Quick Summary The 2015 Tesla Model S P85D does zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds and that might be the least interesting thing about it.
By now, the Tesla Model S is a known quantity. We've been testing Teslas for a couple of years now, and we even had a 2013 Model S P85 in our long-term test fleet. It seats five (seven with the optional jump seats), boasts a range of over 250 miles and has the styling, materials and driving dynamics sport/luxury sedan buyers are looking for. And now Tesla has brought out a version that's even better.
All-wheel drive, 691 horsepower and a host of refinements from previous iterations have solidified the Model S P85D's spot among the best cars in the world.
What Is It? The 2015 Tesla Model S P85D is an electric car that seats five and has a range of 253 miles. This 691-hp, two-motor (one for the front wheels, one for the back) sedan sits at the top of the Tesla lineup and has a base price of $104,500. It replaces the previous P85, which was a sport version of the Model S 85, the most powerful version of this luxury sedan.
Our tester is far from a base car. All told, this car has $15,000 worth of options. One of the more important options is the $4,250 Tech Pack, which lumps together Tesla's autopilot system, automatic keyless entry, power liftgate, lane keeping with automatic steering and the automatic cruise control. Another notable option is the $3,500 Next Generation seating package.
All in, this 2015 Tesla Model S P85D costs $129,820.
How Does It Drive? The standard rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model S drives very well. The smart electronics make for easy traction all the time, even if only the rear wheels are powered. The P85D turns all of that up to 11.
As expected, grip is phenomenal. Thanks to smart, instant power metering to the correct tire at the right time, the P85D rearranges the rules of driving. With no fear of any tail-out antics when you get on the throttle, you can attack corners differently. And thanks to aggressive off-throttle regeneration, you don't have to use the brake pedal nearly as often either. Add to that the immediate thrust that electric motors provide and you have a recipe for a very, very fast canyon carver, even if it does weigh 4,933 pounds with a full tank of electrons.
All of that weight has consequences: The P85D only managed 67.4 mph through our slalom, an average number for the class. It also has a lower projected range than the previous P85. On the plus side, it has a much more composed ride than the old P85. Everyone likes to point out the downsides of a heavy car, but it can't be denied that a heavier car rides better and is less unsettled by road imperfections. The Tesla was a good cruiser before. Now it's exceptional.
For this new car, Tesla added a new option pack with two new features. The first of these features, automatic cruise control, is very good. The system works exceptionally well and takes advantage of the full abilities of energy regeneration, only dipping into the actual brakes when real force is needed. This not only increases range, but makes for a darned smooth ride even in the most annoying traffic.
The second option, lane departure warning with steering assist, is less good. The system doesn't seem to understand what constitutes a line on the pavement and will frequently warn the driver about old lane markings, rain grooves, pavement irregularities and, sometimes, sound an alarm for no reason at all. This system isn't ready for prime time yet.
This all helps support Tesla's upcoming Autopilot system. It combines a forward-looking radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a forward-view camera to sense a 16-foot bubble around the car. All of this is supposed to enable the system to theoretically drive the car for you in certain situations.
That said, given that the basic lane departure system didn't work very well, excuse us if we didn't feel comfortable handing complete control over to the car to execute lane changes and self-parking maneuvers just yet. There are a few necessary software updates to fix these issues before Autopilot goes live to the streets.
Is "Insane Mode" Just a Marketing Gimmick? Pretty much.
Instead of "Normal" and "Sport" settings, Tesla went with the kitschy "Sport" and "Insane" designations. Had Tesla simply called this mode "Sport Plus," we'd take no issue. With this setting engaged, the Model S P85D is truly, shockingly fast. Scramble-your-brain fast. Make-pregnant-women-and-people-with-heart-conditions-sign-a-waiver fast.
But insane? Hardly. Flip the switch and the P85D's 0-60 falls from 4.3 seconds to 3.5 (3.2 with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and the quarter-mile time drops from 12.4 seconds at 113.5 mph to 11.8 seconds at 113.3 mph.
