At a glitzy event at the airport in Hawthorne, California Thursday, Tesla rolled out the long-awaited “D.”
The “D” is the insignia on a new line of cars that have dual motors (the “D” stands for “dual”) and feature all-wheel-drive. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the dual motors will improve the efficiency of the cars and add as much as 10 miles of range on one (electrical) charge.
And the new cars are really fast. At the top of the new line is the P85D, which can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in 3.2 seconds.
Here’s Musk talking onstage about the P85D: “This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck. It’s just bananas. It’s like having your own personal roller coaster.”
Musk said the driver can choose between three drive settings, “Normal,” “Sport,” and “Insane.” And he’s not kidding about that “Insane” setting.
The P85D will become available in December, Musk said. Two other models with dual motors and AWD will roll out early next year.
Last week Musk teased his Twitter followers with a blacked out movie-theater style poster showing the rear end of a mysterious car and an October 9th dateline. Musk’s tweet read “About time to unveil the D and something else.”
The “something else,” it turns out, is “autopilot.” This Musk defined as a forward looking radar that can see through fog and snow and “really anything.” The new feature creates what Musk called a “protective cocoon” around the car. This includes a feature that helps the driver stay within the lane on the highway.
The new cars can change lanes by themselves after the driver flicks the turn signal. They can read speed limit signs and adjust speed accordingly. New cruise control features allow the new models to adjust to road conditions (like traffic) automatically, so the driver needn’t brake and reset as much.
Musk said that he wanted to “push the limits” of what’s legally allowed in the way of self-driving features. For example, the new cars can park themselves. If you’re on private property you can even “summon” the car to drive to where you are.
“These features will allow Tesla to keep pace with competing luxury makes while still banking on its primary advantage — a pure electric drivetrain, said Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer in an email to VentureBeat.
“The advanced sensors and additional drivetrain components undoubtedly add cost and complexity to the Models S, but they also widen its appeal to luxury shoppers seeking cold-weather confidence and the latest driver assistance technology,” Brauer wrote.
Actually, before the big show even started in Hawthorne, a USA Today report leaked the news, and turned out to be pretty much correct. The USAT story had quotes from Tesla’s Musk, suggesting that the publication may have been given the news in advance.
But there had already been plenty of speculation that the “D” may refer to a two-motored beast with all wheel drive — a souped up version of the already quick Tesla P85.
Shortly after Musk’s tweet went out last week, the above photo surfaced on Tesla Motors Club forum, posted by member Adelman. The vehicle in the photo sports model number P85D, further fueling rumor about the inevitable release of a Tesla “super car.”
An update last night from blogger Seth Weintraub said that Tesla’s new vehicle would be able to go from 0-60 in 3 seconds. This also turned out to be roughly accurate.
Musk says his company will continue to work additional “nuances” into the Tesla software, and that new features will gradually show up in the cars.