Tesla reveals 691-hp AWD Model S with autopilot, its most powerful model yet

Aki Sugawara
Associate Editor
All-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model S line up in California

As predicted, Tesla unveiled a new version of the Model S sedan tonight, featuring an additional motor up front to make it a 691-horsepower all-wheel-drive rocket — and one of the fastest sedans on the planet.

Tesla says the new Model S P85D can hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds — just slightly slower than the 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat — and has a range of 275 miles on a full charge, 10 more than before, thanks to being able to recapture more energy from the front wheels.

"This car is nuts," said Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk, addressing a massive throng of Tesla owners at Hawthorne Municipal Aiport in Los Angeles, Calif. "It's like having your own roller coaster."

He's not joking. Even with the P85D's 291 extra pounds, the launch from a stop is absolutely manic, like nothing I've experienced before. It's similar to a Nissan GT-R, except all of that staggering 687 ft-lb of torque hits you at an instant, and your vision blurs from the acceleration as the brain slams into the back of your skull. I can't remember the last sports car that made my neck this sore, and that's with having my head firmly planted against the headrest.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Model S P85D. The chassis is visible in the background.

Musk also announced a raft of safety upgrades for the Model S that moved the car closer to some facets of autonomous driving. The system in new Model S cars use a dozen sensors to see about 16 feet around the vehicle, allowing it to not only monitor lanes as other luxury models can, but to adjust its speed by "reading" the speed limit signs (other automakers use GPS to keep track of speed limits). The integrated sonar system can detect soft objects to avoid obstacles, and it can not only parallel park on its own, but also park into your own garage.

In practice, the autopilot pretty much drives on its own, as seen in the video below. The experience was smooth, with no abrupt corrections or braking -- in other words, far better than the typical distracted LA driver:

Priced at $120,170, the Tesla Model S P85D will be delivered to customers at the end of the year.