Consumer Reports Weighs in on Tesla Model S P85D

OHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

OHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

The Tesla Model S is a desirable luxury sedan, especially as far as electric cars go, but originally being rear-wheel-drive, it lacked the all-weather capability that a lot of buyers in colder climates demanded. Tesla’s solution to this was to add an electric motor to the front wheels as well, creating a version of the Model S that had all-wheel-drive. Adding those motors also made the Model S P85D more powerful and insanely fast.

Instant torque, 691 horsepower, and the power distributed to all four wheels has a habit of doing that.

Fascinated by the car’s claimed zero-to-60 time of 3.1 seconds and the new all-wheel-drive system, Consumer Reports bought a P85D of its own to test and review. Not only would the magazine be able to test how it drove and handled, it would also be able to verify Tesla’s claims.

So how did it do?

In Consumer Reports’ emergency avoidance maneuver, a test designed to simulate swerving out of your lane to avoid an obstacle and then quickly swerving back into your lane to avoid oncoming traffic, the P85D was able to safely complete the test at a speed of 55.5 miles per hour. Despite being a luxury sedan, that speed put the P85D well into performance car territory.

If you’re going to drive a performance car, you also need to be able to quickly cut speed to safely make turns. When Consumer Reports tested the P85D’s braking, it was able to come to a complete stop in 129 feet on wet pavement and only 118 feet on dry pavement. That’s excellent and comparable to a high-performance sports car.

Considering that Tesla promised the P85D would hit 60 miles per hour in a scant 3.1 seconds, straight-line acceleration is probably the test most people are interested in. After running tests using an extremely accurate GPS system to measure acceleration, the P85D came up disappointingly short, taking 3.5 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour. For anyone who’s never felt that kind of acceleration before, that’s still brutally fast, and the Tesla Model S P85D still qualifies as the fastest car Consumer Reports has ever tested.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News

Supposedly though, the upcoming Tesla Model S P90D with 762 horsepower will be even faster, able to hit 60 miles per hour in a ludicrously-fast 2.8 seconds.

That would be an exciting car to drive, but as the Model S nears its fifth year in production, continually adding faster models, more features, and even greater range can only sustain Tesla for so long. What it really needs is a second model it can sell to people who don’t necessarily want or need an electric sports sedan.

With the Model X crossover SUV slated to begin production before the end of the year, that makes is an incredibly important car for Tesla. It’s amazing that Elon Musk has made Tesla as much of a success as he has, but in order to continue, the Model X has to be a success as well. If it flops, whether because of quality problems or continued production delays, Tesla will be in serious trouble.

The company has already drained a lot of its cash reserves to increase battery production capabilities and get its factories ready to begin producing both the Model X and the Model S, but news that its cash reserves had dwindled hurt its stock performance despite the fact that the company had an even smaller operating loss than expected.

No one should count Tesla out just yet, though, because after announcing its intention to raise cash by selling more shares, it not only sold all 2.69 million shares it offered up, the investors also exercised their rights to buy additional shares. In total, Tesla sold off 3.1 million shares for a total of $738 million.

Having raised nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, Tesla is now in a much more solid position to launch the Model X without a hitch. Hopefully it will also continue to turn out even faster versions of the Model S (and maybe even the Model X), but in order to fund those low-volume models, once again, we have to hope sales of the company’s luxury SUV take off.

With any luck, Tesla’s SUV will be successful enough to fund the development of its awesome performance the same way the Porsche Cayenne and Macan fund other great Porsches like the Cayman GT4.

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