Tesla Motors: making running changes to luxury, all-electric car

A Tesla Motors' Model S luxury sport sedan sold in May 2014 is quite different than one sold in June 2012. How has Tesla Motors updated and added new features to its all-electric luxury car?

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    A man looks at Tesla Motors' Model S P85 at its showroom in Beijing in January 2014. The Model S sold in May 2014 is quite different than one sold in June 2012, thanks to some new features and updates from Tesla Motors.
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Tesla Motors only reveals its production figures every quarter, but it has now likely built about 50,000 of its all-electric Model S luxury sport sedan.

The company also doesn't group its changes and updates into model years, but makes running changes in the cars whenever the updates are tested, validated, and ready to roll.

So how is a Tesla Model S built in May 2014 different from the first one sold to a paying customer (actually a Tesla board member) in June 2012?

The shape is still the same; there are still two battery-size options of 60 and 85 kilowatt-hours (a 40-kWh model was dropped due to lack of interest); and there's a new Performance Plus option at the top of the range.

But under the surface, there are a surprising number of updates, additions, and new features, many of them additional-cost options.

Our thanks to communications manager Shanna Hendriks, who patiently compiled a list of all the hardware and options changes made to the cars since the start of 2013.

This list doesn't cover software changes, of which there are literally dozens, grouped into minor and major releases that are pushed over the air to the car once the owner gives permission for the update to occur. (That's an entirely separate article.)

Tesla owners will undoubtedly flag any hardware features we've left out, described incorrectly, or otherwise gotten wrong in the following list--but here's what Tesla Motors sent us.

Tesla Model S hardware changes from January through April 2014

  • Titanium three-piece battery safety shield (standard equipment from March 2014; can be retrofitted to any Model S)
  • Addition of Park Assist option (can be retrofitted to vehicles built after August 1, 2013)
  • Power Sunshade for inside of rear liftgate

Tesla Model S hardware changes from January through December 2013

  • Power folding mirrors (now included in Tech Package; can be retrofitted to vehicles built after August 1, 2013)
  • Red brake calipers (now included in Performance Package)
  • New wheel option: 19-inch Cyclone / Turbine Wheel (joins previous 21-inch Cyclone / Turbine and 19-inch Aero wheel options)
  • Cold-Weather Package (cannot be retrofitted)
  • Fog Lamps (improved design illuminates a low, broad area below the low-beam's light path; can be retrofitted to any Model S)
  • Parking Sensors (can be retrofitted to any Model S)
  • Ultra-High-Fidelity Sound Package (cannot be retrofitted
  • Three-Zone, Three-Mode Rear Seat Heaters
  • Wiper-Blade Defroster
  • Washer-Nozzle Heaters
  • Performance Plus Package (upgraded dampers, bushings, stabilizer bars; rear tires 20 mm wider and staggered for better acceleration on low-grip surfaces)
  • Premium Leather Trim (adds leather on the top pad and lower area of the instrument panel, the door panel, the lower pillars, the armrest, and the driver-side airbag cover)
  • Premium Interior Lighting (ambient lighting elements in passenger cabin and rear load bay)
  • Mobile App availability

"It should be noted," Hendriks wrote, that none of these are mandatory changes--they are merely options that have been added to the roster" of available equipment when ordering a new 2014 Tesla Model S.

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