AWD Tesla Model S Coming Soon? (Warning: Pure Speculation)

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Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

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With the delay of its Model X crossover until "late in 2014," it may look as if Tesla's product pipeline is running dry.

But we suspect the Silicon Valley startup electric-car company will offer a few new variants on its sole product, the Model S luxury sport sedan.

And an obvious next step for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] would be to add the option of all-wheel drive to the Model S.

The company has already revealed that the Model X crossover--built on the same underpinnings as today's Model S sedan--will have the option of all-wheel drive.

Tesla has engineered the car's floorpan and suspension to allow a second electric motor to be added to the front axle, with power delivery between front and rear motors controlled electronically.

Moreover, all-wheel drive is becoming a must-have feature for large luxury vehicles.

In markets like the Northeast and affluent mountainous states like Colorado, a large majority of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz sedans (as well as sport-utility vehicles) are sold with all-wheel drive.

Jaguar, in fact, retrofitted all-wheel drive into both its XJ large luxury sedan and its XF mid-size sport sedan, neither of which had been designed to accommodate the hardware, for the 2013 model year.

Meanwhile, Tesla's sole product offerings have fallen from three to two with the cancellation of the 40-kilowatt-hour version of the Model S--due, the company said, to lack of demand.

So if Tesla's customers can afford the pricier 60-kWh and 85-kWh versions of the Model S, perhaps there's more per-car profit to be made in adding all-wheel drive?

Remember, the company's engineers are designing all-wheel drive for the Model X anyway.

2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' open

2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' open

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And there's more than enough space under the Model S hood to fit in a second motor. Right now, that space serves as the front trunk--which Tesla insists on calling a "frunk."

We think there's a strong chance that at some point over the next 18 months--perhaps this fall, for the long 2014 model year during which the Model X will not arrive--Tesla will announce a new all-wheel-drive option for the Model S.

We're not going to hazard any guesses about performance, pricing, or other options.

But that's our semi-informed prediction for today: Watch for the 2014 Tesla Model S to offer all-wheel drive.

[NOTE: Our ready AReddy notes that Tesla CEO Elon Musk answered a question on this topic when he spoke at the Tesla Store in Norway last month.

At about 41:15 in the video, an audience member asks whether "four-wheel drive" for the Model S will "ever be a reality."

Musk responds, "It's not going to happen soon; that I could rule out" and then segues into a discussion of how well the traction control on the rear-wheel-drive Model S works on snow and ice.

"Unless you're going to go off-road," Musk concludes, "I would say you probably don't [need it]."]

What do you think? Is this a logical next step for Tesla, until the Model X arrives? Or will the company offer some other options first?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Seeking Alpha]


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Comments (8)
  1. Here's is hoping for a retro fit option ;)

  2. Where I live, AWD is almost a must. When I switched from an Audi Quattro to my current Volt, it was really a harsh reality check, with the handling on snow/ice so much worse it was really irritating. Although I'm somewhat used to it now, I would strongly prefer every vehicle I buy from now on to have AWD.

    But to be clear, I live in the land of snow and ice and I never bothered with AWD when I lived in California or Japan, for example. I hope Tesla can add this, but with Tesla's limited resources, I'd also understand if this doesn't happen, at least for awhile yet. Get that Model X ready and if you have resources for AWD on the Model S, it would be a welcome addition.

  3. Elon Musk says Model S won't get 4WD any time soon because it doesn't need 4WD but what does he know right? Lucky for us there is Seeking Alpha to tell us that the frunkliners tell a different story, LOL!

    Seriously though, Musk is no doubt right that 4WD is mostly nonsense for a car like Model S, but if a substantial part of the market perceives this differently and the technology is already developed, why not add it as an option? I doubt Tesla needs it this year though with many orders to fill in the US and other markets and next year it will be available in Model X, but it makes sense that at some point it will be available in high performance versions of Model S.

  4. This option will help the Californians who would love to go to Lake Tahoe for some skiing/boarding in the winter. And there are lots of those Tesla S owners in the SF Bay Area...

  5. I'm originally from the Midwest and I've owned a variety of AWD vehicles. I got stuck with them WAY more often than any rear or front wheel vehicle I've owned. After any snowstorm, practically the only vehicles you see in the median of the interstates are AWD pickups and SUVs. Elon is probably right that we don't need an AWD Model S but I'll never know because I don't plan to ever drive mine (or anything else) in the snow here in Northern California ever again. There are very few 500' shoulder drop-offs in the Midwest.

  6. I never had any problem with my AWD SUV on the way to Tahoe during snow storms. You still have to drive with "common sense" even with AWD. But having AWD does help with slippery situation even at slow speed. Of course, that is assuming that you have the right tire.

    I will take an AWD over any FWD/RWD vehicle with proper tires anyday...

    Maybe Elon doesn't see people going to Tahoe. But there is a supercharger at Folsom. So, it would make perfect sense for it...

  7. Why do you suppose that is? Maybe AWD owners think they are invincible, and can drive like they are on dry pavement. I have often noticed that drivers of heavy vehicles go faster in icy conditions on the highway than most traffic. I believe the stability given by the weight gives them a false sense of security, which can turn against them if they change direction too quickly.

  8. I'm waiting for AWD (and a healthy bank account). We have a place on a ski hill so it's that or chains.

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