A few auto experts have been allowed to test-drive Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ:TSLA) new P85D version of its Model S -- its flagship performance dual-motor 85 kWh battery version -- and write about the experience. Their described experiences suggest the vehicle's performance might have left internal-combustion-engine vehicles in the dust for good. Here are the first two notable accounts to surface.
Britain auto journalist Anthony ffrench-Constant offers a seasoned and well-respected opinion in the auto industry. His writing is carried in many notable car magazines, including CAR Magazine, Car and Driver, and Ferrari Magazine. But despite his long list of test drives in the world's most exotic cars, Tesla's P85D left him drooling.
"The last time I drove anything that steps as smartly off the line as Tesla's new P85D I was sitting in a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse," he wrote in GQ earlier this week after a test ride in the fully electric sedan near the Berlin airport.
The vehicle's 691 horsepower and its ability to produce maximum torque from zero RPM, thanks to the electric powertrain, didn't disappoint.
Off the line, the P85D is, quite simply, remarkable. Stamp your foot on the not remotely loud pedal and the car hitches up its petticoats and flings itself at the horizon in a departure as silent and instantaneous as a model glider escaping a giant rubber band.
...Factor in a complete absence of slack in the drive train and I'll wager the Tesla hits 30mph faster than anything else out there except an anvil kicked off a cliff.
While the P85D's starting price of $105,670 might sound like a pretty penny, ffrench-Constant said that would depend on what you are comparing the car to.
After considering Tesla CEO Elon Musk's comment that the car is "obviously expensive," ffrench-Constant countered, "Contemplating the price of petrol powered machines offering performance parity, I'm more than inclined to disagree."
Motor Trend's Kim Reynolds
Motor Trend Testing Director Kim Reynolds has been writing about test drives since 1982, so he knows a thing or two about good cars.
What does his experience tell him about Motor Trend's first test drive of the P85D? With a nod to the car's driving settings of "normal," "sport," and "insane," he said the car truly is "In-sane."
On the P85D's instant torque from zero RPMs:
The torque impacts your body with the violence of facing the wrong way on the train tracks when the whistle blows. Within the first degree of its first revolution, 100 percent of the motors' combined 687 lb-ft slams the sense out of you. A rising-pitch ghost siren augers into your ears as you're not so much accelerating as pneumatically suctioned into the future. You were there. Now you're here.
Why kicking the pedal actually makes a meaningful difference:
Essentially, the two motors' email-instant reflexes mean the stability control system is the drivetrain itself -- and vice versa -- not a Band-Aided layer of throttle- and brake-mitigating technologies overlaid on a big-inertia crankshaft and flailing pistons accustomed to Pony Express reaction times.
Consequently, the easiest way to flatten your retinas at a dragstrip isn't by just stomping on the right pedal. Instead, you draw your foot back and kick the living hell out of it. (I'm serious.) Your foot's flying start at the pedal means the potentiometer opens the battery's electron floodgate that much sooner, and without the teeniest tire chirp, the P85D accelerates at the highest rate the road's mu (its coefficient of friction) allows. It's surreally efficient.
Reynolds said that in the first 1/20th of a second, the car is four feet ahead of the fastest-accelerating sedan Motor Trend has ever tested, the Audi RS 7, and has a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds -- or a tenth quicker than the Audi and the McLaren F1's accepted time.
It speaks volumes that Tesla can outperform so many veteran peers so early in the company's history. Sure, other automotive companies will undoubtedly cave and launch their own versions of a fully electric Model S, but that would only serve as a vote in favor of a meaningful transition toward electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Tesla investors should be happy that their young gun is already taking early stabs at competitors' beloved internal combustion engines, which increasingly appear to be evolving too slowly.
Furthermore, though the P85D is the focus here, these gushing auto experts prompt new questions on a 10,000-foot level: What happens when Tesla brings its electric vehicle technology to a car priced at $35,000 as early as 2016? Will this car, too, outperform similarly priced peers? Will it, too, invoke bold praise from industry veterans? Will it, too, collect a long list of auto accolades? And, most important, will it also eventually outsell similarly priced cars the way the Model S did in North America in 2013?