A few weeks ago, Drag Times ran a Tesla Model X P90D with Ludicrous Mode against a Ferrari F430 in a series of impromptu drag races. The Ferrari, which was more than a ton less than the Tesla, was left looking like it was tied to a tree. The Tesla, with its awesome torque instantly available, simply ran away and hid from the Ferrari. How embarrassing for the tifosi.
Now Drag Times is back, this time at a proper drag strip and with one of the fastest gasoline powered production cars available, the McLaren 650S. The McLaren has turned a best quarter mile time of 10.3 seconds with a terminal velocity of 136 mph. The Model X’s best time is 11.6 seconds at 119 mph.
No contest, right? Well, that depends. In the races where the McLaren driver was given time to engage Launch Control — a high tech suite of software that performs most of the functions real drivers used to manage for themselves — the McLaren walked all over the Model X.
But when the two cars simply went head to head, the way they would at a stop light grand prix, the contest was a whole lot closer. As you can see in the screenshot above, as the quarter mile mark approached, the two cars were near enough so that both were in the frame. Ultimately, did the McLaren prevail? Yes, it did. But not by as much as you might have expected, given the respective performance envelop of both.
The speed at which the Tesla gets out ahead of the McLaren at the start is really fun to watch. How can a car that weighs so much get such a jump on the mighty twin turbocharged McLaren? The answer is found in those five little letters – t u r b 0. In the absence of launch control and other extraordinary measures, the engine in the McLaren needs to build revs before it builds boost. The Tesla, on the other hand, has maximum torque available at zero rpm.
The inherent difference between internal combustion and electric power make real world contests closer than common sense and common experience would predict. That’s the secret sauce that makes Teslas, and electric cars in general, such fun to drive.