Tesla's Model S receives uprated motors, four-wheel drive and ridiculous levels of acceleration

What is it?

A car that accelerates extremely quickly. But while you can look for a button marked ‘launch control’ on the Tesla Model S P85D, you won’t find one. Of course you won’t. Electric motors – and there are two in the P85D, rather than a Tesla’s usual one – develop peak torque from zero revs. There is no clutch. 

Instead of engaging a dramatic launch process, then, on the 17in central monitor you just turn off the ‘creep’ function and engage the button marked ‘Insane’. It’s the sort of word that invites letters if you use it on the front of a magazine, but it gets the message across that this P85D is no ordinary Tesla. 

An ordinary (as ordinary as they get) Tesla Model S has a 376bhp motor and is pleasingly fast. The P (for Performance) designation would take that motor to 464bhp, but Tesla has deemed that this might not be enough on its own, so it has dropped that rear-drive P85 from the range and introduced the P85D instead.

It’s like a P85, but with an additional 218bhp motor at the front, making it four-wheel drive and giving a total of 682bhp. Fast? How about 3.1sec to 60mph in any conditions you choose?

What's it like?

Absurd. Push your foot into the carpet and you will accelerate in a manner you haven’t experienced before. Even if you have a really quick car like a Caterham Seven 620R alongside you at the time, you will watch it shrink in your mirrors if the surface is anything but just right. The P85D is the most absurd model in Tesla’s line-up of surprising cars. 

Surprising because of their range, mostly, a benefit that makes them more credible than any other pure electric vehicle. A regular 85 has an approximate 310-mile range. Adding 306bhp and the motor at the front only reduces that by 10 miles, because electric motors are efficient things and on the European legislative drive cycle you routinely don’t use every ounce of available grunt.

Nor would you in regular, everyday driving, where the P85D impresses just like the other Model Ss we’ve driven. Its touchscreen really is a thing of excellence, and it lives in a fine, spacious cabin finished with high-grade materials. And because there is no internal combustion engine, there are luggage compartments both front and rear, so it has bags of room. 

Road noise is on the high side and it’s still not the most engaging car to drive in the class, nor the smoothest riding, but all are respectable enough in a 2.2-tonne car that can achieve remarkable feats of acceleration.

Should I buy one?

Like any EV, you’ll have to know that your own circumstances work. But if they do, a P85D is as terrific as any other Model S. The mildly reduced range over a regular 85 is only a worry if you choose to use its acceleration to embarrass sports cars from a standstill at every given opportunity; each full-throttle run to the legal limit knocks about four miles off the distance to empty.

That doesn’t matter, though. After you’ve backed off, you’ll be that bit farther down the road and still laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Tesla Model S P85D 

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £79,080 (after £5000 gov't grant); Engine Two electric motors; Power 682bhp; Torque 687lb ft; Gearbox Single-speed, direct drive; Kerb weight 2238kg; Top speed155mph; 0-60mph 3.1sec; Range 300 miles; CO2/tax band Nil at tailpipe, 0%

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Einarbb 11 May 2015

The Tesla is a fine car, with sufficient range for most people..

...that being said. I really doubt that the same kind of experience can replicated at price point -normal people buy at. But there is no big secret behind the range accomplishment. It's got a really, really big -battery pack. That's it. Being designed from ground up, as an electric car, note it's quite long and quite wide at the same time. That means, enough space for really really large battery pack. The problem with that approach - - is that the darn things are expensive. So it can thus only be done, for a car, that is sold at - luxury car prices. But in order to get a electric car down to a far more manageable price point for normal people - - say 25k - 30k. I can't see how that could work with large enough battery pack, to give the vehicle anything close to 200 mile range or for that, 300. So - - electric car has become workable, for the well healed buyers. Bravo - - but that won't change the world. Really - - on the whole. Doesn't matter much of a darn! I still reckon hybrid cars or electric cars with range extending petrol engines. Continue to be more practical than pure electric cars. Perhaps 20 years from now it will be different. Or perhaps not, as the battery problem appears to be quite difficult - - as it's not just about efficiency. But also about - - the price of the darn things per vehicle. Unless the price can be brought far enough down, electric cars will remain niche cars or at best, a second mobile for a 2 car home.
Vertigo 11 May 2015

@ Einar

Tesla's building a gigantic battery factory which should lower the cost per unit substantially, but there's also apparently a new battery tech on the horizon (like the transition from nickel to lithium ion a few years ago) that'll improve efficiency. Hopefully by the time the factory's online, they'll be able to extract sufficient power for a good range from a smaller battery pack.

Tesla is supposed to be working on a model that'll be around half the price of a Model S, so I'd expect the two cost-per-battery-density lowering factors to converge for it.

scrap 8 May 2015

Tesla Model S makes the

Tesla Model S makes the Panamera look like a dinosaur. Even if I drove from UK to South of France regularly I'd still choose one, and just bring a good book to read during charging stops.
Vertigo 7 May 2015


I *will* say though, if I was planning on heading on a return trip to John o'Groats, or a long driving holiday around the wilder parts of Scotland, or do a lot of driving in countries Tesla haven't wired up yet, or plan on staying somewhere extraordinarily cold (someone here mentioned -40C weather), I would avoid a Tesla like the plague. They'll need even longer range or more supercharger distribution before most of those options become viable.