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Tesla Ready to Roll Out an All-Wheel Drive Model S

What to expect from Tesla's press event.

Tesla Motors

Tesla is expected to introduce an all-wheel drive version of its Model S sedan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Tesla calls this feature “dual motor,” which may answer what Chief Executive Elon Musk was referring to in a cryptic tweet last week.

The Palo Alto, Calif., electric car maker’s co-founder posted an image of a vehicle partially obscured by an opening garage door, alongside the date Oct. 9 and the tease: “About to unveil the D and something else.”

The Verge first reported last summer that the company was working on all-wheel drive for its sedan and in recent days several sites posted pictures showing an AWD “P85D” version of the vehicle, including AutoBlog. A handful of analysts are also predicting an all-wheel drive variant.

The feature could help lure new customers in regions that suffer through long bouts of cold and wet weather, including the Northeast and Canada, where Tesla sales have been relatively soft. It’s also a way of offering a “facelift” for Tesla’s aging sedan while its next vehicles are months and years away, said Thilo Koslowski, vice president, automotive at research firm Gartner, who didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the company’s plans.

Finally, perfecting the dual-motor technology is a critical step for rolling out the forthcoming Model X sport utility vehicle, for which the company had already promised that capacity.

Analysts say Musk’s “something else” could include a number of possibilities, but the top candidate seems to be autonomous safety features such as lane correction. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal both reported this will be among the announcements on Thursday.

The former publication quoted Simon Sproule, the company’s vice president of communications, saying the company began installing cameras on the Model S to meet safety standards in Europe.

(Sproule just accepted a job as chief marketing officer at Aston Martin, according to the WSJ and PR Week. He didn’t respond to inquires from Re/code and Tesla declined to comment for this story.)

Musk has said previously that Tesla is working on these kinds of features and expects fully autonomous cars to be ready in “five or six years.” But for now, Tesla is likely playing catch up with autonomous feature announcements from major auto brands, Koslowski said.

Companies like BMW, Audi and Cadillac have been integrating lasers, cameras, sensors and software to prevent drivers from making dangerous turns, keep them safely within their lanes or help them easily parallel park.

Other possibilities for the event include showing off a “close-to-production version of the Model X crossover vehicle,” and other refreshed features for the Model S, said Andrea James, a senior research analyst at Dougherty & Co., in an email to Re/code.

Koslowski added that Tesla may provide a glimpse of the Model 3, the company’s entry-level electric vehicle slated for model year 2016.

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