Elon Musk finally revealed what the Tesla “D” was all about, and as predicted the D stands for Dual Motor Drive, Tesla’s version of all-wheel drive. Not only does this give the Model S better traction, but it lets the 4,600-lb sedan accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in 3.2 seconds and adds an extra 10 miles of driving range. Wait, what?
Not to brush aside the fact that the new Model S drivetrain debuted on a robotic arm, but this is some pretty exciting stuff for the world of electric vehicles. Normally all-wheel drive hurts fuel economy on conventional cars, but Tesla engineers have developed an all-wheel drive system that actually improves the acceleration, traction, and efficiency of the Model S.
According to Musk, “everything improves” with the addition of the medium-sized motor up front, according to Musk. The digitally-controlled motors can respond more immediately to changes in terrain and acceleration than an mechanically-linked system powered by a conventional motor can. The added efficiencies of using two motors to move the Model S also gives drivers an extra 10 miles of driving range, for a maximum of 275 miles between charges on the 85 kWh Model S (but without the performance package), thanks to the car having more options when accelerating on the road.
Speaking of acceleration, the new top of the line trim, the Model S P85D, will be able to accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in just 3.2 seconds. That’s supercar territory, and officially, it’s a full second faster than the P85+ Model S. Unofficially, some Model S owners claim a 0 to 60 MPH of 3.9 seconds, but we’re splitting tenths of a second here. Suffice to say if Musk’s claims hold up, the Model S P85D will have the same acceleration as an supercharged Ariel Atom or a Ferrari 599 GTO, as well as the legendary McLaren F1 hypercar, which Musk says was the car they set out to match. The extra motor will also add “half-again” as much power, churning out a monstrous 691 horsepower and 687 lb-ft of torque. It’ll out accelerate damn near anything now, though the top end model now stickers at around $120,000.
It’s frickin’ fast, people, and the all-wheel drive system also adds a new braking system that Musk claims is among the most advanced in the world. And yes, all-wheel drive will be available on the 60 kWh and 85 kWh versions, and adds horsepower all around, and the Performance versions will be capable of 1G of lateral acceleration. The system adds about 290-lbs of extra weight to the Model S and $4,000 to the price tag, and top speed has been increased to 155 MPH.
In addition to the Dual Motor Drive system, Musk also revealed Tesla is working on semi-autonomous driver technologies that will help it compete with conventional automakers. One is an automatic lane changer which responds to your use of the turn signal by moving the car when the coast is clear, and a speed adjustment system that can actually read road signs and keep you within the posted speed limit, features which are included in all new Model S sedans made in the past couple of weeks.
These two systems are just the first of many planned autonomous systems that Musk says are coming, and he spoke about additional autonomous car features that are in the works. This includes self-parking technology that will let you get out of the car and before it parks itself, as well as a feature with the calender app that will have the Model S drive itself to a pre-determined destination to pick you up when you need it. The Model S will also debut a feature that shows exactly where other cars are in relation to your Tesla on the gauge cluster, and will provide warnings and even resist steering into other lanes or objects if it senses danger. I dub this feature “Tesla Sense”, sorta like Spider Sense but for software engineers instead of Peter Parker, and you can see the system at work in the video below, as well as Musk’s official presentation.
All in all a pretty big night for Tesla, and I expect the stock price will respond in kind. It’s funny how everybody was right that we’d be seeing an AWD Model S, and yet nobody expected Elon to unveil what he claims is the fastest four-door sedan ever.