Upgrading my Model S?

In the middle of last month I got an unsolicited email from Tesla headquarters asking me if I wanted to upgrade my Model S.  I have not seen much chatter about this on the web and the email was addressed directly to me.  I have a VIN less than 5,000, so hand soliciting owners with less than 5,000 miles is not surprising.  A Bloomberg reports states that Tesla is strongly pushing to show positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The bulk of the email stated the following:

This is X with Tesla Motors Headquarters. Today, I am writing to you to explore upgrading your Model S! 

Our newest release of Autopilot hardware and software will revolutionize your commute and we’d like to offer you an easy path to upgrade your Model S to a vehicle with these new features.  Model S also features new options such as improved seating, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, Ludicrous speed, range of over 280 miles, new colors, new fascia and much more.  Above all, we have made the upgrading process simple and convenient.   

We are also excited to share that we have reintroduced the Tesla Referral Program! From now until October 15th you will receive a $1,000 credit towards the purchase price of either a Model S/X.

I had not really looked into upgrading, as I tend to hold onto cars for at least ten years unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade.  But I thought I’d look into how much it would cost to upgrade my Model S.  I had no interest in the Model X.

Possible Configuration

Base Model

There are currently four battery sizes available:  60, 75, 90 or 100 kWh.  The 100kWh only comes configured as a P100D with dual drive.  The 90 is also only available with the dual drive but the 60 and 75 can be configured with rear wheel drive.  My main interest is battery range as I like to take long trips and have the most flexibility on when and where to charge.  The following table shows the four battery options, the EPA mileage estimates, the amount of upfront cash required before sales tax, and the cost per mile.  The 60 and 75 rear wheel drive version and the 90D are in the same ballpark; if you have any interest in a longer range vehicle, you are paying the same proportion in cost for more battery cells up to the 90D.


The P100D is a $42,500 jump from the 90D.  The 90D goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, the P100D goes from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.  If I were to upgrade, I would definitely go with the 90D.  The P100D’s range is not that much more for the extra cost. I live in an area with increasing congestion where it is increasingly difficult to enjoy fast 0 to 60 acceleration.



I’d pay the $3,000 for Autopilot 2.0 hardware.  The primary feature I would be interested in is intelligent cruise control.  I’ve always found traditional cruise control generally more frustrating than anything else because there are always too many cars on the highway to maintain a constant speed.  The rest of the autopilot features don’t interest me all that much.

Smart Air Suspension

I bought the smart air suspension on my Model S in order to improve the efficiency while driving on the freeway.  Unfortunately I have found very little efficiency improvements using the smart air suspension.  For $2,500 and more maintenance issues, I would definitely pass on this option.

Panoramic Roof

I’d definitely configure the car with the Panoramic Roof for $1,500.  I don’t think I have ever bought a car without some sort of sunroof.


After so much hassle with my 21” tires, I definitely would choose 19” wheels.  Low profile tires are just too much of a hassle on a wide vehicle.  I am tired of tight parking spaces, curb rash, and the increased vulnerability and wear of low profile tires.

Ultra High Fidelity Sound

For $2,500, I am a sucker for better sounding music in the car even though I don’t listen to it all that much.  I know there are after market options, but that to me is just a hassle.

Premium Upgrade Package

This $3,000 package includes a lot of miscellaneous things.  I would like to have the filtration system to some agricultural smells, and I like having a power liftgate.

Other options

I don’t have any needs for the Sub Zero Weather Package, Rear Facing Seats or the High Amperage Charger.


Deciding the exact color seat combination would probably be a last minute decision.  I’d probably wait for the grey second generation seats in Mid 2017 that are a $2,500 upgrade.  I’m happy with my black interior, but I’ve always liked grey interiors the best.


Tax Credits

I would be unlikely to get my federal tax credit of $7,500.  I did not get the credit on the Roadster, and I did not get all the credit on my Model S.  I am very fortunate to have retired very early in life, and my investments are tuned to only generate enough interest and dividend income to offset property tax and mortgage interest.  Adjusting this even in one tax year is not that simplistic, and definitely hard to do in the last quarter of a year.

The California state tax credit is a bit more complex and caught up in politics.  Right now if you try to apply you will be put on a waitlist.


