Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, recently introduced the newest version of the luxury Model S sedan, which comes with all-wheel drive and “auto pilot” self-driving features. The debut event was open to all, and test rides and free cocktails were available to over 1,000 Tesla admirers.
At the event, Musk explained that the Model S currently has rear-wheel drive and one motor, but the new Model S comes equipped with two. One motor powers the front wheels, and one powers the rear.
On slippery roads, all-wheel drive is excellent for stability and comes standard on many luxury models. Auto analysts have said before that Tesla would need an all-wheel drive model to raise sales figures in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. and in Europe.
As of September 2014, Tesla sold 13,850 units in the U.S.—three percent less than the September totals for last year, according to Autodata Corp.
Musk says the Tesla Model S system is an improvement over all-wheel drive systems in gas powered vehicles because it improves gas mileage, acceleration and speed by optimizing which motor is used. The dual motor P85 performance sedan boasts a top speed of 155 mph, an improvement over the current model’s maximum of 130 mph. Like a sports car, the vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” said Musk, speaking from the municipal airport near Los Angeles which serves as the base for his commercial rocket company SpaceX. Those gathered to see the unveiling greeted this statement with applause.
Safety features have been improved by Tesla by a combined system of radar, image recognition cameras and sonar. If the Model S veers outside of its lane, it will right itself. It can also brake automatically if a collision is imminent. These safety features are offered by other luxury automakers as well as more mainstream brands such as Toyota, Ford and Hyundai. The Tesla system, however, will actually move the car into another lane when the driver signals. It also is capable of using cameras to read speed limit signs and decelerate as necessary. Volvo offers a similar system, but it does not decelerate.
The car cannot drive itself, says Musk. The auto pilot features do not mean that the driver doesn’t need to control the vehicle. All in all, though, the driver assist features are impressive and “a year ahead of the timeframe I was expecting,” said Barclay’s analyst Brian A. Johnson.
The base price of the P85 with all-wheel drive is $120,000. The dual motor will be offered as an option on the base and mid-range Model S, which start at $71,000.