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2014 Tesla Model S: Number of variants and options cut

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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File

(Read caption) New all-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model S car are lined up for test drives in Hawthorne, Calif. Tesla is cutting back the number of options and variants of the latest Model S to reduce manufacturing costs.

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The number of actual and potential Tesla Model S variants exploded with the launch of "D" dual-motor all-wheel drive system, but to simplify its assembly process and boost production rates, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is making some cuts. The Silicon Valley startup will eliminate some variants, colors, and options to streamline things. During Tesla's recent third-quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said the move will allow the company to more easily ramp up production.

So Tesla will scrap the rear-wheel-drive P85 and P85+ models, which will be superseded by the all-wheel-drive P85D. With 416 horsepower, the P85 was thecar that wowed most automotive magazines when the Model S initially launched (the P85+ was a handling-enhancing package with larger tires), but it's admittedly less impressive now that the 691-hp P85D is on the prowl.

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Buyers will get more performance, but they'll also be paying a lot more. With a base price of $104,500, the P85D starts at roughly $20,000 more than the next-cheapest model, the standard 85D, which has the same 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack but fewer performance enhancements.

With this move, it seems like Tesla is positioning the sportier "P" model as a more direct competitor to the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and other luxury hot rods by making consumers pay significantly more for performance.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tesla is also eliminating the all-wheel-drive 60D. This all-wheel-drive version of the 60-kWh Model S was purely theoretical, as it never went into production. That leaves the rear-wheel-drive model as the only version with the smaller battery pack.

In addition, Tesla is dropping green and brown from its color palette, leaving six available colors—black, white, silver, gray, blue, and red. It also reshuffled options a bit, sacking the performance leather and Lacewood interior trim, and bundling parking sensors and fog lamps with the $4,250 tech package.

This package is required to receive software updates for Tesla's much-anticipated autopilot feature, although the safety features of that system—including lane-departure warning and blind spot monitoring—are being built into cars without the package.


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