Tesla Ups the Performance, Price With Entry-Level Model S 70D

·Managing Editor

Setting aside its status as a drag-strip champion, the Tesla P85D is a bit of a rare bird — what with its roughly $130,000 price tag and all-electric drive. Yet Tesla has been rather quiet on what it might offer at a lower price point; after initially saying it would build a version of its 60-kWh car with the dual-motor AWD, that option was quietly spiked.

Today, Tesla ended that silence by killing the Model S 60 and replacing it with this, the Model S 70D. While the new minimum ante for an all-electric luxury car rises by about $5,000 to $75,000 before incentives, Tesla says the 70D has many of the features of the P85D at a lower price.

The main difference between non-performance versions of the 85D and 70D is the size of the lithium-ion battery pack underneath the car; in the 70D, the 70-kWh pack is good for 240 miles of range rather than roughly 270 miles. The 70D’s electric motors are rated at 329 hp, which converts to a 5.2-second run to 60 mph. (The 85D also got a power boost to 422 hp, makes the same run in 4.4 seconds.)

Otherwise, says Tesla, the 70D will have all of the technology in the higher-level models — from the raft of safety systems, sensors and software that Tesla promises to use for limited “autopilot” driving to the Supercharger connection that lets Tesla owners use free energy from roadside chargers around the country.

While Tesla will still sell its dual-motor system as an option in the S 85, its clear that it sees most of its models with all-wheel-drive for the foreseeable future, especially with the imminent launch of the Model X SUV. At this level of car buying, the monthly lease matters far more than the sticker price, but the change will likely bring a few more shoppers who were considering Audis or Jaguars to wonder if there’s a plug-in car in their future.

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