How Has the Tesla Model S Changed Since it First Came Out

How Has the Tesla Model S Changed Since it First Came Out

The Tesla Model S you buy in 2020 is different from the Model S that first came out in 2012.  Each year has brought changes to Tesla’s flagship model car. But, how much has the Model S really changed over the years?

Probably the most significant change to the Tesla Model S since its debut in 2012 is the Autopilot package. Close to being a self-driving car, but still not there yet, the Tesla Model S in 2020 can change lanes, take the correct exit, and park itself. 

The car industry is notorious for changing its model lines every year. The Tesla Model S line is no exception. Let’s take a look at how the Tesla Model S has changed each year for the last eight years.  

The Introduction of the Tesla Model S 

When the Tesla Model S debuted in 2012, it was impressive. Previous to the Model S, Tesla had only the Roadster model available in its lineup. That’s not to say the Roadster model did not have its own impressive merits. 

The Roadster

The all-electric Roadster had a range of around 245 miles on a single charge. Its lightweight body was made of carbon or graphite fiber. Even though it was compared to gas-powered sports cars, it lacked the normal emissions of those cars due to the fact that it lacked an internal-combustion engine. There is no doubt that added to the overall lack of weight and made the number of miles it could travel on a single charge even that more impressive.

Designed to attract customers who wanted an electric car that had eye-appeal, Tesla’s premiere release was just that. Starting at $80,000, the price soon blossomed to around $150,000.  But being sexy had a limited audience. Around 2500 cars were sold. Tesla decided they could do more. Introducing the Tesla Model S. 

The Model S – Signature Model

An electric car that could hold five passengers and enough cargo room to make smaller SUV’s jealous, it was a thing of beauty to behold both inside and out. The Tesla Model S was the start of something good.

 Starting at around $57,400 before tax credits, the Tesla Model S was a competitor in the full-size luxury sedan category. Of course, the more features you added on, the more you added on to the price.

The first 1000 cars were the Signature model. This model came fully loaded with the Performance package. Under the hood, it had the largest of three available batteries, which meant it was quicker and could handle a range of 300 miles. The Signature model started at $80,000.

The Performance package added additional hardware such as anti-roll bars and dampers. It also added the 21″ wheels that were optional without the $10,000 upgrade. While it may have added a few extra miles to the range of the premiere Model S, what it really seemed to add was a luxury feel.

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2013

The Tesla Model S was off to a great start in 2013. The Tesla Model S won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award for 2013. It also topped new-car sales for an electric vehicle in every country in 2013.

Some of the other accolades the Tesla Model S won in 2013 were:

  • Time Magazine’s – Best 25 Inventions of the Year 2012
  • Yahoo! Auto – 2013 Car of the Year
  • – Reader’s Choice Car of the Year 2013
  • International Business Times – World Green Car 2013
  • Green Car Reports – Best Car to Buy 2013
  • In Consumer Reports 2013 survey of owner satisfaction score 99 out of 100

Design Changes to the Tesla Model S in 2013

In 2012, the designers at Tesla took a step back to see what they could improve for their 2013 model. 

The results were:

  • Improvements to the batteries
  • An additional Technology package
  • Introduction of the Tesla Model S P85

The Tesla Model S 2013 Battery changes

The three original batteries when the Tesla Model S debuted were:

  • 40 kWh
  • 60 kWh 
  • 85 kWh 

In 2013, the 40-kWh battery pack was soon discontinued due to a lack of demand.  Tesla claimed only 4% of pre-orders in 2012 were for the 40-kWh battery option.

The Tesla Model S Technology Package for 2013

2013 also bought the addition of the Technology package add-on for an additional $3500. The package included:

  • LED eyebrow Daytime Running Lights (these became standard on all models in September of 2013)
  • Keyless entry
  • Memory seats
  • Seven years of GPS maps

Later in 2013, Daytime Running Lights became standard on all Tesla Model S cars. 

The Debut of Tesla Model S P85

In 2013, we saw the introduction of the Model S P85. This was a more powerful model that could go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Compare that to the Model S with a 60-kWh battery that managed 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Add to that Tesla’s claim that it could accelerate up to 129.9 mph, and you have quite a remarkable power package.

2014 brought even more changes to the Tesla Model S. The Telegraph pronounced the Tesla Model S was one of the Top 10 cars that changed the world in 2014.

