clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tesla Unveils Souped-Up Model S With All-Wheel Drive and Autopilot

Elon Musk showed off a series of new capabilities at a packed Southern California event.

James Temple, Re/code

Tesla unveiled a souped up Model S with all-wheel drive, ultrafast acceleration and novel autonomous safety features on Thursday night, a dramatically reengineered package designed to match and in some cases surpass the capabilities of top luxury vehicles.

The electric vehicle manufacturer showcased the P85D version of its popular sedan on stage at a massive and meticulously orchestrated event at the airport in Hawthorne, Calif., packed with hundreds of Tesla owners, journalists and assorted guests.

“This car is nuts, it’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” said Chief Executive Elon Musk, while a giant robot arm held the new vehicle’s chassis aloft beside him. “It’s just bananas, it’s like having your own personal roller coaster.”

James Temple, Re/code

The new “autopilot” features include the ability to read and adjust to the speed listed on highway signs, as well as to safely ease into the next lane on its own. These capabilities rely on a system of long-range radar, ultrasonic sonar, a camera with image recognition and GPS, Musk said.

Other new safety features include ones that are becoming standard among high-end autos, including corrective lane assist, adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking and self-parking — although with a twist in the last case.

“You can step out of the car and have it park itself in the garage,” Musk said.

Musk has said he expects to see fully driverless cars on the market within five to six years, like the ones Google has been testing on California highways for years. But most industry observers believe that the path to that end point will entail adding steadily more autonomous features that allow drivers — and regulators — to get increasingly comfortable with the concept.

Other automakers have also been pushing ahead with autonomous features. Vehicles like the 2017 Cadillacs with “Super Cruise,” the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 and the BMW X5 SUV can automatically stick to the center of the lanes and maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead, allowing them to drive along stretches of highways with little to no human involvement.

The P85D, the top end of several new all-wheel drive versions, can accelerate from 0 to 60 in about 3.2 seconds, raw power reserved for the super car ranks of “Bugattis, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Ferraris and Porsches,” as pointed out.

Pricing and availability dates for the vehicles weren’t discussed on stage. But one Tesla representative said the P85D would likely reach dealers in December and that prices would be available on the website (which was down as of this writing).

The all-wheel drive feature, which Re/code reported would be announced, could help attract new customers in regions with long stretches of inclement weather like the Northeast, Midwest and Canada, where the Palo Alto, Calif., company’s sales have lagged behind the sunnier west coast.

But Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said Tesla also had to offer the capability to be seen as a “true competitor” to high-end automakers like Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, regardless of whether customers actually need all-wheel drive.

“The reality is that modern all-season tires are very capable on wet or snow-covered pavement, making all-wheel drive more luxury than necessity, even in cold-weather climates,” he said in a statement issued to reporters this week. “However, the technology is now seen as a premium feature, and luxury buyers will pay extra for the increased confidence it provides.”

In addition, developing what Tesla calls its “dual-motor” technology was a necessary step for introducing the upcoming Model X sport utility vehicle, which was already slated to offer that feature.

“We were able to improve almost everything about the car,” Musk said.


Specs went up on Tesla’s website and the price for the dual motor P85D was listed at $120,170, before electric vehicle incentives, with delivery slated for December. The dual motor 85D and 60D, both scheduled for February, run $97,570 and $89,570, respectively.

Tesla provided additional details in a blog post on Friday.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.