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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

Plug and play in the new Tesla S

Special Sections correspondent


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No doubt you've heard about Tesla. It's based in Silicon Valley, co-founded by that guy who made a mint selling PayPal to eBay; the one who created "Mars-here-we-come" SpaceX. You know, Elon Musk.

What Musk and his team have created is quite possibly the future of the luxury automobile. His new, all-electric Tesla S sedan is stylish, sexily elegant, beautifully appointed, fun to drive and fast. Very fast.

And the best part? It's completely free of those nasty global-warming emissions. And exceedingly economical to run; you simply plug it in to the nearest wall socket.

But an electric car. With batteries. Doesn't that mean a serious case of range anxiety with every trip?

This is where the Tesla is different. It has a huge battery bank. More than 7,000 state-of-the-art Panasonic lithium-ion cells. Big enough, probably, to power Christmas lights in Tampa during the holiday season.

In the Tesla S, that means a range of 300 miles on a full charge. Or 232 miles on the cheaper, lesser-amped battery pack, which is still pretty amazing.

And driving the S is simple and simply breathtaking. That's because the experience is so different from a traditional luxury vehicle.

Climb in, turn on and there's nothing but eerie silence. Step on the "gas," not that there is any, and the car lunges forward with mind-numbing velocity.

With the bigger 85 kWh battery pack - the smaller one is 60 kWh - it'll whoosh to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. Again with next to no noise. This is a big car. Almost 200 inches nose to tail. About the same length as a Lexus LS. And inside, it's just vast, with space to cross legs in the back. There's even space behind the rear seat to offer a couple of jump-seats for the kids.

And techies will positively salivate at the giant 17-inch, oversized iPad-like touch screen in the center of the dash with its cool Google Maps navigation.

No, the Tesla S isn't cheap. While the base model with 60 kWh batteries stickers at $62,400, you'd really want the longer-lasting 85 kWh version at $72,400.

But simply knowing that you could well be driving the future of the luxury automobile? Now that's priceless.

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