Tesla Model S P85D All-Electric Luxury Sports Car (2015 Model Review)

Written By: Brittney B. 

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

Tesla's commitment to progress is unparalleled in the automotive (or, quite frankly, any) industry. When the forward-thinking automaker debuted the Model S P85D at the end of 2014, they proved just how serious they are about improving their technology and performance as drastically as possible with each new release.

The biggest improvements are byproducts of a wildly impressive dual-motor engine (hence the "D" at the end of the product name). Two motors (one for each axle) provide serious torque and traction by digitally distributing power to each wheel, instantly and individually. As Tesla CEO Elon Musk proudly proclaimed during the motor's October 2014 reveal, the engine is a rare innovation that allowed Tesla "to improve almost everything about the car". That includes power (691 horses), torque (687 lb-ft), battery range (EPA-estimated 253 miles per charge), and record-breaking safety (5.4 stars). Oh, and one more thing: this car will eventually be able to drive drive itself.

The debut of a self-driving Tesla

After weeks of speculation Elon Musk finally reveals 'The D', along with autopilot capabilities for Model S. 

In October 2014, Tesla's competitors got yet another wakeup call when the automaker unveiled its newest and most futuristic innovation to date: autopilot technology as a standard feature. The Model S P85D is equipped with hardware and software that's designed to optimize safety and efficiency by taking over for the driver. Thanks to a radar system right in the grille, its own front-facing camera, and a dozen long-range sensors, this model can steers or stop itself in order to avoid potential collisions. It also monitors traffic patterns and signs (and speeds up or slows down accordingly), changes lanes (once signal is turned), and offers more convenient features as part of a Tech Package upgrade. A well loaded P85D will cost you close to $120,000 before incentives.

Speed and power crazy enough to go viral

There are dozens of new perks that distinguish this model from the original Model S (as well as the Model S 60 and Model S 85), but one has been getting the most attention: its warp-speed acceleration. Because the car's new engine provides serious torque and traction by digitally and instantly distributing power to each wheel, it can go from 0 to 60 MPH in just 3.2 seconds.

Even if you watch more cat videos than performance tests, you might already know about this wow factor. As soon as test-drivers could get behind the wheel in January 2015, hilarious reaction videos popped up on YouTube. One depicted four men as they were pressed against their seats by the car's 689 lb-ft of torque. A week later, two women starred in their own version of the test track video, in which one of them clutches her chest and tears up as she experience's the car's "ridiculous" and "crazy" power.


Out-of-this-world safety features

With so much well-deserved attention focused on its G-force acceleration and planet-saving efficiency, it's easy to overlook the fact that the Tesla Model S P85D is also the newest version of the world's safest vehicle. That's not an exaggeration; just ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2013, the Model S performed so well in independent tests that it received the NHTSA's highest possible rating, five stars, in every single subcategory. A year later, it earned the same maximum rating from the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

One of those subcategories was the notoriously difficult side pole intrusion test, which the Model S passed with flying colors. For perspective, the Volvo S60 also earned five stars, but Tesla dwarfed the gas-powered car's figures by providing eight times as much driver protection from dangerous side impacts. And it's no wonder the model also boasted the lowest risk of injury during accidents; engineers based its impact-absorbing aluminum pillars on none other than the Apollo Lunar Lander.

Because the Model S earned a perfect five stars across the board and exceeded so many maximum safety standards, the NHTSA actually assigned Tesla a record-breaking Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) of 5.4 stars. Other features and design strategies that contribute to this unprecedented score — and are still present in the latest model — include a low, rollover-resistant center of gravity, automatic battery shut-off and a virtually crush-proof roof that can support its own weight four times over.


Creating a new standard for electric vehicles?

Even if you don't care about curbing your energy use, it's difficult to deny this groundbreaker's appeal — and virtually impossible to find another vehicle that can match it. The electric version of the Toyota RAV4 EV was the only electric vehicle that even comes close to this car's range, but the P85D still gets more than two and a half times the miles out of a single charge. Sadly but not unexpectedly, Toyota discontinued the RAV4 EV after the end of 2014, in order to refocus its efforts on the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Mirai.

Electric vehicles are definitely not the only competitors trying to keep up.

