Payne: ‘Ludicrous’ Tesla P90D is electrifying
Green light. Ford Road, Dearborn. I floor the 4,950-pound, battery-powered Tesla P90D sedan and I am briefly light-headed as my neck strains against 1.1 g-loads of instant electric torque. Just 2.86 seconds later I hit 60 mph. Two-point-eight-seconds later.
Insane, right? No, Ludicrous.
Not satisfied with its all-electric, all-wheel-drive, 762-horsepower 2015 Model S P85D — which redefined sedan acceleration with an “Insane” mode capable of 3.2 seconds 0-60 — Tesla has gone completely bonkers with the P90D. Mixing more battery juice with a dash of smart fuse technology, Tesla’s ultimate (for now) Model S performance model promises sub-3 second 0-60 times in “Ludicrous” mode.
This is rare, super-sports car territory. Even rarer is getting your hands on one. Tesla brought a P90D for me to test in Detroit this week to witness the world’s fastest sedan first hand.
If Chicago is America’s “Second City” after New York, then San Francisco is America’s “Second Motor City” behind Detroit. Call it the Electric Motor City, and it is producing a new generation of electron-powered cars that are redefining the auto landscape. Google’s tiny, autonomous marshmallow-bot wants to ferry grandma around town while at the other end of the spectrum, the 196-inch, seven-seat Model S competes against luxury petrol-engine icons like Mercedes S-Class and BMW’s 7-series.
But the insane P85D and ludicrous P90D target faster fish like Porsche’s Panamera and Audi S7.
Physically, the fully-loaded, $139,700 P90D (P for Performance, 90 for 90 kWh in lithium-ion batteries, D for All-Wheel-Drive) is little changed from the base, $75,000 Model S 70D. Same gorgeous, Jaguar XF-like figure. Same spacious interior anchored by an enormous iPad-like touchscreen in the center console. Three years since it debuted at the Detroit Auto Show, the console still wows as I slip into the driver’s seat. Enhanced by the latest chip from Silicon Valley’s Nvidia, the screen responds instantly to my touch with a Google Earth-driven navigation app that is as crisply detailed as my desktop computer.
Under the skin, however, Tesla has added a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system with a 259-horse electric motor motivating the front wheels along with a bigger, 503-horsepower motor in the rear. The additions not only makes the P90D (and sister P85D) more palatable for Detroit winters, but also gives its Michelin Pilot Super Sports unparalleled grip off the line.
How much grip? The P90D is more than a half-second quicker than the 707-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Just eight supercars get to 60 mph faster: The Nissan GT-R Nismo, Lamborghini Huracan, McLaren 650S, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Ferrari LaFerrari (the fastest car in the world at 2.4).
Yet the Model S performs its feat effortlessly. Silently. It’s an experience all its own.
The aforementioned gas-powered speed kings all require launch control modes to hit their 0-60 targets. I’ve launched the ferocious Corvette Z06, for example (at 2.95 seconds 0-60, even the 650-horse Z06 comes up shy of the P90D). Turn the selector to TRACK mode. Tap the button on top of the selector once to turn off traction control. Tap again to set. Push the clutch to the floor.
Floor the accelerator until the tachometer levels at a bellowing, 4,500 RPM. Car alarms erupt. My ears bleed. Then I launch like a Titan rocket.
Not the P90D. Select “LUDICROUS” mode from the giant iPad screen. Then stomp the throttle. The Tesla shoots from the stoplight like a bullet from a muzzled gun.
Given the violence of launch control in Corvettes, Porsches, and Hellcats, I have never performed it on a public road. In the Tesla, by contrast, I used it multiple times around Dearborn. And I barely broke the 50 mph speed limit, officer (10 over’s OK, yes?).
The P90D is hardly a one trick pony.
Like all Model S cars its batteries are in the bottom of the car giving the Model S a low center of gravity — 18 inches — on par with a Scion FR-S sports car. As result, it feels remarkably stable for a vehicle that tips the scales at the same weight as a Ford F-150. Throw it into corners and there is little body roll — its newly bolstered seats cradling me from the side g-forces.
Sure, Ludicrous mode eats up battery, but with 90 kWh on hand, the Tesla’s 270-mile range gives plenty of margin for error within the metro area. A digital marvel from driveline to console, the car’s constantly-updated software (now on version 6.2) gives plenty of warning to the driver. Stray from Metro Detroit and Tesla’s chain of superchargers is growing with recent additions in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.
So prolific are the Tesla’s numbers that it has gotten the attention of Porsche which has seen Panamera sales decline since the Model S’s introduction. No accident that Porsche just debuted its all-electric Mission-E concept sedan in Frankfurt. Let the sub-3 second sedan wars begin.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @HenryEPayne. See all his henrypayne.com.