The Tesla Model S has come a long way since it was introduced in 2012. Back then, the range-topping P85 had one rear-mounted motor, and “only” cranked out 470 horsepower. Today, the dual-motor P90 cranks out 762 horsepower, and can scramble from zero to 60 in three seconds flat. That’s .05 seconds off from a Corvette Z06, not bad for a 4,600-pound sedan. On the low end, the base car has increased from a 40kW battery to a 70kW one, boosting range some 70 miles to a healthy 230 per charge. And newer cars come equipped with AutoPilot, Tesla’s groundbreaking semi-autonomous Autopilot system. Four years later, the car is still a technological marvel.
And yet, to many buyers it looks like old news. The Model X crossover has had its fair share of teething problems (a recall was issued for a seat issue just this week), but its “falcon doors” and evolutionary front fascia hint at the direction of Tesla’s styling direction, and the even more radical Model 3 with its vestigial grille (or lack thereof) has made the big sedan look even more like a thing of the past. So at the point where most automakers would debut a next-generation car (4 to 5 years), Tesla is giving its current standard-bearer a mid-cycle facelift to bring it closer in line with its latest designs.
Despite its advanced age (in the automotive world, at least), the Model S’s Franz von Holzhausen-penned design is still one of the best of the decade. Thankfully, the company didn’t do much to mess with its clean lines. Instead, the car looks cleaner, more purposeful, and perhaps most importantly, better suited to sit alongside the Model X and Model 3 at Tesla Stores in the future.
The biggest change is the “grille” — specifically that it isn’t there anymore. Of course, a grille was never there to begin with; back in 2012, EVs were still a dicey proposition (remember those days?), and a glossy black plastic panel on the Model S’s front made it look a little more like the gas-guzzling models it hoped to make obsolete. Now that EVs are widely accepted (thanks in no small part to the success of the Model S), Tesla has decided to drop the charade and lose the big “catfish” panel once and for all.
The cleaner design brings the Model S more in line with the current Model X, with its sloping body-colored front end, rather than the current Model 3 design, which has a more abrupt form replacing where a grille would be. Other than a liberal increase of paint on the front end, the headlights and lower fascia benefit from a design tweak too. Out back, the tail light design has been updated, with a break between the side marker light and taillights. And inside, the sedan will get the “Bio Weapon Defense Mode” HVAC system found in the Model X, along with two new wood trim options.
This facelift had been rumored for some time, but unfortunately, there was no word today on the juiciest tidbit that’s been circulating: a P100D model. A hacker recently discovered that talk of a high-performance model with a new 100kW battery (the largest used by Tesla to date) has been hinted at in Tesla firmware for months, something that Musk took to Twitter to address. While there hasn’t been any confirmation from the company yet, expect the fastest and most powerful Tesla we’ve ever seen to arrive with this new sheetmetal.