Tesla has put an end to all the speculation surrounding its CEO Elon Musk's socially awkward tweet, with the unveiling of the D, an all-wheel-drive version of the company's Model S that can match the MacLaren F1's top speeds of 0 to 60 miles per hour at 3.2 seconds.
The new D models look identical to the Model S, and Musk did not mention any changes to the interior. The difference lies inside, where Tesla equipped the new cars with a second motor between the front wheels that will work with the drive unit in the back of the existing Model S. The D, therefore, stands for dual-motor as was earlier speculated. Musk says Tesla has also improved efficiency for all three models, with the entry-level 60D now able to drive 225 miles on a charge and the 80D and top-of-the-line P85D climbing up to 275 miles a charge.
"This car is nuts," he tells a crowed of cheering Tesla owners amidst the thumping of techno music in the background. "It's like taking off from an aircraft carrier. It's like having your own personal roller coaster."
Aside from the acceleration and efficiency boosts, the D models come with the "something else" Musk promised in his tweet. That something else is actually a suite of safety features that will allow the vehicles to operate in semi-autonomous mode. These include a forward-looking radar, a camera equipped with image recognition and a 360-degree sonar, all of which will allow the driver to put the car in what Musk calls "autopilot" mode to prevent accidents and even summon the car, as long as it's on private property.
"You can summon the car and it will come to where you are," Musk says. "Turn on your calendar, and the car will meet you there with the air conditioner on, playing your music."
But while fans and analysts alike are vastly impressed with Tesla's new vehicles, Wall Street wasn't as pleased. Following the niche car maker's Hollywood-like event on Thursday evening, Tesla stocks dropped by 7.8 percent to $236.91, the lowest the company has seen since Aug. 1. Analysts cite the car's staggering prices, which could further alienate prospective buyers who are already shying away from the $75,000 Model S. The D models start at $75,070 for the entry-level 60D and goes up to $85,070 for the mid-range 80D. The P85D, which starts shipping in December, costs a whopping $125,170. The other two models will be available in February.
Other analysts say Tesla's new automated safety features aren't really new at all, since most luxury car makers already have their own semi-autonomous mode for their cars.
"The AWD Model S is playing catch-up with other luxury makers that already offer AWD on many of their vehicles," says analyst Brian Johnson at Barclay's. "We don't see the addition of AWD to the Model S as a game-changer."
But others say the new features in Tesla's new cars are "pretty incredible," especially for all-electric vehicles. Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book says that for Tesla to keep up with luxury brands such as BMW, Jaguar and Audi, it needs to offer an AWD version of its flagship Model S.
"The advanced sensors and additional drivetrain components undoubtedly add cost and complexity to the Model S, but they also widen its appeal to luxury shoppers seeking cold weather confidence and the latest driver assistance technology," Brauer says.