SAN FRANCISCO -- The basic version of the Tesla Model S now has more power, a longer range and an extra $5,000 tacked onto the price tag.
Tesla today announced plans to start selling a new entry-level version of the Model S called the 70D, sporting an all-wheel-drive setup like the one that Tesla introduced last fall in its blazing-fast P85D.
In the new trim level, the Model S will be able to travel 240 miles between charges and race from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds -- up from 208 miles and 5.9 seconds for today’s basic rear-drive Model S, called the 60. Equipped with one electric motor in the front and another in the rear, the 70D is rated as delivering 329 horsepower to all four wheels.
Tesla made the change "because we can," spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said in an interview. "It's a more compelling car, and the mission of Tesla is to bring the most compelling cars possible to market."
To make room for the 70D, Tesla is eliminating the 60, which had been its cheapest Model S since 2013. Starting at $76,170 before any government incentives, the 70D will cost $5,000 more than a basic 60, though it includes use of Tesla's proprietary Superchargers, which was previously a $2,000 option.
With its added power and range, the 70D may help sales at Tesla, which reported last week that it delivered 10,030 vehicles in the first quarter of 2015, up 55 percent over the previous year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has set a goal of delivering 55,000 vehicles this year, aided by the launch of the company’s new Model X crossover.
Tesla will now sell four versions of the Model S: 70D, 85, 85D and P85D. The names show whether a car has a 70-kilowatt-hour or 85-kWh battery pack. Prices for the top-of-the-line P85D, which can dash from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, top out at more than $120,000.
The elimination of the 60 marks another pivot toward more expensive, more profitable and more prestigious cars for Tesla, despite its stated goal of making electric cars mainstream. In 2013, a year after the launch of the Model S, Tesla stopped selling an entry-level car with a 40 kWh battery pack, claiming weak demand.
But moving the Model S upscale may create more space in Tesla’s lineup for the launch of the mass-market Model 3, expected to go on sale in 2017 or 2018 with a base price around $35,000.
Tesla, which sells its cars online and through factory-owned showrooms rather than through dealerships, said it plans to start taking orders for the 70D today and deliver cars within about two months.