The offer came in from Tesla just before the first press day at the LA auto show: there would be a new Model S P100D available on Thursday, the first one to go to journalists. Would we like to drive it?
The P100D is the latest and greatest evolution of the Model S sedan. It has a massive – indeed unprecedented – 100 kWh slab of battery riding in a tray underneath its svelte and sensuous body. (For comparison’s sake the battery in a Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car is 16 kWh, so the P100D’s battery is more than six times bigger.) With that big a battery the range of the P100D is now listed on the Tesla website at 337 miles. That’s if you’re going a steady 65 mph on a 70-degree day with the 19-inch wheels and the a/c off (they’re very precise). Slow your P100D down to a steady 55 mph and your range goes up to 409 miles. (409 miles! What more do you want, people?) And that’s at steady highway speeds. Stop-and-go traffic generally means more regenerative braking and therefore even more range in an EV.
But while the range of the P100D is impressive, indeed better than any EV out there, it isn’t the most impressive performance parameter of this car. The Model S P100D also accelerates quicker than almost any other production car in the world. Tesla says that 0-60 comes up in 2.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 10.6. This is according to a tweet by Elon Musk himself. That tweet was followed up with another – also from Musk – stating that a software update coming next month will drop the car’s 0-60 time down to 2.4 seconds. That’s quicker than it takes to read this sentence! Remember, this a full-sized luxury sedan with just about as much connectivity and infotainment as the space station.
Zero to 60 takes just 2.5 seconds
Our drive started in the L.A. Convention Center’s parking garage. First thing we noticed – and this would sound goofy on any other car but it’s significant on this one – is that the door handles worked. They worked! Last time we drove a Model S – quite a while ago – customers were still reporting problems with the doors. Indeed, quality control seemed to be a problem on earlier Teslas. But our door handles popped right out and we opened the door right up. Making cars is complex and customers generally expect you to get everything in working order. Tesla is learning this.
The “gears” –- forward, park, reverse — there is only one gear ratio when you’re driving a Tesla -– are operated by a stalk on the steering column similar to that on a Mercedes. One motion down on the stalk and we were in gear and off, in a fashion similar to that of the Model X SUV, which shares the same platform. Visibility is very good, and response from the accelerator pedal is linear, not jumpy like so many gasoline cars that are trying hard to impress you right off the bat. Steering is so smooth we didn’t even notice it. We’d like to try it out on a twisting mountain road to see how it handles in comparison to, say, a BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 or Cadillac CTS.
But mostly we wanted to try that acceleration. 2.5 seconds? Yow. Very soon we found a short, straight stretch of road with no one on it – yes they exist in LA if you know where to look. Though our P100D was equipped with Ludicrous mode, since we were basically cruising around LA opportunistically looking for an empty street, we didn’t engage it. No matter, as we’d soon find out. With everything clear and the street empty, we punched it.
The Tesla professional in the passenger seat made a slight squeaking sound and then she said, “Oh my God!” followed by laughter. We both laughed. Our necks actually snapped back. It was not hyperbole from the marketing department, it was actual neck-snapping acceleration. We have driven just about every car made in the last 35 years, launched about 1000 cars down various drag strips, including some of the fastest cars ever made, and we have never experienced something as quick as this, even without Ludicrous mode engaged. We didn’t time any acceleration runs but 2.5 seconds to 60 feels entirely plausible. It really gets your attention. Is it even necessary to go 2.4 when the optional update comes out next month? Sure it is!
We found another long, empty stretch of forgotten LA street, a longer street this time, again with no one on it and no side streets from which anyone could dart, and nailed that sucker again. Yow! Again with the “Oh my God,” again with the laughter. Crazy acceleration is always fun.
Launching this car takes no particular talent; you don’t have to modulate the clutch, measure the wheelspin or even worry about brake torque. You just step on the accelerator and go. It didn’t sound like there was any tire squeal or any slip at all — with power going to all four wheels, all electronically controlled for maximum traction, all you have to do is keep steering.
We did it a few more times, then crept back into LA afternoon traffic. In regular, plodding traffic misery the Model S reverts to being simply a high-tech luxury sedan.
We hope to get the P100D soon for a more extensive test, hopefully one that includes instrumented testing. But for the meantime we have to say that this is a very enjoyable rocket ship. No SpaceX pun intended.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $134,500
As Tested Price: $149,000
Drivetrain: 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor, awd
Curb Weight: 4,945 lbs est.
0-60 MPH: 2.5 seconds
Fuel Economy: 337 miles range (mfg.)(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Quickest acceleration in world, seats up to seven
Cons: Styling refresh looks a little blob-like