The new 'D' versions feature an electric motor on each axle, whereas the existing line-up only has a driven rear axle. The addition of a driven front axle boosts traction and improves stability, consequently widening the car's appeal in markets where inclement weather and poor road conditions are frequent.
Customers will be able to pick from three variants – the 60D, 85D and P85D. UK pricing has yet to be announced, but the all-wheel-drive Teslas command a premium of $4000 – approximately £2500 – over rear-drive models.
That means that, in the UK, a four-wheel-drive Model S 60D would cost £57835. The flagship P85D will set you back around £76,635.
Tesla boss Elon Musk said: "What makes this unique and better than previous all-wheel-drive cars is that you can dynamically shift the power from front to rear at the millisecond level; you can very quickly adjust torque – more than is possible than with a mechanical system.
"With all all-wheel-drive systems out there, they're less efficient. In the case of the Model S, because we can shift the power so quickly, we can be constantly at the most efficient point for the individual motors and overcome the weigh penalty. Literally everything improves."
The 60D and 85D's electric motors produce 188bhp and 181lb ft, resulting in a combined 376bhp and 362lb ft. The 60D variant has a claimed top speed of 125mph, a 0-60mph time of 5.7sec and a range of 225 miles at an average of 65mph. The higher-performance 85D delivers 155mph, 5.2sec and 295 miles respectively.
What's most notable, however, is the new flagship version – badged the P85D. It packs significantly more powerful motors, with the front electric motor producing 221bhp and 244lb ft, the rear 470bhp and 443lb ft. That means a net output of 691bhp and 687lb ft.
Consequently the P85D delivers supercar-like acceleration figures, in part thanks to the ability of an electric motor to produce maximum torque from 0rpm; Tesla claims it can dispatch the 0-60mph sprint in 3.2sec, as fast as a Ferrari 458 Speciale, and complete the standing quarter mile in 11.8sec.
Despite its performance credential the P85D is also claimed to have a range, at a constant 65mph, in the region of 275 miles.
Additionally, both the 60D and 85D perform better in all areas – including range – than their two-wheel-drive equivalents, despite an 80kg weight penalty.
The P85D version is much faster than its rear-drive alternative, but its range is ten miles less – presumably because of an additional 132kg incurred by larger motors and the addition of the four-wheel-drive system. It does boast a 50/50 weight distribution, however, and can deliver an accelerative force of 1G.
Musk added: "This car is nuts. It's like taking off from a carrier deck; just bananas. It's like your own personal roller coaster."
During the presentation at which the new D variant was revealed, Tesla also showcased a semi-autonomous mode for the Model S. Thanks to the use of myriad cameras and sensors, it permits the car the ability to change lanes of its own accord when a driver indicates, regulate its speed according to the signposted limits, self-park and perform emergency stops.
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