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Watch Wired go hands-on with Tesla Model S 4.0

Tesla Model S

Our friends at Wired recently got their hands on the latest software release for the Tesla Model S. The 4.0 release adds a few interesting bits of functionality to the EV, including voice control for the navigation and telephone systems as well as Slacker Radio. Tesla employed Google voice-recognition software for the Model S, and Wired says the system is “far easier and more intuitive than most.” High praise.

The update also adds another level of customization to the EV’s steering wheel controls. The right knob now offers finer audio volume control while the left knob can be configured to handle everything from temperature setting to fan speed or even the opening and closing of the sunroof.

Wired also reports the 17-inch touch screen on the Model S now seems more responsive and that the update includes new graphical displays for the vehicle’s range. Other nice tricks include revised throttle response and an adjustment to the vehicle’s door handles – now owners need only approach their Model S for the door handles to pop out from their hiding places. You can check out the video below for a closer look.

By Zach Bowman

CO2 credits: The ultimate rebate?

Time For Buyers To Have Some Skin In The EV Game

CO2 warning

Politicians know that $8- or $9-a-gallon gas like in Europe would end their careers.

The back-and-forth between those writing the fuel economy rules and auto manufacturers is designed to see how far the CO2 regulations can be pushed without inconveniencing the general public.

Rather than taxing fuel like they do in Europe to encourage buyers to opt for the most fuel-efficient vehicles, in America it’s up to the manufacturers to develop a fleet that averages some magic number, in this case 54.5 mpg by 2025. That’s because most politicians know that $8- or $9-a-gallon gas like in Europe would end their careers.

Matt DeLorenzo is the former editor-in-chief of Road & Track and has covered the auto industry for 35 years, including stints at Automotive News and AutoWeek. He has authored books including VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s Modern Concept Cars, and Corvette Dynasty.

There is no fundamental change in overall buying preferences.

On the other side of the coin, the manufacturers will work the system using whatever credits or loopholes they can carve out until it becomes apparent that they will no longer be able to build V-8 engines or large pickups. In fact, CAFE is precisely why fullsize rear-wheel-drive sedans and station wagons have largely been replaced as the family vehicle of choice by fullsize SUVs because of the two-tier fuel economy regulations that gave trucks a break.

This approach is what I call trying to solve a retail problem at the wholesale level. By making the manufacturers do all the heavy lifting, the public does benefit with cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. On the one hand, we are getting cars that are good for us, on the other, the changes are so subtle, we really don’t notice it. Naturally, interest in small, fuel-efficient cars increases when gas spikes up, but then dissipates as prices fall. There is no fundamental change in overall buying preferences.

And by not having any skin in the game, it’s hard for anyone to get truly excited about new technologies like clean diesels, hybrids and EVs.

Elon Musk could offer the Model S for much less than the fake $500 per month lease rate.

So, if government lacks the courage to pass high fuel taxes that would encourage the use of hybrids, diesels or EVs, why don’t they open the doors up to incentives instead? I read with interest in the Los Angeles Times that Tesla has been able to sell CO2 emission credits that amount to as much as $45,000 per car for each Model S it sells and that the company expects to reap a cool $250 million in the process.

Why not require manufacturers to pass those credits along to the customers who will actually be driving the cars and making a difference in air quality? If it’s true that Tesla stands to make 45 grand on emission credits per car, then Elon Musk can pass that along and offer the car for much less than the fake $500 per month lease rate he initially calculated by factoring in your time saved at the pump.

Keep the sticker prices where they are, and let the consumer decide what to do with the credits.

Better yet, keep the sticker prices where they are, and let the consumer decide what to do with the credits. In fact, if the emission credits are part of the package, it might allow makers to sell EVs closer to their true cost rather than at some subsidized rate.

If buyers get the CO2 credits, they can opt to sell them immediately back to the manufacturer to lower their cash outlay, peddle them to another higher-bidding manufacturer or hang onto them in the hopes that their value will climb over time as government standards tighten. Or, if they are truly altruistic, never cash in on them. If they do so, they will be making a real difference in lowering CO2 because those credits would give someone else the ability to offset excess emissions.

