- Tesla Motors confirmed Thursday night that it will launch an all-wheel-drive version of its Model S electric sedan.
- The Model S-D and, presumably, an X-D crossover when the Model X line is launched next year, will come equipped with twin electric motors, one to drive the front wheels and one for the rear.
- Musk said the first dual-motor cars would roll out of the factory in December, with the launch of the high-performance P85D.
Tesla Chairman Elon Musk, who began drumming up interest in the announcement early last week with a cryptic Twitter posting that it was "time to unveil the D and something else," also said Thursday that the EV maker would begin adding some long-awaited active safety systems to the Model S.
The "D" to which Musk referred last week stands for "dual motor." The Model S-D and, presumably, an X-D crossover when the Model X line is launched next year, will come equipped with twin electric motors, one to drive the front wheels and one for the rear. The standard Model S uses rear-wheel drive.
Musk said the first dual-motor cars would roll out of the factory in December, with the launch of the high-performance P85D. Other all-wheel-drive models, the 85D and 60D, will be ready by February.
The dual motor system will add $4,000 to the Model S base price. But in the line-topping P85D it will be available only in a complex and costly $14,600 bundle that includes the Technology package, Tesla's 21-inch performance tire and wheel package and its Smart Air Suspension package.
Musk said that when the cars hit the market they would provide owners with much better road holding and acceleration than the standard version. "We targeted the McLaren" for acceleration, and will deliver "0-60 in 3.2 seconds," he told a cheering crowd of about 1,000 Tesla fans and employees gathered at the company's design and research facility in the industrial suburb of Hawthorne, California.
As an added bonus, the dual motor system adds 10 miles to the Tesla's maximum range, boosting it to 275 miles in models equipped with the 85 kWh battery pack.
The P85D models will have three performance settings, Musk joked. "Normal, Sport and Insane."
Musk said while there will be a wait for the dual motor models, all trim levels of the Model S made since the last week of September have been rolling out of the factory with the hardware installed for a Tesla "autopilot" safety system.
It combines long-range radar, a 360-degree ultrasonic sonar, an image-recognition camera and automatic collision avoidance braking to help drivers avoid collisions at city and highway speeds.
The system also will change lanes automatically when the driver activates the turn signal, and can read speed limit signs and adjust the car's speed accordingly, Musk said.
Musk said Tesla engineers also are working on refinements that would enable self-parking and even allow drivers to summon their cars from a parking lot to meet them at their homes or offices.
While his audience of Tesla devotees was enthusiastic, the company is playing catch up when it comes to active safety systems. Most luxury vehicles, from the Lexus LS to the Mercedes S-Class, have had features such as lane-departure warning systems, active cruise control for several years and many have recently added active collision avoidance system that automatically brake and even steer the car around obstacles if the driver isn't doing enough to avoid a potential collision.
Cadillac will launch a 2017 model with a suite of automated driving aids it is calling the Super Cruise system. They include self-steering, acceleration, braking and lane-keeping systems that will enable drivers to remove their hands from the wheel and feet from the pedals under certain circumstances.
Musk has become a master at building interest in his company and its cars despite the fact that Tesla has been offering only one model for the past two years. His "D" post has been retweeted 14,000 times in the past week.
Tesla's share price, which closed at $257.01 Thursday — down a scant 0.9 percent for the day — are up 71 percent for the year and have risen more than 15-fold since the company went public in June 2010.
Edmunds says: This is a case of Tesla playing catch up with its competitors as most of the new features announced are already available on numerous cars in the luxury sedan class.