Tesla's Big D and Autopilot
Following up on his earlier tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled an all-wheel drive version of the 2015 Tesla Model S as well as some new driver aids that will bridge the gap between conventionally and autonomously driven vehicles.
While there was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the introduction, with the P85D all-wheel drive version generating a lot of interest for its 3.2-second 0-60 mph acceleration, the announcements were actually not as earth-shaking as all the breathless reporting would have you believe..
D is for Dual Motor
By adding an additional electric motor to the front axle, the Model S effectively will offer all-wheel drive in the 60 (denoting a 60 kW battery pack) and 85 (with 85 kW) variants including the performance oriented P85D. That latter model sees its output grow from 470 to 691 horsepower thanks to the 221 hp front motor, which knocks a second off the car's 0-60 mph acceleration. The two motors and extra output of the $120,000 Model S P85D also has 10 more miles of range over the rear-drive P85, which is listed at 265 miles.
The lesser spec 60D and 85D models have 376 horsepower, but in addition to their all-wheel drive capability, Tesla says the of the these models offer respective ranges of 225 and 295 miles. A standard one-motor 60 model has a range of 208 miles, while the 85 has a range of 265 miles. The AWD models are expected to give Tesla wider appeal in snowbelt states than the rear-drive versions. The addition of the all-wheel drive D models to the Tesla range foreshadows next year's introduction of the Tesla Model X all-wheel drive crossover SUV.
Lane changer a game changer?
The other big announcement was the Autopilot system, which is a suite of technologies that provide driver assists just short of autonomous operation.
By using cameras, long range radar and 360-degree sonar to detect objects around the vehicle, the Tesla Model S with Autopilot can read speed limit signs and automatically adjust the car's velocity, sense objects in its path and automatically brake, as well as keep and change lanes without driver input when the turn signal is activated. There's also automatic parallel parking and an autonomous feature that can park and retrieve the vehicle, though it's not legal on public roads or parking structures. Most of these features, including the collision avoidance and sign reading technologies are available on Model S competitors like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
While Musk is touting Autopilot and may be laying the groundwork for future autonomous operation, he predicted that it probably won't become a reality for at least 5 years. By building in the capability now, there is the possibility in the future of a software update to activate these autonomous features on cars being sold over that period.
More Hybrid and Electric news...