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Is the Tesla Model S P85D the quickest car ever?

Sharing mind-blowing initial track impressions

Published: April 10, 2015 01:30 PM

The P85D on the Consumer Reports track.

For the past 25 years, I've made a living testing some of the wildest vehicles on the planet at felonious velocities. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches—you name it. I have lit the wick of the Suzuki Hayabusa and GSX-R 1000, two of the fastest zero-to-100-mph street-legal motorcycles ever built.

And when I've reached the limits of my own courage and talent level, I've co-piloted exotics and race cars around tracks with pro drivers who have won Formula 1 and the LeMans endurance races. It’s tempting to become a bit jaded by it all.

That is, until I got behind the wheel of the Tesla Model S P85D, eased out to Consumer Reports’ half-mile test-track straightaway, and pressed the “Insane Mode” button. (Read: "Consumer Reports Buys a Tesla Model S P85D.")

Aside from flooring the go-pedal of the Tesla, the only other accelerative force that has spawned the same visceral, palm-clammying, pants-wetting, expletive-spewing, fight-or-flight reaction from my lizard brain was when I bungee-jumped out of a balloon 300 feet over the California desert. This is terminal velocity, in an instant.

The volume goes all the way to Insane.

Videos bouncing around YouTube show the Tesla P85D drag-racing various high-performance cars. The Tesla wins some, and it loses some.

But even if it is a tick slower to go-to-jail-now speeds than other supercars on the road, I can unequivocally say that the Tesla P85D seems like the quickest machine of anything on the planet.

Why? Because the Tesla is dead silent. Aside from a calm whirring of its electric motor, your brain has nothing to corroborate and process the sensations occurring around it.

In contrast, you sit astride a Yamaha VMax or in the cockpit of a Dodge Hellcat at rest, and you hear the gurgling, spitting, fizzing demons lurking in the engine mere feet from you. Stomp on the gas in an extreme machine, the furious engine thunder and exhaust bellow allows your ears to inform your other senses that there is indeed good reason for the sudden compression of your neck and spine, the retreat of your gonads, the clench of your sphincter.

But a stock-still Tesla P85D gives no suggestion of the havoc and castigation that its 691-horsepower electric powertrain is about to inflict on your body. Even as you hover your foot over the accelerator, preparing yourself as best you can for the inevitable, the rest of your senses argue that you are playing a practical joke on them.

A sudden downward twitch of your right foot, and the rush of blood to the head happens far too quickly for your brain and body to respond in sentient fashion. A lifetime of experience that such powerful forces must be accompanied by raging sound and fury is denounced by silence. You become divorced from logical thought. It takes actual conscious action to keep yourself from reaching for the door in a panic, to eject yourself from this silent maelstrom. It is frightening, gleeful punishment.

It's been nearly 24 hours since the Tesla abused me so, and in jogging my memory to type these passages, my hands are visibly shaking. We’ll discover the real test numbers after our new P85D has logged its obligatory 2,000 break-in miles. But suffice to say, there is truth in the simple touch-screen button that dials this otherworldly machine up to Insane.

Read our current road test on the Tesla Model S.

Mark Rechtin

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