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My lap of terror in the Tesla D

Zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, in the dark

When unveiling the D, a high-end, all-wheel-drive option of the Model S on Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the target for acceleration was the world's greatest supercars. What the company ended up with was 3.2 seconds from 0 to 60, something that really doesn't look like much on paper, but feels like being in a rocket ship when you're actually inside a vehicle, and ultimately behind the wheel.

I got pretty close to that, sitting shotgun in a top-of-the line P85D, the performance version of the Model S. It includes two motors so that the car can shift power to the right one in inclement weather. But it also means that flat out, it can push more power everywhere, getting the whole car from 0 to 60 in those precious seconds.

Where did we test that? On a course I think you can safely call the lap of terror. The first half involves accelerating through a tent that's been rigged with multicolor neon lights, resembling something like Rainbow Road from Mario Kart, albeit with a more real sense of death if something went wrong. The second half of the course demos some of the car's new "autopilot" features. This isn't full control of the car. It's little things like letting you change lanes just by flicking your turn signal (while the car looks out for anything that may be around you), as well as identifying signs and people. Nobody jumped out at us, but the car automatically changed its speed when we hit a slower zone.

Eventually Tesla is hoping to tune its autopilot system into something that will let people just kick back and be a passenger in their own car. But if the trip through the neon tunnel of terror is any indication, it's more fun to gun it.

Here are some more shots of the new cars, the track, and the event.


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