5 Ways Tesla Vastly Improved The Model S

Tesla unveiled its latest electric car on Thursday night. And though it doesn’t look different from past models, it’s an absolute stunner.

CEO Elon Musk had teased a “D” prior to the event, but the “D” here stands for the “dual-motor” that powers this new car, which is extremely powerful and ultra efficient. But the dual-motor is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here, we break down all the new features of the new Model S so you can get an idea of why so many people believe Tesla’s Model S is the future of driving.

1. The “D” stands for “dual-motor”

Screen Shot 2014 10 09 at 11.19.24 PMDave Smith/Business InsiderThe chassis and drive train of the dual-motor Model S.

Tesla wanted a more powerful car, so it made one. But even with two motors instead of one, Musk and his engineers were able to overcome the penalty of increasing the mass of the motor to ensure no technical drawback. The acceleration is faster, the top speed is higher, and the new car is actually more energy efficient than its predecessor. Depending on the model, the new Model S has anywhere between 10 and 30 miles of extra range built-in, and can achieve top speeds of 155 mph, compared to 130 mph on the older models. (You probably won’t drive this fast most of the timeā€¦ or ever.)

2. Acceleration: accelerated.

Tesla-model-s-accelerationDave Smith/Business InsiderAccelerating in the new Model S on Tesla’s test track.

Speaking of power, the new Tesla Model S — specifically, the highest-end model “P85D” — can achieve 0 to 60 miles per hour acceleration in just 3.2 seconds. That’s faster than several high-end Italian sports cars from Lamborghini and Ferrari, and it’s on par with the McLaren F1 supercar. So in case you need to speed up for the highway on ramp, or get out of a sticky situation, this car offers incredible agility.

3. Autopilot to the extreme (but not autonomous)

Tesla-model-s-autopilotDave Smith/Business InsiderAutopilot lets the Tesla Model S follow the bends in the road — no need to touch the wheel, or even the pedals.

Thanks to 12 forward-looking long-range ultrasonic sensors, the new Autopilot functionality in the dual-motor Model S offers a “protective cocoon” that can “see anything,” according to Musk, including small moving objects like children and dogs.

It has GPS and real-time traffic integrated, and it also utilizes two sets of cameras for radar: one set watches the lines of the road on the ground, while the other looks around for obstacles and traffic signs, to ensure your car obeys the rules of the road. If you use your turn signal, your car will safely move into the lane by itself; but it won’t make those lane-changing decisions for you. Musk insists this tech is “not at the level where you could safely fall asleep and arrive at your destination. It’s more like active safety in the limit.”

But here’s a cool feature that’s illegal in most parts of the country (for now): The dual-motor Model S will park itself in your garage while you’re out of the car, and you can summon the car to arrive at your location with your favourite music playing and the A/C running.

Finally, for Autopilot to work, the Tesla Model S requires the “tech package,” a group of high-end features that includes the onboard navigation system, LED running and cornering lights, fog lamps, lighted door handles, a power lift gate, power-folding heated side mirrors, memory seats, automatic keyless entry, and rear-view mirrors that darken automatically at night in response to headlights.

4. The best brakes in the business

Tesla-model-s-brakes-rearAPTesla needed an equally powerful braking system to match the car’s acceleration.

Musk said the new Model S comes with an all-new electromechanical braking system, which he says is much improved over past models thanks to “high precision, digitally controlled electric [assistance].” Musk says it’s the best braking system ever created “for a natural driving experience,” so you can feel safe accelerating but also if or when it’s time to make a quick decision to stop (your car ought to see that long before you do, though).

5. All-wheel drive

Tesla-model-s-dashboardReuters/Lucy NicholsonThe dashboard in the new Model S.

The previous Tesla Model S used rear-wheel drive, while the new car uses all-wheel drive. So what’s the difference? In the rear-wheel model, the rear wheels move the vehicle while the front wheels provide the steering, creating a division of labour of sorts. This is good for heavy vehicles, since more load equals more traction, and rear-wheel drive allows cars to handle heavier, fast-accelerating vehicles, including many Formula One and NASCAR autos.

However, rear-wheel drive usually comes at a penalty to one’s gas and performance. In all-wheel drive, the vehicle gets the benefits of solid gas mileage from front-wheel drive, but the stability and power of rear-wheel drive. It can transfer weight dynamically, so you never need to worry about your vehicle’s load, or what kind of weather conditions you’re about to get into. There are many more ways in which rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive differ, but the bottom line here is that Tesla wants its car to be powerful, stable, and efficient in any weather condition, and all-wheel drive provides that capability.

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