Equipping a car with a ‘Ludicrous Speed’ setting is somewhat brave. Not only does the name playfully allude to the cinema of Mel Brooks (it’s a 30-year-old reference to light speed being too slow), but it also ramps up expectations to the near-vertical – and opens the door to potential disappointment.

In one sense, the latter comes to pass. The P90D, with two testers aboard, could not be persuaded to deliver a sub-3.0sec 0-60mph time – and felt unlikely to do so in any circumstance.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Huge mass tests the brakes into T5, but the car just about loses speed. Brakes resist overheating for longer than the battery

This, though, is a matter for the small print, in that Tesla’s claim has always included the disclaimer of a one-foot rollout. Even so, it’s the acceleration figures that the car records before the legal limit that make it truly remarkable.

To put it into context, the P85+ tested in 2013 featured the same electric car party trick: a venomous avalanche of instantaneous torque, launched like a bullet from a gun.

That car made it to 40mph from rest in just 2.9sec; the P90D, powered up and with both axles in on the action, is very nearly a second quicker.

For the first 30mph, it is more than half a second up on a BMW M5. It even noses the McLaren 570S despite giving away a colossal 775kg. Ludicrous? Just a bit.

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And that’s before we’ve dealt with the acceleration that occurs when the wheels are already rolling. From 20mph, the Tesla hits 40mph in a solitary second. It is a tummy-troubling, neck-snapping outburst, made all the more preposterous by the fact that it is accompanied only by wind and whine, as well as the audible squeaks and grunts of the incredulous occupants around you.

But for all its initial shove, the P90D is not immune from physics, nor the eventual limitations of its powertrain.

By 100mph, the M5 has caught up; by 150mph, it is almost four seconds ahead. More pertinently, there is only a split second or two of difference in the 30-70mph times.

But while the M5 proves that it’s possible to equal the P90D’s performance by conventional means, classing the two in the same league ignores the EV’s other big advantage: it doesn’t come with the financial, social and environmental burden of noisily burning finite hydrocarbons.

Leaving aside the source of the electricity for a moment, nailing the P90D’s accelerator in the pursuit of pleasure is virtually guilt-free – and absurdly moreish. 

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