Tesla’s Incredible New All-Wheel Drive, Self-Driving Electric Car

 

After sending out a cryptic Tweet last week (“About time to unveil the D and something else”) that had electric car fans lighting up Tesla forums from San Francisco to Stockholm, the billionaire tech giant Elon Musk took to the stage at Hawthorne Airport Thursday night — a stone’s throw from SpaceX headquarters and Tesla’s design studio — to detail his brand’s newest engineering feat.

As we now know, the “D” stands for a new dual-motor version of the currently rear-wheel-drive-only Model S that will start being delivered to customers starting this December. Officially called the Model S P85D, the new vehicle includes a second electric motor that drives the front wheels, which eliminates the need for a front-to-rear driveshaft, leaving the vehicle floor flat while continuing to offer maximum interior space. It remains to be seen, however, how much front trunk space is lost to the second motor (by nature of being an electric car (translation: no engine), Tesla owners have come to resoundingly love their dual trunks).

Those concerned with any sacrifice of range or blinding acceleration need not fret. The top-of-the-line P85D, thanks to the coupling of two motors, sees a maximum driving range bumped up from 265 to 275 miles (225 and 295 for the 60D and 85D, respectively). What’s more, thanks to the addition of AWD traction, 0 to 60 mph is reached in 3.2 seconds — one second quicker than the current P85+ RWD) and horsepower is increased by 221 to a blistering 691.

Naturally, none of this will come cheap. The P85D will set you back $120,170 and will be the first to be delivered, starting December. In February, AWD versions of both a 60 kWh model (60D) and standard 80 kWh (80D) will be available for a $4,000 bump in their respective prices.

Musk also revealed Tesla will be adding a number of autonomous safety features with the Tesla vehicles that start delivering in two months, including improvements on the standard lane departure warning — flick the turn signal and the Tesla will automatically change lanes (safely) — as well as adding the ability for the forward-facing camera to read speed limit signs and automatically adjust acceleration (if you allow it).

What’s more, new Tesla models will feature a self-parking asset that utilizes ultrasonic sensors to park itself — regardless of whether the driver is physically in the car or not. And Musk promised the vehicle can also be programmed to drive to you — on non-public roads at least.

The new autonomous features are achieved thanks to twelve sensors, each able to “see” 16 feet to enable the safety tech. Unfortunately they can’t be retrofitted to current models. Musk, who recently announced a $5 billion Gigafactory is coming to Nevada, made no mention if AWD will be available for the forthcoming Model X SUV and Model 3 variants.