Even the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG accelerates .7 seconds slower, despite its turbo engine. And the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat, with its slightly more powerful Hemi engine, was literally left in its own dust during a record-breaking drag race with the Tesla model in January 2015.

So, what excites you the most about Tesla's latest achievement? Are you itching to experience its torque in person, hopeful about its convenient autopilot technology, or planning to stay as safe as possible thanks to its protective and unparalleled safety features? In any case, one thing's clear: no one has to sacrifice energy efficiency in order to drive (or be driven by) a car with industry-leading power, speed, safety, and stability.


Environmental Footprint

Tesla is still best known for its dedication to sustainability; it's even in the process of building a "Gigafactory" that will produce half a million batteries per year without making any impact on the local environment. Like every other member of Tesla's past and current lineup, the Model S P85D is a zero-emission, fully electric car, but its environmental friendliness doesn't start or stop with its driving performance. Tesla also relies as much as possible on renewable energy and makes an effort to keep the manufacturing process clean, even offering bicycles for employees to pedal through its California assembly site.

This particular version of the Model S wasn't available yet when the Automotive Science Group (ASG) declared their yearly environmental rankings in 2014. However, the Model S did land on the Top 25 twice, coming in 8th place with a 60 kWh battery and 11th place with the same 85 kWh battery that the newest model boasts. The Tesla Model S was also the ASG's top pick for environmental performance among all full-size cars, and one of the top 5 in its class for all-around performance. If anything, Tesla has improved their sustainability measures throughout the newest model's production and delivery process, so it's expected to rank just as highly (if not moreso) when the 2015 rankings are revealed.


Rumor Has It

Elon Musk is under no illusions about the likelihood of leaks and spoilers, telling Bloomberg TV in November 2014 that Internet sleuths have consistently been able to guess or predict his company's secrets before they were announced. Of course, with a track record like Tesla's, secrecy isn't a huge concern... and there are too many innovations to know about all of them.

It's also possible that some rumors and predictions have been less than accidental. Musk himself told a journalist that he wanted to add an "Insane" mode to the existing two options of normal and sport, so be prepared for that announcement in the coming months. In addition, Tesla is poised to take even greater strides toward shrinking its environmental footprint. If rumors are true, Musk is ambitious enough — and his engineering team talented enough — to eventually employ a production process that actually creates energy and reverses the damage of other cars' emissions.


Manufacturing/Assembly

Every Tesla Model S P85D is assembled at the automaker's own production plant, the Tesla Factory, in Fremont, California. The original Model S was the first vehicle produced at the facility after Tesla purchased it in 2010. It takes three to five days to produce each car, with a combination of German-made robots and Tesla employees responsible for fabricating plastics, stamping and welding metal parts, painting passenger vehicles, and painting truck cabs.


Five things Tesla Model S P85D owners LOVE about their car:

  • Acceleration is so quick, they can actually feel the force during takeoff (goes from 0 to 60 in just 3.2 seconds)

  • Autopilot technology prevents the car from exceeding speed limits or colliding with other vehicles and obstacles. Auto-parking is expected to be introduced soon.

  • 85 kWh lithium-ion battery can be charged at home (58 miles for each hour of charging at a 240-volt outlet) or on-the-go (up to 170 miles per half hour of charge at a Tesla Supercharger); it's also protected by an eight-year, unlimited mileage warranty

  • Record-breaking safety features include a crush-resistant roof, impact-absorbing side rail pillars, and low center of gravity

  • Capacity for up to 5 adults, plus small children with an optional third row of seats (which also comes with a double bumper to protect them)


Five things Tesla Model S P85D owners DISLIKE about their car:

  • Maximum performance and convenience requires Tech Package ($4,250), while maximum comfort and luxury requires Premium Interior Package ($4,500)

  • Range drops by 3 percent (to 245 miles) with the addition of optional 21" wheels

  • Carbon fiber spoiler (another recommended addition that improves aerodynamics at high speeds) is made of woven carbon fiber and looks slightly down-market

  • Acceleration is both a pro and a con, because the force can be downright scary, especially for passengers who weigh less

  • Price for most is impractical compared to other electric cars