Totally floored: Tesla’s test drive really is insane
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Sure, you can test drive a Tesla on the streets of Chicago, but wouldn’t it be more fun to do it on a closed track, with the car in “insane” mode?
It’s a silly question with an obvious answer.
Tesla’s Model S P85D, which is powered by dual electric motors, showed off its insane acceleration — officially 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds — at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet on Thursday as part of the automaker’s Double Black Dual Motor Winter Tour.
You, too, can hit the track through Sunday and get behind the wheel of the same electric car that’s raced against a Lamborghini and also smoked a 707-horsepower 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. First, you’ll need to make a reservation on Tesla’s website. Then it’s a matter of keeping a firm grasp of any loose objects before punching that accelerator.
The 10-city tour is intended to tout the vehicle’s performance in the snow and cold temperatures, something that can seriously hurt an electric car’s range. The timing of Tesla’s arrival couldn’t have been any better as Thursday’s subzero temperatures set a record.
“You have to use some electricity to heat the battery, but we have a more sophisticated battery system,” Tesla communications manager Will Nicholas said, comparing his company’s batteries to those in other electric vehicles.
Nicholas said cold weather could result in about a 10 percent reduction in the car’s range, which is rated at 253 miles.
But cold weather performance aside, there’s really only one reason people should want to test drive the car. It’s this:
That’s right. It’s a button that no other production car has. With one tap of its onboard control screen, you can put the car in “insane” mode and go from 416 horsepower to 691 horsepower.
And it only took a fraction of a second for the car to jump off the line and my head to be slammed back against the seat as Nicholas demonstrated the car’s power on the makeshift drag strip.
It’s a good thing they take you on a dry run through the three courses first — there’s also a slalom and snow course — so you get an idea of what you’re dealing with before letting loose behind the wheel.
Once he surrendered control, Nicholas urged me to not hold back and instead, slam down the accelerator. He didn’t have to tell me twice.
The car hit an incredible 76 mph on a drag strip that Tesla’s Jamee Hawn said was only 200 feet long. Let those numbers sink in for a minute.
What’s even more incredible is that thanks to the electric motors and its single speed, fixed gear, there’s no transmission to shift and no delay in waiting for a turbo to kick in like on traditional internal combustion engines.
It’s instant, smooth power. And a lot of it.
The only disappointment is that the drag strip isn’t longer.
While not as exciting, the slalom course does offer a bit of a thrill. Even sharp, sudden turns at 30 mph result in virtual no body roll that you’d experience in a traditional car. The batteries are stored under the car, which gives it a ridiculously low center of gravity.
As a bonus, I didn’t hit any of the cones. I think.
What if you live on an unplowed, dibs-covered street in Chicago? The suspension can be raised and lowered at a touch of a button to help the car better navigate through snow. You can pretty much set it and forget it.
“It’ll automatically adjust the suspension because there’s geo-tagging there,” Nicholas said. “It’s meant for folks who are approaching a steep driveway on regular commutes. The car will recognize it and raise the suspension automatically.”
As far as how it handles in the snow, flooring it isn’t any problem. The dual motors constantly adjusted to provide enough traction to maintain control and plow right through the snow track.
Tesla dual motor cars are also all-wheel drive. Main goal of dual motor was actually insane traction on snow. Insane speed was a side effect
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2015