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2014

In 2014, the Tesla Model S introduced autopilot driver-assist technology. According to Tesla, the additional package offered several attributes that make driving a Tesla Model S safer and more enjoyable.

From the Tesla website, the features included in the package were:

  • TrafficAware Cruise Control: Matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic
  • Autosteer: Assists in steering within a clearly marked lane, and uses traffic-aware cruise control
  • Navigate on Autopilot (Beta): Actively guides your car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal, and taking the correct exit
  • Auto Lane Change: Assists in moving to an adjacent lane on the highway when Autosteer is engaged
  • Autopark: Helps automatically parallel or perpendicular park your car, with a single touch
  • Summon: Moves your car in and out of a tight space using the mobile app or key
  • Smart Summon: Your car will navigate more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as necessary to come to find you in a parking lot.
  • Traffic and Stop Sign Control (Beta): Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop on approach, with your active supervision

In 2014, Tesla also announced the Model S P85D cars. With an electric motor on each axle, these cars were said to have improved traction and longer battery life.

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2015

In 2015, the Tesla Model S  did not add a lot of basic features. The 2015 Tesla Model S added the Executive Rear Seat option as part of the Premium Interior package. The whole package ran around $5500 and included:

  • Two captain’s chair-style rear seats
  • Passenger controls via an app for the
    • Roof
    • Media
    • Heat/AC
  • Higher headrests
  • Leather
  • Cupholders 

The 2015 Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Mode

2015 also bought the Ludicrous Mode to the market. For an additional $10,000 to buy the P90D, you could now go from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. But that was not all you could get out of Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode. 

The Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Modes added:

  • Max Battery Power
  • Launch Mode
  • Warp Mode

To understand the three levels of Ludicrous, you need to start at the battery. In Ludicrous mode, the battery in a Tesla Model S will heat up faster than a normal Model S. This allows the car to accelerate faster. That increased speed will take you to Launch Mode.

Ludicrous + puts you into Launch Mode on a Tesla Model S. That is a speed that makes any doubter of Tesla’s performance stand back in awe. But that’s not all!

There’s Ludicrous + Launch Mode with Warp! While adding 1/10 of a second to performance may not seem like all that much for mere mortals, for those people that worship speed, the Tesla Model S with  Ludicrous + Launch Mode and Warp, will make them fall to their knees.

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2016

In 2016, the Tesla Model S was all about looks. Changes included in the 2016 Model S were:

  • No more faux-front grille
  • A vegan interior option with the Model S P1000
  • Three roof options
    • Solid glass roof (touted by Elon Musk)
    • Painted Roof
    • Panoramic roof

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2017

2017 added $1500 to the Tesla Model S regardless of which version. The Model S 90D added a 90kWh battery and increased ranges up to 294 miles. The Tesla Model S P90D increased its range to 270 miles on a full charge. 

The Tesla Model S 75 increased their speed 0-60 mph speed by 1.2 seconds. The model 75D and the Model S 100D both improved their acceleration as well. 

The 60-kWh battery was dropped, and a power liftgate, as well as Elon’s fave, the glass roof, were added as standard features in 2017.

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2018

2018 for the Tesla Model S was more about what was removed rather than what was added.

In 2018 the Tesla Model S said goodbye to:

  • The panoramic sunroof
  • Rear-facing child seats
  • Smart air suspension
  • Metallic black paint
  • Bio-weapons HEPA air filter
  • AM radio
  • 21″ wheel option Black Arachnid
  • Referral program with a lifetime of supercharging

How the Tesla Model S Changed in 2019

2019 brought a few major changes to the Tesla Model S. The first is an even longer range. The Tesla Model S Long Range now claims you can drive 370 miles on a single charge. Compare that to the 265 miles when the Tesla Model S was first released in 2012.

The 2019 version of the Tesla Model S is also more economical. It sports:

  • A lighter battery
  • Improved air suspension
  • Better tires
  • Improved handling software

The Tesla Model S in 2020

2020 has been a challenging year for us all. The Tesla Model S is no exception. The Model S now has competition in the Tesla lineup with the more affordable Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. 

