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.