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.
- The new "D" variants of the Model S don't really look different on the outside. But they're very different on the inside.
- One of the only way to spot the difference from the outside is the red "D" added to the end of the model number. Here is the P85D, the highest-end Tesla Model S with all-wheel-drive and a performance package that gets it from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds.
- Tesla's D unveiling wasn't just for press. Many attendees drove to the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles in Teslas that filled the nearby lots.
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk points out the new features of the D system on stage with the new chassis being held up with a massive robotic car arm.
- Here's that arm manipulating the entire chassis like it's nothing.
- Inside our test drive (as a passenger). We're in the section of the road where the car is staying between the lines and changing speeds without human intervention as part of the new "autopilot" system.
- You also get the fancy "D" badge on your digital dashboard too. This area doubles as a heads up display for identifying objects when you're driving it with the help of the new "autopilot" features.
- This is how "autopilot" sees other vehicles and your car lane while driving. And of course you're listening to Daft Punk while all this is happening.
- One of the few things that lets you tell this apart from existing models.
- The back motor, with a nearly identical version sitting up in the front of the car. The two can trade off power between wheels, something that gives the car more grip in bad weather, and potentially more range than its predecessor.