In 2020, the Tesla Model S has two versions:

  • Long Range Plus
  • Performance Ludicrous

Both versions are all-wheel drive. The Long Range Plus has a range of up to 402 miles and can manage 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds. What the Performance Ludicrous

model loses in range in gains in speed with 348 miles but 0-60mph in 2.3 seconds.

In June of 2020, the Tesla Model S officially reached a range of 402 miles. Along with that milestone came a reduction in the price tag. 

What is Next for Tesla Model S?

What does the future hold for the Tesla Model S? Only Tesla and Elon Musk know for sure, and as of yet, nothing definitive has been announced. As you can see, Tesla does not make consistent changes and upgrades on their car models like traditional car manufacturers. There is still some time, and we may yet see a new version of the Tesla Model S before the end of 2020.

But not to worry. If you are interested in a Tesla Model S, there are still plenty of used ones available for you. 

Value on the Used Market for the Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S has now been around for eight years. With each year, a refresh has added new features and improvements and subtracted items that are not as desired. Each year has added or removed features without really changing the ideal of the base model. And, each year’s model has its fans.

If you are interested in buying a used Tesla Model S, you are in luck, maybe. The Tesla Model S holds its value about twice as well as a gas-powered car. That is great, except part of that original cost includes a $7500 incentive to buy an electric car. 

Some dealerships and local incentives offer even more than that. When you add that bonus to the price of a new Tesla, you will find that electric cars, in general, depreciate at about the same rate as traditional automobiles that use fossil fuels.

However, there is an advantage to buying a used Tesla. Even though electric cars do depreciate at about the same rate as gas cars, a Tesla Model S holds its values better than other electric cars currently on the market.

Tesla Motor’s History of Innovation and Adaptation 

The name Tesla came from the Serbian electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. He developed the A/C motor as well as many other inventions vital to our way of life today. Unfortunately, he lost most of any money he earned from his successful inventions through constant testing and experimenting with other, less successful inventions.

In 1882, Tesla conceived the concept of a new type of AC motor. He began working for the Continental Edison Company in Paris. In 1884 he came to the United States to work as an engineer with Edison himself. He soon quit after a disagreement with his boss.

From there, he went to work for Edison’s competitor, Westinghouse. Throughout his life, Nikola Tesla kept working to develop the newest, greatest innovation using electricity. This is the inspired and genius inventor who was the inspiration behind Tesla Motors Inc.

Evolution of Tesla Leadership 

Although you may associate Elon Musk with Tesla, he did not become part of Tesla until 2004. The original Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in San Carlos, California.

Martin Eberhard started his career as an electrical engineer with Wyse Technology. He went on to co-found Networking Computing Device Inc. Eventually, his love and interest in sports cars led him to Silicon Valley. Here he began to be interested in a car that could combat global warming. He led the development of the AC Propulsion tzero. This was a handmade, electric car prototype.

In 2003, Martin Eberhard met Marc Tarpenning. Both were electrical engineers with a fascination for cars. Together they began Tesla Motors Inc. 

Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning did not invent the first electric car. This honor went to GM and the EV car in 1999.  What Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning did was decide to develop a line of entirely electric cars that involved hardware, software, and technology. In addition to an ambitious design idea, they wanted something good for the environment and fun to drive.

In 2003 they added a third person to their team, Ian Wright. Wright left Tesla after only a year and eventually founded his own company, WrightSpeed. WrightSpeed designs electric powertrains for trucks. 

 In 2004, PayPal founder Elon Musk joined Tesla Motors Inc. He added 30 million to the coffers and became the chairman of the board of directors. A fifth partner J.B. Straubel joined as the Chief Technology Officer in 2004 as well. Of the original five, despite numerous legal and financial battles, only Musk and Straubel remain part of Tesla today. 

In 2017, Tesla Motors inc. started to divest from car manufacturing into other ventures. To reflect the changing and broadening of focus, the name was changed to just Tesla.

In 2018, Elon Musk was charged with securities fraud after he tweeted exaggerated claims about going private with Tesla. Stocks fell, and Elon Musk was asked to step down as chairman of the board but could remain as CEO.

From Luxury Sportscar to Accessible Sedan

In the beginning, there was the Roadster. Designed with the tzero in mind, the first car produced by Tesla Motors Inc. was an electric sportscar that fit the needs and wants of the public. It was released to the public in July 2006.

