Tesla Model S P85D
Tesla’s new sedan breathes fire — without the fire.
After a sprint in the Tesla Model S P85D, you half expect to step out of the car with the contoured lines of its sport seats permanently tattooed to your back. Accessing the emission-free all-electric sedan’s loony tunes potential (691 horsepower, 687 lb-ft of torque) is almost too easy: You just flick its acceleration setting from “sport” mode to “insane” (yes, it’s called that) on the 17-inch touchscreen and press the pedal, and two motors unload an Italian exotic’s worth of power to all four wheels. While your stomach drops, your brain tries to comprehend what your ears aren’t hearing: an internal-combustion engine ripping through gears and shrieking toward the red line. Instead, as the world outside the window starts to blur, you notice only wind noise and a subtle electronic whine. It’s spooky.
Even stranger, the P85D has what seems like twice the usable interior of any supercar that matches its straight-line speed — Ferrari’s 458 Italia, the Corvette ZR1, Porsche’s 911 GT3. The P85D has five seats, four doors, and space to spare. (It’s the same layout as lesser-powered, rear-wheel-drive versions of the Model S.) There’s no transmission hump running between the seats, stealing legroom, because there’s no transmission. The Tesla P85D is the ultimate sleeper: perfectly respectable for ushering the neighbors to dinner on Saturday night, utterly ridiculous when you ask it for more on a Sunday drive.
And when you tire of taking the P85D’s wheel, its digital driving aids jump in with the most advanced autonomous tech we’ve seen. An “autopilot” cruise-control mode uses 360-degree sonar and camera coverage to monitor the car’s surroundings on the highway, steering around curves and adjusting speed as needed, and can even slow the car to a stop or pass another car on command with the tap of a turn signal. Better still: It’s a car that improves with time, as over-the-air software upgrades will enhance speed, add functionality, and fix bugs without your having to visit the dealer.
Is the P85D perfect? No. While that mammoth touchscreen impresses, the rest of the nearly spartan interior doesn’t quite live up to the car’s price. And the battery that enables its best-of-all-electric-cars 253-miles-per-charge range also makes it heavy (4,936 pounds). But without a doubt, the P85D proves what plug-in cars can, and will, continue to do: meld categories and blow minds. [89 MPGe; 253-mile range; $105,670]Back to top