From a stop, the one-speed P85D has all of its 686 pound-feet of thrust at the ready. Power delivery is immediate, as in all EVs, but here it’s like driving a sports car in the lowest possible gear with the engine revving right at the torque peak, all the time. It’s shockingly quick. Kick the accelerator and the car jumps ahead on a surge of power. Eye a gap in traffic and you’re there. This is power at the speed of thought—there’s no waiting, no downshifting, and, really, no effort. A clot of Corollas can be dispatched with one quiet leap forward, putting those Toyotas in the only place they look good: the rearview mirror.
The neck-straining pull lessens as speeds increase. Also, our preproduction test car had a known issue that reduced power by about 10 percent at speeds above 60 mph. Instead of reporting lame test results, we’ll wait for a fully baked P85D to verify Tesla’s acceleration claims.
At first, the electric silence seems odd but then it soothes, serving to enhance the driving experience. The cabin calm at 70 mph would make a Lexus engineer envious. Fully goosed, it’s only slightly louder. The big battery pack in the floor acts like a giant lithium-ion mattress and muffles out road noise. Suspension crash barely registers, and even big whacks to the 21-inch wheels are nonviolent confrontations.
The electron-filled California king in the floor is seriously heavy. But mounting it low hooks the Model S to the earth. Tesla says a two-motor P85D weighs 4936 pounds, or 291 pounds more than a rear-drive P85, but it doesn’t act any heavier. Or, indeed, very heavy at all. The P85D changes direction quickly and without fuss. Even at the limit of grip, the Tesla remains eerily flat and unperturbed by cornering pressure. Keep pushing and the Tesla’s mass begins scrubbing away the edge of the outside front tire. An accurate and responsive electric power-assisted steering system offers three weights, from light to heavy. No matter the mode, the steering effort constantly changes and reacts to the road. Subtle vibrations paint a vivid picture in asphalt.