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Tesla Model S performance goes from Insane to Ludicrous

Battery and electronics upgrades continue the EV’s improvements

Published: July 17, 2015 03:00 PM

Tesla Model S P85D

Tesla Motors continues to evolve the Model S electric car line, with ongoing improvements to models that consumers own, as well as introducing new production variations.

The range expands with a more affordable Model S 70 in late August, available for $70,000—$5,000 less than the dual-motor version and same as old 60-kWh rear-drive model of last year, before it discontinued. At the other end of the expanding product portfolio, there is a new top model, a P90D with a 90-kWh battery with deliveries also starting in late August.

Current Model S P85D owners will be able to upgrade to a 90-kWh pack for $3,000. This configuration promises range increases of about 5-7 percent. No EPA official rating has been given, yet. In fact, Tesla Motors Co-founder and CEO Elon Musk says he expects about a 5-percent efficiency increase with each passing year to their energy packs. He recommends car owners consider upgrades every 3-4 years to take advantage of the latest battery developments.

The other key update announced today is in the electronics, enabling an even higher-performance mode beyond “Insane” to “Ludicrous.” Musk admits, this isn’t something that customers were asking for, but it is nonetheless “incredible fun.” And in a cheeky "Spaceballs" reference, Musk suggested that a "plaid" (aka beyond ludicrous) model may be in the offing. (Read "Is the Tesla Model S P85D the quickest car ever?")

Engaging “Ludicrous” cranks up performance, dropping 0-60 mph times to a mere 2.8 seconds (down from 3.1 seconds) and reducing time to 155 mph by 20 percent for the Model S Performance. The company claims straightline acceleration will be at 1.1 g—which is greater than the force experienced in free-fall.

Consumer Reports recently conducted a g-force shootout between a P85D and a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, finding the high-tech Tesla sedan trounced the 707-horsepower muscle car. That even greater performance is readily available is indeed ludicrous. For current P85D owners, the electronics upgrade is $5,000 plus installation. It adds $10,000 to the cost of a new car.

While big improvements to the Model S garner much attention, Musk says that on the average week, there are 20 engineering changes made to the Model S, from mass savings to interior trim improvements. Musk defines Tesla as a “continuous-improvement company.”

Next up is the much-anticipated Version 7 software updated that will enable interactions with AutoPilot, AutoSteering, and parking features. With the hardware now standard on the latest Model S cars rolling out of Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory, Version 7 will allow drivers to summon the car to come pick them up in a private parking lot or to go find their own parking space after dropping you off. It can also steer itself on the highway. Both the Model X and Version 7 software were scheduled for release this summer. Musk today said that this update is still being developed. In particular, fine tuning is underway to address the challenges in New York City and the 405-freeway in Los Angeles.

One thing is clear, these impressive cars to continue to improve. We have almost finished our extensive multi-week test of the Model S P85D. Look for a full report later this summer.

See our guide to Tesla news and reviews.

Jeff Bartlett

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