The Tesla Model S electric car announced in 2009 featured one surprise that nobody expected: The vehicle seats up to seven passengers, according to Tesla chairman Elon Musk. Pictures of the Model S can be found floating on the web, but none of them show the additional rear seats that are creating so much buzz.
[UPDATE: Check out the video below with Elon Musk and seven passengers unloading from the Model S at the new Fremont, CA factory on October 1, 2011]
The Model S looks like a cross between a Masarati and an Aston Martin, and is strikingly similar in design to the electric Fisker Karma car, which we discussed here, although the Model S is a hybrid. From what we’ve heard, Tesla was actually involved in a law suit with Fisker, who reportedly stole the design after “poaching” a few engineers. In any case, the Model S has standard seating for five, just as many sports sedans do, but also features a set of two additional rear-facing seats in what would otherwise be a hatchback trunk, as shown below.
Rear-facing passengers will enjoy a great view, as the vehicle’s hatchback and roof are almost completely made of glass. The car we explored also has a sliding sunroof for those hot summer days.
Our best guess is that the seven-passenger option targets Moms who bought Toyota Land Cruisers (or the Lexus equivalent) and who might benefit from the extra space for soccer teams and play dates.
Other cars from the past with rear-facing third-row seats include the uber-popular Ford Taurus Station Wagon of the 1990s, the Mercedes Benz W123 and W124 models, and the Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country introduced in the late 1950s, shown below. These seats folded up out of the trunk space (almost like the flap that covers a spare tire) and were fairly rigid. Whiplash was a concern for larger passengers (at least with the Ford version, which did not include headrests) but short children would not have that same problem.
Credits: Chrysler rear seat image source. Elon Musk quotation on seven-seat option by Laura Burstein of CNET “Tesla Motors unveiled its Model S sedan prototype today at a rocket factory in Southern California. The four-door will seat seven and start at a base price of $57,400 ($49,900 after a $7,500 federal tax credit).” here.