Tesla Unveils All-Wheel-Drive Model S, New Driverless Tech

Thursday evening, California electric-carmaker Tesla made good on CEO Elon Musk’s eyebrow-raising tweet a day earlier that it’s “about time to unveil the D and something else.” Well, the D is here, and it’s an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor (hence the “D”) Model S. USA Today reports that the Model S variant, available in Model S 60D, Model S 85D and Model S P85D, will include all-wheel-drive with two motors, one for each axle.

Related: Tesla Selects Nevada for Site of New Battery “Gigafactory”

When the all-wheel-drive Model S arrives in February 2015, it should increase Tesla’s appeal on the East Coast and in the Snow Belt states, where the car’s top-shelf rivals — cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A8/S8 and Lexus LS — all offer all-wheel drive. The Model S P85D, meanwhile, will offer unrivaled performance: Tesla says it hits 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds.

That’s a mammoth increase over the already-quick Model S Performance (4.2 seconds), given how blistering these times already are. It torches the S63 AMG and Audi S8 (both 3.9 seconds), plus the BMW Alpina B7 (4.3 seconds). And it does this with two electric motors that make 691 horsepower — 221 hp at the front and 470 hp at the rear.

The all-wheel-drive 60D and 85D will run another $4,000 beyond their respective rear-drive Model S counterparts, the (non-D) 60 and 85. Including destination, that means a Model S 60D will start at $74,895, while the Model S 85D will start at $84,890. The Model S P85D, meanwhile, adds a cool $14,600 for the all-wheel drive; we built it on Tesla’s website, and it also appears to require 21-inch wheels, a tech package with Autopilot, an upgraded air suspension and a higher destination fee, for a grand total of $120,170. All of those prices are before any federal or state incentives, however.

Speaking of Autopilot, Musk’s “something else” involves a suite of autonomous-driving technology that Tesla will market as such. According to USA Today, Tesla says it’s building cars right now with forward radar, a camera and a dozen exterior sensors to read speed-limit signs and adjust the car’s speed. In concert with automated steering, braking and GPS systems, the technology can also facilitate automated lane changes when you activate the turn signal, park itself in your garage after you get out or putter up alongside you when you’re ready to go, climate-controlled and all.

Engadget reports that all cars built within the past two weeks have the radar and sensors; the bundle of Autopilot features will come via an over-the-air update. Oh, and Autopilot’s park-and-summon feature is intended for private property only. We’ll have to see it in action to believe it.

The P85D comes on the heels of Tesla’s announcement on Monday of a certified pre-owned program, which will effectively begin in 2016 when the first Model S cars hit 3 years old. That’s a time that’s typically ripe for trade-in, refurbishing, certifying and selling by the automaker’s factory-owned retail outlets — particularly as Tesla rolled out a leasing program in early 2013. Tesla promised later that year that Model S owners could return their cars after three years for 43 to 50 percent of the purchase price, comparable to the three-year residual values on an S-Class sedan.

Tesla slates the Model X SUV, meanwhile, to begin shipping in late 2015.

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