a new low price,” the press release details. “The new Model S 60 delivers more than 200 miles of range, a top speed of more than 130 mph, and a zero-to-60 acceleration in 5.5 seconds, starting at $66,000. The all-wheel drive option brings even more range and performance, beginning at $71,000.”
Hardened Tesla fans will note that the performance of the new Model S 60 is 0.4 seconds faster to 60 mph than its predecessor, and has a 10 mph increase on its top speed. But those tweaks aren’t the result of any major re-engineering of the original Model S 60. They’re there because the Model S 60 and 60D are actually Tesla Model S 75 and Tesla Model S 75D models in disguise.
You see, as we reported last month, when Tesla launched the Tesla Model S 75 and Tesla Model S 75D earlier this spring, it actually did away with the old entry-level Tesla Model S 70 battery pack. Instead (for the short time it continued to offer the Model S 70 and 70D) it fitted 75 kilowatt-hour battery packs to both Tesla Model S 75 and Tesla Model S 70 variants, allowing the former access to the full capacity of the battery pack but electronically limiting the range of the latter to 70 kilowatt-hours, offering customers the possibility to upgrade (or rather unlock) the full 75 kilowatt-hours of capacity some point in the future for a one-off payment of $3,250.
The same is true of the new Tesla Model S 60 and 60D. While they are priced attractively at $66,000 and $71,000 respectively before incentives and a mandatory $1,200 shipping and handling fee has been applied, they are in fact Tesla Model S 70 and 70D models in disguise. And just like the now-discontinued Tesla Model S 70 produced for the past few months between the introduction of the Tesla Model S 75 and today, the Tesla Model S 60 and Tesla Model S 60D can, for a fee, have their battery packs unlocked to give access to the full 75 kilowatt-hours that lie within.
Sadly, this upgrade won’t come cheap: Tesla will charge you $8,500 for the upgrade at point of ordering (essentially giving you a Tesla Model S 75 or 75D from new) for $8,500 or $9,000 after delivery. And that’s before you add on the Tesla Autopilot functionality (an additional $2,500 at point of ordering or $3,000 post-purchase) or the Premium Upgrade package with Tesla’s now famous Bioweapon Defence mode.
In short, Tesla has listened to critics — this site included — and reintroduced a more affordable entry-level Model S for those who don’t want or need the range of higher-specification models. And that’s a good thing for those for whom the upcoming Tesla Model 3 will simply be too impractical to own in everyday life due to its form factor and smaller load carrying capabilities, or for those who simply can’t wait for their next electric car.
For that, we congratulate Tesla.
Of course, this isn’t just good for entry-level Tesla owners. By reintroducing a lower-priced model, we’re guessing Tesla is hoping to entice some Model 3 reservation holders into the Model S world, swapping the wait lines for a car they can drive in just one month’s time for an additional $30,000. While that may be out of the price point for some, we’re sure there will be at least some takers. And the more sales Tesla can achieve, the less money it needs to find from elsewhere to execute the almost impossible plan of bringing the Model 3 to market on time and on budget while simultaneously finishing the Tesla Gigafactory and ramping up total Tesla vehicle production to 500,000 cars per year by 2018.
We’ve already said we’re pleased to see Tesla reintroduce a 60 kilowatt-hour variant, but what about you? Are you tempted to buy one? Do you think its reintroduction will improve Tesla’s overall market share? And what of the $9,000 post-delivery upgrade fee to unlock the full potential of the 75 kWh battery pack?
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