Elon Musk was involved in the design of the Roadster and won awards for that design, but he has always claimed the main goal of Tesla Motors was to develop and design a line of cars for everyone. With the Tesla Model S, he achieved that goal.

Tesla Models that Evolved from the Model S

Tesla Motors Inc. did not have an easy time growing in the early 2000s. The company faced legal and financial problems as it started to grow in the electronic car market. Finally, the company moved to Palo Alto in 2009. 

The Model S was released in 2012. It was the company’s first sedan and could hold five passengers. In addition, it had an automatic lift-gate. At the same time, Tesla released the Model S, it discontinued its Roadster model.

The Tesla Model S remained the car company’s flagship model until 2016 when the Model 3 was announced. Tesla Motors Inc. changed the name of the company to Tesla in 2017. 

As the Tesla Model S has grown and changed, it has stayed the face of Tesla as much as Elon Musk. The available Tesla models now include:

  • The Model 3: This is a four-door sedan and the third generation of Tesla automobiles. The Tesla Model 3 was released in 2017 and, by 2019, had surpassed the Tesla Model S in best-selling electric cars.
  • The Model X: A mid-size crossover SUV. The Model X has a lightweight aluminum body. It was released to the market in 2015.
  • The Model Y: This car is similar in design to the Model 3, except 10% larger and more expensive. It also has three rows of seats. The Model Y was released in 2019 and on the road in March of 2020.
  • The Tesla Semi: This is an all-electric semi-tractor trailer truck. It is estimated to be released late in 2021.
  • The Tesla Cybertruck: There would be three models of the Tesla Cybertruck available. The most expensive would have a range of 500 miles. The Tesla Cybertruck was supposed to have unbreakable windows, but during a demonstration, a metal ball shattered the windows of the demo car. It, too, is scheduled to be released in 2021.

The Long-Range Charge of a Tesla Model S

As an electric car, the Tesla Model S has added to our environment in another way. Tesla cars are not only electric, but they go further on a charge than other electric car competitors. The model S can travel about 370 miles without needing a recharge. Most competitors can range between 200-250. This is all because of Tesla’s outstanding technology, from battery design to aerodynamics.

This long-range has evolved over time. The first Tesla Model S in 2012 boasted a 265-mile charge. Over time, according to Tesla’s self-claimed “obsession with efficiency and energy frugality,” evolution and changes continued, leading up to current research of the “first 400-mile electric vehicle.”

Charging a Tesla Hasn’t Changed Much

Today it is easier to find electric charging stations for all models on electric cars. Increasingly you are also able to find charging stations with the Tesla logo as well. If you have a place and the technology for it, you can install a charging station at your house. Wherever you decide to plug in your Tesla, you will need to park your car overnight. 

While the new Tesla Model 3 has quicker charging times, the Tesla Models S does not have the software to allow it to use the super-charged stations that are now becoming available. As it is, the 2019 Tesla Model S takes about 12 hours to charge.  

Just knowing your car is charging is not always enough. With a Tesla Model S or any of the other Tesla models, you can get a good idea of how much longer you need to wait.

There are gauges to tell you:

  • The amount of charge you need to get back home. This is handy when you run out of power while shopping for groceries.
  • How charged your battery is now. This is useful for planning your shopping trip, so you don’t need to worry about how to get home.
  • And lastly, how much longer you need to wait until your Tesla Model S’s battery is completely done charging. This is needed because most of us are not patient, and we need to go grocery shopping. 

Why the Tesla Model S is Important to the American Car Industry

The continual innovations Tesla has displayed in its Model S automobile have been impressive. There is no doubt that the Tesla Model S has made its imprint on American cars. As one of the first all-electric cars, it set the standard for what an electric car could do. While a Tesla Model S is definitely not a car for someone on a budget, its price, while high, is not unobtainable.

With its now increasing garage of new and expanded models, Tesla continues to push the imagination in unexpected ways. While the Tesla Model S is still essentially the all-electric sedan that seats five and has a tail-gate lift, the contact innovation with each refresh has made the model you buy in 2020 or maybe 2021 vastly different from the model you would have been able to purchase in 2012.

From the first version of the fun, sporty, Roadster to the serious Cybertruck, we fully anticipate that Tesla will be able to hold our attention for many more years to come.

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The articles here on are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

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