Tesla vehicles with the ‘D’ suffix (for ‘dual motor’) will feature a second electric motor positioned above the front axle to power the front wheels, teaming with the electric motor over the rear axle present in the brand’s existing models.
Tesla D all-wheel-drive will be available in all variants of the Model S electric sedan and the company’s Model X crossover that goes on sale next year.
All-wheel-drive Model S sedans will be badged 60D, 85D and P85D, depending on whether the car is equipped with a 60- or 80-kilowatt-hour battery and whether it is a flagship Performance variant.
In the P85D, the second electric motor will be tuned to deliver faster acceleration. Tesla claims all-wheel grip will make the Model S P85D one of the quickest production cars in the world, slashing a whole second off the rear-drive model’s 0-60mph (0-96.6km/h) time by stopping the clock at 3.2 seconds.
In the 60D and 85D it will be tuned to increase efficiency, translating to a claimed 10-mile (16km) range increase, boosting them to 362km and 475km respectively.
Musk also announced a host of new advanced driver assistance features, as it looks towards a future where completely autonomous driving is a reality.
The Autopilot suite includes a forward-looking radar, 360-degree sonar, and camera with image recognition, giving Tesla vehicles automatic parking, active emergency braking, and lane control, preventing drivers from drifting off the road or rear-ending cars ahead. The vehicle will also change lanes autonomously if the driver flicks the indicator stalk. Autopilot will come standard with all new Model S vehicles.
Musk told reporters that once it uploads the relevant software over the next two to three months the Model S “will have the most sophisticated driver assistance or autonomous functions of any [production] car on the road”.
Last week, he told CNN Money that “a Tesla car next year will probably be 90 per cent capable of auto pilot”, and today said the company expects to offer a “fully autonomous car” in five or six years.