Best of all, it takes behind-the-scenes-maneuvering and makes it a public topic, thereby making both the costs and benefits of high fuel economy standards much more transparent.

By Matt DeLorenzo

Tesla sells out top-of-the-line Model S Signature series

Tesla Motors has sold out of the top-of-the-line version of its Model S battery-electric luxury sedan and is taking deposits on its Model X crossover vehicle, Edmunds.com’s Inside Line reports.

The Model S Signature version, which starts at $92,400 and tops out at $105,400, is no longer available for pre-order on Tesla’s website, Inside Line says. The company continues to take deposits on the base Model S – starting price is $57,400 – and has started taking orders for the Model X, which is set to arrive by the end of next year.

Tesla said last month that one of its Model S testers beat the company’s goal of a 300-mile single-charge drive under a combination of city and highway driving. If you want to go that far, you should look into the longest-range Model S, which will sell for a minimum of $77,000. Tesla says it expects Model S sales to reach about 5,000 units this year.

Late last month, Tesla put out a video from its factory showing off its Model S stamping machine and is counting down to the first delivery, which is scheduled for 15 days from now.

By Danny King

Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Luxury Cars

10. (TIE) 3-Series Hybrid, Mercedes E400 Hybrid, Infiniti M35h, Buick LaCrosse/Regal eAssist: 29 mpg

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Who is to say that luxury car buyers aren’t affected by high gas prices? If you want to drive in comfort, style, and have the latest high tech goodies in a car, you shouldn’t have to pay more at the pump for it. Here are our picks for the top 10 most fuel friendly luxury cars, ranked in order of their combined city/highway mpg numbers.

Quite a few luxury cars hit the 29 mpg mark combined. The most impressive of the bunch is the Buick LaCrosse, which manage to get solid fuel economy, despite its bigger size. The Infiniti, Mercedes and BMW vehicles make do with a high-power pairing of a six-cylinder engine and an electric motor, which gives the end result of over 300-hp.

The Buicks use a mild hybrid system called eAssist which pairs a 2.4L four-cylinder engine with a conventional automatic, and a compact lithium ion battery to get its impressive fuel economy numbers.

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By Sami Haj-Assaad

Tesla increases lease calculator costs; Supercharging, ‘mystery’ announcement coming soon

tesla model s driving

Even Tesla Motors hasn’t totally figured out the details of the just-announced Model S “lease” program. Yesterday, when the financial product was first revealed, the small print on the company’s online calculator described a 66-month loan and a tiered monthly payment structure, depending on which model you chose: $1,199 a month for the 85-kWh Model S, $1,421 for the 85-kWh Performance model and $1,051 for the 60-kWh version. Today, all three of these prices have been increased slightly, to $1,252 (85-kWh), $1,483 (Performance) and $1,097 (60-kWh). Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks told AutoblogGreen, “We made a small change to the site overnight – changing the 66-month term to a 63-month term. We were incorrect with putting 66 months initially. I believe this is the reason for the discrepancy.”

Today, all three of these prices have been increased slightly.

So, yeah, there’s some confusion out there. Since the announcement, the Internet has been abuzz with critics taking Tesla to task for CEO Elon Musk’s insistence that the “true cost of ownership” can be driven below $500 a month. It can, using Telsa’s calculator, if you live in a world where you’re always getting paid $100/hour and therefore your 15 minute gas station stop is valued at $25. And you fill up four times a month. With premium gas. In a car that gets terrible fuel economy. We found that making these assumptions were the best way to get our “effective monthly cost” down to $500 or less. Oh, and claiming your Model S for business purposes helped tremendously. You can see why Tesla’s stock went down 7.3 percent since the “lease” news came out.

Nonetheless, Musk is confident that his numbers are right – he told Automotive News that “Even if you don’t count the time savings, you can own the car for net cash out of pocket for $500 a month, no marketing gimmicks. Some people wanted to call bull—t on us because we had certain default [calculations] set up on the site, and we have fixed them” and also “I just want to make sure people really do appreciate that $500 is a real number and not some sort of marketing fiction” – and is promising more announcements throughout all of April. Next week, we’ll learn something about servicing and the week after that will be one about Supercharging and after that, Musk said, “there will be a mystery announcement. Then we’ll shut up and hopefully people won’t be sick of us.” It all depends on what those announcements will be.