That's a very quick 0-60 time (just about the same as a Corvette ZR1) but while it flips your eyeballs from convex to concave, it lacks any drama at all. Insane Mode should spin all of the tires while flashing the headlights and squirting washer fluid all over the place while blaring a custom mash-up of Michael Bolton and Skrillex. Instead, it's the easiest 11-second quarter-mile you'll ever run, even if the trap speed is a little disappointing. The aforementioned ZR1 trapped at 126.1.
What Kind of Range and Economy Can You Expect? The P85D may be the most expensive car in the Tesla line, but that extra cost doesn't translate into extra range. The Model S 85 can manage 265 miles on a charge, but the P85D's multiple motors, 311 additional horses and extra weight cut the range estimation down to only 253 miles. Still, this is nearly three times the range afforded by most EVs on the market today.
While we never went that far (we have a high-powered wall charger at our office and made use of Tesla's Supercharger network), our energy usage calculations confirmed that 250 miles was indeed possible with careful driving and liberal use of the Tesla's automatic cruise control. Overall, we averaged 44.7 kWh/100 and 75.5 MPGe. That's down from the EPA estimates of 36 kWh/100 and 93 MPGe. Blame the traffic, the hills or the 691 hp on tap. We'd expect every P85D owner to miss the EPA mark for the first few weeks as they stretch their new car's legs.
What's the Interior Like? As it has been since its inception, the interior of the new P85D is excellent. There's wood, leather and Alcantara trim, all of it artfully arranged and well put together. The 17-inch touchscreen is still comically large and phenomenally useful.
There are still quirks. Using the cupholders makes it so you can't use the armrest and instead of storage bins, you have a very large, flat tray that separates the two front seats. Carry lots of small knickknacks in the car? Maybe not so good. Bring a small laptop or notebook everywhere? It's a pretty good, though uncovered, solution.
But this is old news. What's new about the P85D is the availability of what Tesla calls Next Generation seats. These optional seats replace the flat, boring and slippery seats of the normal Model S with grippy, well-bolstered buckets that look and feel as if they belong in a six-figure sedan. They still lack some of the hyper-adjustability — not to mention massage and cooling — of the best the Germans have to offer, but they're a big step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, all of this all-wheel-drive hardware and the second motor had to live somewhere, and that means the once giant front trunk is down by a few cubic feet. You can still get a few weeks' worth of groceries in there, but a golf bag will have to go in the back.
What Are Its Closest Competitors? BMW i8: The Tesla was the hottest alternative car on the market for a couple of years, but then BMW swooped in with the i8 and made Tesla's designers look lazy. The i8 may not be as practical, quiet or quick as the Model S, but it's straight from the future and still very fuel-efficient.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still the default pick for anyone who wants the best of the best without spending Rolls-Royce money. It's not electric and it doesn't have a small billboard in the center console, but the comfort, quietness, build quality and Mercedes' hyper advanced automatic cruise control with steering assist more than make up for that.
Porsche Panamera: The Porsche Panamera may not be a true EV, but it is the most like-like competitor to the Model S. It's all-wheel drive, an absolute hoot to drive fast and thanks to a hatchback body shape, functional enough to be a real family car. It even comes in a plug-in hybrid version.
Why Should You Consider the Tesla P85D? Now that the rear-drive P85 is gone, the P85D is the lone pick for Tesla buyers who want that extra oomph, and boy does it deliver. Except for a small range decrease and a small price increase, there's no downside to the P85D compared with the P85, and you get the grip of all-wheel drive and the thrust of 691 hp.
Why Should You Think Twice About the Tesla P85D? First, while the Next Generation seats are better, nearly every luxury maker's seats have ventilation and more adjustments. Beyond that, EVs still aren't for everyone; charging is still harder than filling up with gasoline, and trips require planning. Finally, you may not need 691 hp. That is a lot. If zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds doesn't interest you and you don't need AWD, check out the normal Model S 85.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.