The pros and cons of EVs in general and Tesla in particular are understood, and most of the time, that’s the focus, but embellishment of facts is not needed when so many verifiable facts support the cause.
To wit, at first this was going to be a brief about Tesla’s quickness claims, but then it became apparent Tesla has amped up rhetoric that began a couple years ago with Model S is the world’s best car (and the Volt is an “amphibian” and BMW i3 is “Ikea” level design).
Tesla is pushing the frontier in many ways, and its 691-horsepower all-wheel-drive P85D just announced is a technological feat, but some of Tesla’s assertions appear a bit stretched even next to cars by Dodge.
Yes Dodge, and many other automakers could also contend some of Tesla’s statements as well.
In its blog post last week, Tesla suggested the P85D will be the best road holding vehicle and quickest sedan produced in the history of automobiles, and if this is what it means, this is incorrect.
Just weeks before Tesla wrote the P85D’s 3.2-second 0-60 mph time makes it the “fastest accelerating” sedan ever, Dodge had announced its 707-horsepower SRT Charger as the “quickest” and “fastest” sedan “ever.” Dodge used the terms correctly, and Tesla really means quickest when it says it’s the “fastest accelerating.”
“The P85D combines the performance of the P85 rear motor with an additional 50 percent of torque available from our new front drive unit,” wrote Tesla. “The result is the fastest accelerating four-door production car of all time – while remaining one of the most efficient cars on the road.”
Tesla claims 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, and quarter mile in 11.8 seconds with all four wheels propelling. The rear-wheel-drive Dodge costing around half the $120,000-plus Tesla officially blazes 0-60 in 3.7 seconds – here Tesla is quicker – and the quarter in 11.0 seconds – here the Dodge is quicker.
When equipped with drag radials – to help with traction which the Tesla gets with four sticky sport tires – the Dodge was timed at 10.7 seconds in the quarter, and 0-60 took a superbike-quick 2.9 seconds.
Of course when on full tilt the Charger can burn as much fuel as a battleship, and company wide, Fiat-Chrysler is dead last in the federal fuel-economy ratings, but this fact remains.
It should be noted other rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model S sedans have been timed a few tenths quicker than their advertised time, so ultimately, the P85D’s times will remain to be seen. However, it is not necessarily the “fastest,” including top speed, which is what this term normally refers to.
The P85D has its top speed raised to 155 mph but Dodge says the Charger – which uses a powertrain developed first for the Challenger SRT Hellcat – goes 204 mph.
Tesla says it benchmarked the P85D’s 3.2-second 0-60 time to the McLaren F1, an ultimate supercar from the 1990s which Elon Musk once owned. The McLaren F1 was quick, its 11.5-second quarter mile still stands quicker, but which was “fastest?” The F1 could outrun small aircraft. With its rev-limiter disabled an example ran 243 mph in 1998, and with rev-limiter intact, the F1 did 231.
That Tesla’s 4,936-pound EV can match the beginning of the acceleration run of an all-time great supercar weighing around 2,400 pounds is amazing, but also in question would be Tesla’s road-handling assertions.
The P85D has all-wheel drive that Tesla describes with phrasing borrowed from the IT world to make it seem the AWD Model S will handle better than anything else.
“With its digital torque controls and low center of gravity, Dual Motor Model S has the most capable road holding and handling of any vehicle ever produced,” wrote Tesla.
How Tesla wishes to qualify this seemingly unequivocal statement is in question, but the P85D is a nearly 5,000 pound automobile, about the same as a 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, and 1,000 pounds more than a conventionally powered Porsche Panamera.
Many things come to mind, but for no-excuses performance, one cannot help but remember Lotus’ Colin Chapman.
“Simplify, then add lightness,” was his philosophy [says Lotus Cars] way before minimalism became a high street term. “Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.”
No matter how low the center of gravity and enablement of all-wheel drive, in the absence of ground effects (which would add brutal forces to the tires), Tesla will not be able to make up for this weight.
