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Calling a car "ENTRY level" or a "good value" is relative. The latest Tesla Model S, the 70D, is a good example: It's entry level only because it's now the least-expensive Model S. The 70D replaces the 60 and starts at $76,100. The sticker is five grand more than the 60, but the 70D has an all-wheeldrive setup like the one introduced last fall on the P85D rocket ship.
There's also more power-the 70D's horsepower and range are up 134 hp and 32 miles, respectively, on the 60. Driving the 70D is memorable. Walk up to it, the doors unlock; get in, put the car in drive and take off. There is no key, no ignition. Done driving? Get out, shut the door, walk away. It's a whole new deal. On the road, the 70D is about what an all-electric luxury liner should be: quiet, smooth and rapid. Soothing. Tesla says the car hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, but that's not the story; torque is. Acceleration is right now, pressing you back in the seat like you're taking off in a jet-surprisingly quick, with no hesitation from downshifting. In fact, there is no downshifting. Once underway, the 70D cruises along swiftly and silently; lifting off the accelerator engages regen braking.
The electric motors are on the front and rear axles, thus the AWD, helpful north of the Mason-Dixon line. Steering speed is adjustable with comfort, standard and sport modes. All provide accurate steering; the car changes direction easily, belying its battery weight. Mercedes-Benz supplies the major controls (steering wheel, turn-signal stalk and the like), so there is familiarity inside. The materials and build quality look great. A 17-inch touchscreen dominates the central console and controls everything.
There are no switches, buttons or knobs. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his goal is to make electric cars mainstream. You could argue dumping the 60 means Tesla is shifting away from mainstream to more-expensive, more-profitable cars, though you could also argue moving the Model S up creates space in the lineup for the more mass-market Model 3, expected in 2017 or '18 and priced around $35,000. Tesla is taking 70D orders now online and through its factory-owned showrooms (rather than through dealerships). The car's instant acceleration and on-road silence is intriguing. The sticker might seem like a lot of scratch, but the $7,500 federal tax credit (and a wide variety of state incentives) could ease the pain.



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