Last week, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk served up, as is his M.O., a cryptic tweet alerting his followers (and thus, the world) that Tesla had something special in store that it would reveal on Thursday, October 9. The message said to expect “The D” and “Something Else,” leaving observers adequately befuddled and trying to determine what the (at least) two things might be. Most of the buzz has centered around an all-wheel drive Model S, as well as autonomous driving features for its existing cars, as the image depicted what appeared to be a Model S lurking behind a sinister-looking garage door.
That time has now come, and as expected, “The D” is a variation of the Model S — albeit one with two motors, instead of one, so that there is now power sent to the front wheels in addition to the rear. This may not sound very exciting — after all, all-wheel drive is a feature that virtually every luxury car and many conventional cars offer. But the results are particularly astounding in Tesla’s new system.
First things first — since it now has two motors, logically that would translate into damage to the car’s range, right? Nope. The dual motor S not only matches the range of the rear-wheel Model S, but surpasses it, and in its highest P85 trim, offers 275 miles of go on a single charge, conditions depending. The 60 kWh Model S now offers 225 (up from 208), and the standard 85 now offers 295 miles (up from 265), all measured at 65 miles per hour.
The increases in range would have been largely enough, and Tesla could have left the benefits at that, coupled with the traction and handling advantages of all-wheel drive. But once you look at the Model S’ new performance capabilities, the extra range becomes more of an afterthought.
In the top-spec P85D trim, the Model S now generates combined horsepower of 691. I’ll repeat that. The all-electric Tesla Model S, with 275 miles of range, now generates nearly 700 horsepower between its two motors, with the front motor contributing 221 and the rear throwing in 470. As you can imagine, this has some serious consequences in terms of performance, so let’s put this into perspective.
Zero to 60, which used to take 4.2 seconds in the standard P85, now takes 3.2. This makes the P85D the fastest accelerating production four-door luxury car ever, and if you’re wondering what kind of company this car will be keeping, here’s an idea: the Mercedes S63 AMG, with its 577 horsepower, does the same sprint in 3.9, and it costs $141,000 at minimum (the 621 horsepower S65 does it in 4.2 despite the larger engine and costs even more). Over at Porsche, the Panamera Turbo S — which costs $180,000 to start — does it in 3.6 seconds. The P85D starts at $120,000. Both the 60 kWh and the 85 kWh models feature 376 horsepower.
Torque figures were not detailed, but expect “The D” to be a big deal at the strip, seeing as the torque — however much it may be — will be instantaneous, as always. Top speed is limited at 155 miles per hour, up from 130. But in Elon’s Tweet, he also promised “Something Else,” and that something turned out to be autonomous driving features and some added safety tech.
The Model S will acquire some new hardware, such as a long-range forward-looking radar, a camera with image recognition that will be able to read things like speed limit signs and identify where pedestrians are, and a 360-degree, long-range sonar. All of these goodies will be incorporated into the car’s existing GPS system, and it means that the car now has the capabilities of becoming autonomous. It can also park itself.
Tesla’s investors, not surprisingly, were not thrilled with the self-parking, fastest luxury four-door car on the planet, as they appear to have been expecting an entirely new model altogether, or at least more than what Tesla offered. At the time of writing, shares are off by about 5.5 percent, helping sober what many see as Tesla’s bloated valuation.
The biggest gripe from an investor standpoint will likely be that the P85D will do little to help boost Tesla’s bottom line, or expand its margins and capacities. Tesla’s next model, the Model 3, is expected to be the one to bear the company’s burden of more mainstream aspirations, but it cannot do so without Tesla’s Nevada-based battery factory that has yet to come online. In the meantime, Tesla has been plugging away at pushing the boundaries of EV capabilities, and now has a car that can accelerate as fast as a manual-transmission Corvette Z06. The Dodge Charger Hellcat may be faster to sixty (and has a higher top speed), but the Model S/D likely has a few extra pounds on the 707 horsepower beast.
So there you have it. We’ll have to wait on news about the Model 3 and the Model X SUV, which is expected to arrive sometime in the spring. For now, we’ll just have to be content with a Corvette-rivaling family sedan that doesn’t need gas or oil changes. Oh, well.