In July, a rear-wheel-drive Model S 60-kwh that attempted to run the Nürburgring Nordschleife took around 10 minutes after overheating, close to the 10–minute time Sabine Schmitz did in a Ford Transit van.
Here’s one of a P85, not professionally driven, uninsured, his own car, taking it careful.
Without a doubt, an 85-kwh Model S is capable of better, a P85D even better, but even with battery management keeping temperatures under control, it will remain to be seen how competitively Tesla can complete even one full lap of the 13-mile automotive proving ground du jour.
Actually the automaker has yet to take its world’s best sedan, as it called Model S a couple of years ago, to the ‘Ring. Instead, last week Tesla set up a sensory overload light tunnel to wow folks at night with no competitive comparison nearby, and in a way that highlights the P85D’s sub-100 mph straight-line acceleration advantage.
Other Nürburgring lap times of note are: Hyundai Genesis: 8:43, Chevy HHR SS: 8:43; MINI Cooper JCW, 8:23; Lexus IS-F: 8:18; Cadillac CTS-V: 7:59; Subaru WRX: 7:55; and there are a few dozen more in the low-mid 7-minute range.
Has anyone seen a Model S crack into the 8-minute mark yet? It should be able to, and eventually someone could make it into the 7s as well. Or, how about Tesla just take the P85D to any major U.S. winding road circuit with curves and straightaways against, say, a BMW M5, Audi RS7, S8, or a half-priced a Cadillac CTS-V?
Nor is this us being contentious; the gauntlet is being thrown down by Tesla’s own rhetoric, including its latest post:
“Where gasoline-powered all wheel drive cars sacrifice efficiency in return for all weather traction …”
“Consistent with our mission, we also wanted to demonstrate that an electric car can soundly beat gasoline cars on efficiency and pure performance …”
“The Model S P85 already outperforms gasoline-powered cars in the same class with its ability to deliver 100 percent of peak torque from a standing start …”
And, as mentioned:
“The result is the fastest accelerating four-door production car of all time …”
“Dual Motor Model S has the most capable road holding and handling of any vehicle ever produced …”
So, Tesla is saying in one post P85D is better than gasoline-powered cars in wet and dry. It also soundly beats gasoline cars, outperforms competitors in its class, is the quickest sedan in history, is the best handling production vehicle of any type in history.
Where Tesla Is Really Winning
The Model S P85D will give your friends a super speed show if you punch it from go, but a race car it is not, nor is it likely to win in several performance car measurements that enthusiasts would consider meaningful.
But no other automaker is pushing the threshold in all-electric drive like Tesla is. It has captured the imagination of the public, the stock market, and is running circles around established nameplates in the marketplace.
It is serving as a goad to old-school automakers who are probably being coached by their PR department not to let their executives speak too negatively about Tesla with media recording their statements, as have some only to be pounced on by Tesla fans.
And as for Dodge, its maker Chrysler-Fiat has one compliance EV, the Fiat 500e, it has no hybrids, and its CEO Sergio Marchionne comes across as much like the antithesis of Elon Musk as do the gas-swilling Dodge Hellcats from the Model S.
“I think you need to be very, very careful if you think that electrification, given its inherent limitations on range, especially in markets like the U.S., will effectively displace combustion,” said Marchionne to Automotive News last week. “It will never provide the travel distance that you require, especially based on what we know today about the storage capabilities of batteries.”
We could quote Elon Musk too, but you likely already know what he is saying about EVs. Tesla’s blog does tout outright superiority to conventional cars that is questionable, but Tesla is winning in more important ways, and is speaking otherwise convincingly with its actions against a tough industry with a 100-year head start.
For now, it has brilliantly kept the buzz machine generating more free ink with the P85D costing four times the average new car price, and those of more modest means are waiting for the Model 3 so they can get their Tesla EV in due time.
Who will win in the end? Don’t bet against Tesla, even if some of its exuberant self-descriptions about its latest product update might not hold up under closer examination.