For both my Roadster and Model S, the rebate arrived very quickly and the process was painless.  Recently though the California government stopped this incentive for high income earners and increased the incentives for those with low income.  California uses gross annual incomes to determine whether or not you are eligible for the income.

income.jpgI would not count on the $2,500 California rebate if I bought a new Tesla both for political reasons and my personal widely fluctuating income.

Trade In

I have to admit the number one thing I was curious about in this process was the value of my current Model S with 59,000 miles on it.  The process to get a quote took a while but in the end, I would receive $41,000 plus a $1,000 loyalty credit contingent upon an inspection.  I don’t have any scratches on the car but they would likely deduct some curb rash repair fees.


The most likely configuration I came up with was a 90D with about half the options for $102,000.    I would need to add in 9% sales tax and then subtract out my $42,000 trade in. I do still have $800 left in credit for an earlier referral but that might be used up to clean up the curb rash on my wheels.  In the end to upgrade my car would cost me around $70,000!


I have no interest in changing my under warranty 59,000 mile Model S for the a very similar car with a small increase in range for $70,000.   In the unlikely occurrence that my Model S was totaled, I might be interested in leasing and switching the cars around till I found the perfect body size for me – even driving an X for a few years then switching to a Model 3.  Upgrading a car to essentially the same car is just not all that interesting.


New Titanium

At the shareholder’s meeting a new Titanium colored car was supercharging.  The color is nice but I’ve never been particularly fond of colors in this range of beige / tan / gold / light brown.  Elon did mention that they have completed a new paint shop, which may be the most advanced in the world.

Tesla's New Titanium Color

Tesla’s New Titanium Color

Color Update – Again

Tesla updated their color lineup again!  They quickly brought back Standard White as a no cost option.  This could have been either a simple mistake on part of their website team or a rash of customer complaints not wanting to pay $1.5K extra for the Multi-Coat Pearl White.

I am a little obsessed with color, hence three blog posts about color in one week!  I have never owned a white car as I find them very boring.  But I do actually like the Multi-Coat Pearl White – even more than the now discontinued Silver.

Deep Blue Metallic

UPDATE:  I realized after the initial publication of this post the new blue was not very accurate.  No filter was on my Iphone5, I think the image compression for jpg just altered the color too much.  Here is a better version of the blue as it is more “royal blue” than the earlier version of the same photo.

Better version of Blue

Better version of Blue

The Palo Alto service center and showroom has a new Deep Blue Metallic 70D with dealer plates.  I stopped to look at the new blue and take some photos.  The new blue is very much a royal blue.  The car happened to be sitting next to a customer’s car that was the older dark blue color.


New Colors

Tesla quietly changed their color line up on their web page and reduced it to the following seven colors.  Elon Musk had recently tweeted “colors (too many similar)”.  Six of the seven paint colors have an upgrade cost.  The metallic paints cost $1,000 more, and the multi-coat paints cost $1,500 more.

New Color Line Up

New Color Line Up

  1. Solid Black – Flat black is the only “free” or included color.
  2. Titanium Metallic – This new color was intelligently quickly renamed from Warm Silver.  Titanium is a classic car color in the beige or champagne category.
  3. Midnight Silver Metallic –  From the website I cannot tell if this is a simple renaming of Steel Grey or an even darker grey.  Steel Grey replaced the Dolphin Grey on my car.
  4. Obsidian Black Metallic – Tesla announced this new color last week.
  5. Deep Blue Metallic – Tesla announced this new color last week and smartly renamed it from the confusing Deep Ocean Blue.
  6. Pearl White Multi-Coat – I have seen a large number of these Pearl White cars on the road and this is the first white car that I think looks quite pretty when clean.
  7. Red Multi-Coat – This red color came out with a lot of excitement as Sunset Red.

The colors Tesla removed as options include

  1. White – This color was non-metallic white.
  2. Dark Blue – This blue was very dark and basically black with some blue paint.
  3. Silver – The Tesla silver was very pale.

Earlier color options also have included a brown and a dark green.

