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Tesla to produce all-wheel drive Model S sedan next year

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tesla lead
tesla lead

Coming off its first profitable quarter in company history, Tesla is preparing an all-wheel drive version of its popular Model S electric sedan, The Verge has learned from sources familiar with the situation. The new model could launch as soon as early 2014, and may initially be offered in an ultra-premium (and ultra-expensive) trim with performance equal to or better than the current "P85" drivetrain that delivers 0-60 mph in an impressive 4.2 seconds.

Better performance, better traction

It would be a logical move for Tesla, which is already prepping an AWD chassis for its upcoming Model X SUV. Today, the Model S is only available in a rear-wheel drive configuration, which — though preferred by many driving enthusiasts — can be unforgiving in less-than-ideal weather. An AWD option could potentially help Tesla sell its sedan into markets with harsh winters without sacrificing performance; indeed, many modern sports cars send power to all four wheels thanks to benefits in traction and handling. And notably, comments by Elon Musk made during Tesla's June shareholder meeting point to an all-wheel drive chassis hitting the market in the 2014-2015 time frame — Musk mentions the chassis separately from the Model X, suggesting that it could find its way into other vehicles.

What an AWD Model S won't do, seemingly, is help deliver Musk's stated goal of a $30,000 electric sedan in the coming years — though it's reasonable to guess that technology developed for the Model X and improvements in the Model S will trickle down to the smaller, cheaper model by the time it debuts later this decade.

Tesla declined to comment for this story.