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Consumer Reports buys a Tesla Model S P85D

The most technologically advanced version of our top-rated car

Published: April 09, 2015 07:00 AM

Tesla Model S P85D on the CR track.

Like a beacon in the gray rain, the red Tesla Model S P85D that Consumer Reports just bought rolls off the trailer onto our wet track. Our readers have expressed much interest in this ultra-high performance electric supercar that is mopping up Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and muscle cars in drag-race videos all over the Internet.

And no wonder, as the P85D is the most technologically advanced car you can buy and the utmost expression of our current top-rated car. Not only can it dust conventional supercars with its 691-hp Insane mode, but the P85D also carries an EPA energy consumption rating of 93 MPGe. Like all new Model S cars, the P85D incorporates Tesla’s new Autopilot active safety system. Among its features, Autopilot kicks adaptive cruise control up a notch with the ability to follow speed limits (or not), and pass other cars when you hit the left turn signal. And there’s more to come.

Tesla P85D ready for delivery.

Tesla keeps improving the Model S with over-the-air software updates, even after its been sold. Through this process, company founder and CEO Elon Musk says the cars can be kept current for 20 years. We’re not so sure. Like last year’s cell phone, our old 2013 Model S no longer has all the hardware needed to take advantage of the latest features. So we’ve upgraded.

The next software update, due out this summer, is Version 7. It will add lane-keeping assistance and self-parking capability. This latter feature, Musk says, will allow the Model S to drop you off at a theater or another business, go park itself, and return when you need it (as long as it’s on private property).

In the meantime, the new sensor hardware needed for Autopilot (radar and cameras in the front, and sonar sensors in the bumpers) finally gives the Tesla a host of active safety features that other luxury cars have had for years. These include forward-collision mitigation braking, lane-keeping assistance, and blind-spot warning. All Model S’s are now being built with equipment for these systems, but they aren’t activated unless you pay—much like a computer software upgrade. Autopilot is a $2,500 option from the factory, or the software can be activated later at a Tesla service center for $3,000.

We look forward to seeing how Tesla’s Autopilot system compares with driver assistance systems from other automakers. In the meantime, with 691-hp on tap, we’ll have some fun putting test miles on our new P85D.

Read our current road test on the Tesla Model S.

—Eric Evarts

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