Tesla has announced a new four-wheel drive variant of its four-door Model S electric car. Called the Model S ‘D’, the extra letter stands ‘Dual Motor’, and brings sensational performance alongside its increased all-weather traction.
Up to now, all versions of the Tesla Model S have been fitted with a rear-mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels. As their name suggests, Dual Motor variants get a second electric motor up front to power the front axle.
That means torque distribution can now be juggled front and the rear, with the computers in charge also able to meter out the torque precisely from left to right.
Read our guide to the best electric cars and EVs on sale in the UK
As a result, this is a car that promises to be quite handy on slippery roads. Never shy of making bold claims, Tesla says the all-paw Model S offers ‘the most capable road holding and handling of any vehicle ever produced’.
Three Tesla Model S Dual Motor models
Like the single-motor, rear-driven Model S (which will remain on sale alongside the new car), there’s a sliding scale of price and performance to choose from for the Model S Dual Motor.
Kicking off the range is the 60D (60kWh battery and twin 185bhp motors), followed by the 85D (85kWh battery and twin 185bhp motors).
Spiciest of all, though, is the P85D. It may have a name that sounds like a tax form but this is one very exciting car. The ‘P’ signifies ‘Performance’ and Tesla claims it’s the fastest-accelerating four-door production car ever built.
Tesla Model S P85D: the fastest four-door ever?
The rear motor of the P85D churns out the equivalent of 465bhp, the front motor 218bhp, making for 683bhp in total – an awful lot of power in anyone’s money.
In addition to this, the P85D’s ability to produce 100% torque from a standing start means it can propel its 2239kg of bulk from 0-60mph in 3.2sec – the same time as a McLaren F1. The 60D and 85D alternatives take 5.7 and 5.2sec, respectively
Those times should be achievable by most ordinary drivers on a reasonably healthy set of tyres, too – there’s no difficulty in getting a Model S off the line, just plant the accelerator pedal and hold on.
The P85D supersedes the single-motor P85+ as the fastest car in the Model S line-up. Top speed jumps from 130mph to 155mph, while that 3.2sec 0-60mph time is a whole second quicker.
Tesla Model S D: efficiency and pricing
Interestingly, while we’ve become used to four-wheel-drive models giving away some efficiency through the usual mechanical losses associated with an extra pair of driveshafts and so on, Tesla says its all-wheel-drive Model S will actually be more efficient than the rear-drive version.
Being able to split the amount of current taken from the battery to each motor means the 85D and 60D models have seen their everyday driving range boosted by 10 miles to around 275 miles.
Prices start at £67,280 for the 60D, £72880 for the 85D and £90,680 for the P85D. First deliveries aren't scheduled until July 2015 for P85D (with the others following in September), but we'd anticipate the waiting list to grow quickly.
What about these rumours of an autonomous Tesla?
Over the next few months, ‘Autopilot hardware’ will become standard on every new Model S. It’s not quite the full KITT from Knightrider experience just yet, more active lane keeping and adaptive cruise control – some of the technology we’ve become used to on many mainstream production cars but not available on the Model S until now.
In time, Tesla drivers will be able to tell their car to change lanes itself by nudging the indicator stalk and the car will be able to manage its own speed by reading road signs.
These semi-autonomous abilities are made possible by a new forward-facing camera and radar kit at the front and 12 long-range sensors able to read data from 16 feet around the car in all directions.
Tesla says its goal is not to enable driverless cars, which it says are still ‘years away’ from reality, but to ‘relieve drivers of the most boring and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel’ while still ultimately remaining in control of the car.
Read Ben Oliver’s first drive of the Tesla Model S here