Related GalleryTesla Model S

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By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Roadster Buyback Program Launched

Early adopters of the Tesla Roadster who may now be eyeing the American automaker’s more practical Model S can now trade in their convertible sports car towards a new sedan.

Tesla will buyback old Roadsters from current owners and resell them at its own stores, giving others an opportunity to own the electric convertible. Only 2,500 Roadsters were made since it first hit the market in 2008 and used ones will be much cheaper than the original $109,000 price.

The trade-in value for the Roadster will be based on its condition after the automaker takes a detailed look at the used vehicle. Though Tesla hasn’t released what it expects to buy back the vehicles for, it did estimate that a 2010 Roadster with around 2,900 miles will be resold for $93,500; while a 2008 model with 31,000 miles will be around $73,300.

Even better news though is that some Roadster owners may actually get money back if their vehicle is valued higher than the Model S they’re opting for.

“Someone who couldn’t reach all the way to a Roadster before, now may be able to get one at a lower price,” said Tom vonReichbauer, Tesla’s director of finance. “We’re able to set what I think are pretty competitive prices for these cars.”

[Source: SF Gate]

By Jason Siu

Tesla Model S Resale Value to be Industry’s Best, Says CEO Musk


Last month, Tesla made a splash by offering a resale value guarantee on the Model S, stating it would be higher than that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. However, Tesla is upping the ante by offering the best resale value of almost any luxury auto maker.

Buyers of the Tesla Model S will now be guaranteed that their car’s resale value will be higher than that of BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Jaguar. Residual value is expected to be at least 50 percent over 36 months.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the announcement in a conference call today and acknowledged criticisms of last month’s announcement regarding the brand’s somewhat creative finance calculator.

“We appreciate the feedback from a number of journalists and customers that the first version of our financing product wasn’t quite right,” said Musk. “They were right, so we are fixing it and, moreover, upping the ante by providing the best resale value guarantee in the automotive industry. The Model S is rated by Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine and many others as the best car of 2013, so it should naturally therefore have the highest resale value.”

This change will be applied retroactively to anyone who is financing the Model S, from when the guarantee was first put in place back on April 2nd. Tesla also announced that longer financing terms will also be available for buyers. Financing terms have been extended to 72 months to pay off a Model S.

Discuss this story at Tesla-Buzz.com

By Sami Haj-Assaad

Tesla Model S Named 2013 World Green Car of the Year


Luxurious, powerful and laden with cool technology, the Tesla Model S adds yet another accolade to its crowded mantel today by winning the World Green Car of the Year Award at during the New York Auto Show.

Equipped with an 85 kWh battery — the largest available — it is supposed to offer up to 265 miles of range. Power is sent to the rear wheels with up to 443 lb-ft of instantly delivered torque in the performance model.

Aside from its luxury interior appointments and relatively understated style, standout features include its massive touch screen infotainment system the size of two iPads and the ability to update its system through a 3G connection.

2013 New York Auto Show Complete Coverage

That’s especially important with the Model S because it means the company can affect how the car behaves without requiring owners to bring their cars in for service.

Tesla competed against the Renault Zoe – a a five-door electric car – and the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid for the title.

Discuss this story at GasStinks.com

By Luke Vandezande

How many kindergarteners can you fit in a Tesla Model S?

Kindergarteners cram into a Tesla Model S

Details on where and when this video of a gaggle of kindergarteners packing themselves into a Tesla Model S was shot are slim – we think Phoenix, AZ, based the license plate and this Tesla Motors Club post. Of course, all of that is kind of secondary compared to the obvious fun these kids are having. It’s not a record-setting effort, which is why there’s so much room left over – it’s more of a chance to try and get an entire kindergarten class into one car. As a member posting on the Tesla Motors forum wrote, “We could have fit three more easily, without anyone sitting on top of someone else.”

In any case, it’s pretty adorable, and it has also given us our new favorite phrase: “Frunk Monkeys.” Hazard your own guess as to how many youngsters will fit, then watch the video below to see how many kids can cram into the benchmark electric hatchback below.

By Sebastian Blanco