According car coating manufacturer PPG, Tesla’s most popular colors in order have been:

  1. Black
  2. Grey Metallic
  3. Blue Metallic
  4. Red
  5. White Metallic

For folks like me who prefer more interesting colors, the marketplace does not support these interesting colors.  PPG reports the following most popular car colors for 2014 in North America:

  1. White at 23%
  2. Black at 18%
  3. Grey at 16%
  4. Silver at 15%

So a whopping 72% of North American cars are white, grey or black!  The color distributions vary worldwide but are not dramatically different.  If I were buying a new Model S today, I would seriously consider Deep Blue Metallic.


70D Announcement

Tesla announced a new version of the Model S, the 70D, by simply writing a blog post and changing their web page early this morning.  I like this simple way of changing their line up.  With this new lineup, they are eliminating the Model S 60, which started at around $70K, for an all wheel drive 70D, starting around $75K.   These numbers are before any governmental tax incentives.  One California lawmaker is trying to eliminate the $2,500 California credit for cars costing more than $40K.

I suspect two things lead to this change in configurations.  First, the battery technology is constantly changing.  When technology changes, the newer models simply change.  Secondly, I think most customers want the largest battery they can afford to enable driving longer without having to charge.  The new 70D has a driving range of 240 miles.  If a Model S could hold a 150kW battery, there would be a market for it!  Also with the larger battery, an owner has peace of mind knowing that even if the battery ages over a number of years, the car will still be very useful.

I do find it quite curious that the most inexpensive model is all wheel drive with two motors.  You can still buy a rear wheel drive version with the 85 battery.  Speculative ideas include that Tesla wants to have a clear differentiator between the Model S and the future 3rd generation car, or that perhaps the 70 without dual motors would be too slow, which seems unlikely.

Also from today onwards, all cars have the tech package which includes navigation.  I do not think very many customers bought cars without the tech package, and more and more features are linking into the navigation system.

Tesla also introduced some new colors:  ocean blue, which is a medium deep ocean blue, and warm silver, which is closer to a tan color, and a metallic black, obsidian black. If I were buying a new Tesla today I would seriously consider the new ocean blue, although it is quite different than my Roadster’s beloved Glacier Blue.

New Model Lineup

With the announcement of the all wheel drive D capability of the car, Tesla rearranged and simplified their offerings.  Prior to the big anouncement, the Model S was available in the following configurations:

60, 85, P85 and P85+

All of which I tested as service loaners. Just after the D announcement, Tesla offered various versions of the D, but now the options are simplified to the following four :

60, 85, 85D and P85D

The P85 and the P85+ are no longer available and also there is no all wheel drive version with the 60kWh battery.  The P85+ was no longer available immediately after the D was announced.  This decision was probably easy as the P85D is the top of the line performer as was the P85+.  The discontinuation of the P85 has caused a small uproar in the owner community.  Some consider their car less valuable than before.  But from a configuration standpoint, the P85 performance is not that much faster than the 85, and I did not care for the way the front of the car tilted up from a dead start.  I can’t wait to try a P85D loaner!

The table below lists the pricing of the four base models with the same options including the 19″ wheels.  The numbers are for a cash purchase in California including “Destination and Registration Doc Fees” and assuming the buyer qualifies and receives the $7,500 federal and $2,500 California tax credits.  For buyers in other states and countries, the final price may differ slightly but the variation of price between model to model will be the same.

Tesla Model Price and Feature Comparison Table Nov, 2014

Tesla Model Price and Feature Comparison Table Nov, 2014

I have also included the detail performance of each model.  Tesla is now using a range number for the car at 65mph instead of the EPA range.  Regardless, an easy estimate is approximately 2/3 of this value given spirited driving in all kinds of weather.

The interesting question on the table is it worth $24,600 for a car that is two seconds faster?

Discontinuing the 60D option was probably made after Tesla looked at the number of cars ordered.  The 60 is a good choice for folks who have more limited budgets and adding all wheel drive can tip the scale.

Green Car Reports recently stated that Californian’s buy 40% of all of the plug in vehicles in the United States.  Only in the Sierra Nevada mountains is all wheel drive necessary but many folks throughout California go there in the winter for skiing or snowboarding.  But I would suspect most of those buyers would be also choosing the 85 version in order to enable more long distance driving.

They also discontinued the brown and green colors.  I think I only saw a brown Model S once and few greens.  The green was almost black and very dark.  They also discontinued the Lacewood trim and a black roof on a non-black car, which I have never seen.  They also discontinued unlimited ranger service this year and now charge $100 per visit.