At an event last night, Elon Musk finally gave us the D: A dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model S. On the top-of-the-line P85D, that second motor brings the max speed up to 155 mph and 0-60 mph down to 3.2 seconds — firmly in supercar territory. Musk also announced a new “autopilot” system for all new Tesla cars, which can automatically change lanes when you push the turn signal stalk, automatically reduce your cruise control speed when its forward-facing camera spots a new speed limit sign, and other self-driving functions. Over time, software updates will be rolled out to add more safety/driver assistant features, until eventually your Model S can drive itself.
First, the D — which stands for dual-motor. A standard Model S has a single electric motor that sits over the rear axle; the dual-motor version has a motor that powers the front axle, too. In the case of the standard 60- and 85-kWh versions of the Model S, the second motor increases max range and reduces 0-60 marginally, but that’s about it. For the performance version of the Model S, though — the P85D — Tesla has added another 221 hp, bringing the total to 691 hp, which is capable of 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds and a max speed of 155 mph. It’s not entirely clear where this extra power is coming from; presumably Tesla has significantly increased the size of the battery. Range on the P85D also increases by around 10 miles, to around 275 miles.
The dual-motor system costs an extra $4,000 on the low-end models, but a full $17,000 on the P85D — but you do get “specially designed suspension” for that price, too.
On the autopilot side of things, Tesla announced that all new Model S cars — produced after September 2014 — will include an array of new sensors that will allow the car’s on-board computer to perform a variety of self-driving and driver-assistance functions. There’s a forward-looking camera and radar, and 360-degree ultrasonic sensing. Early reports seem to be a bit confused about what Tesla’s autopilot actually does right now. At the very least, it seems to: perform lane-keep assist; automatically change lanes when you signal; automatically stop when there’s a stopped car in front; self-drive around gentle corners; and it can reduce your cruise control speed in accordance with speed limit signs.
Some reports suggest that the new Tesla Model S also has stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, it can automatically park, and you can summon the car to your current location. If these features aren’t available immediately, they’ll be added later via over-the-air software updates. Presumably Tesla will keep adding autopilot/driver assistance features until we reach Musk’s “90% self-driving” threshold.