Tesla may be a small car company compared to the likes of Ford,Volkswagen or Toyota but it has big ideas. And one of those ideas of founder Elon Musk’s is to prove that electric cars can have supercar-rivaling performance and still deliver all the benefits of zero emissions motoring.

This is the latest product from that vision; the Tesla Model S P85D – an electric car that has 682bhp and can rocket to 60mph in 3.2 seconds. Supercar fans will notice the P85D is as quick to 60mph as a McLaren F1, a car which Musk stated was used as the benchmark when it came to fast acceleration times. And yet, the P85D has a theoretical range of 300 miles, seats five (or even seven if the two boot seats are specified) and has Mercedes-levels of luxury.

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The secret to the P85D’s immense power lies with its dual motor technology. A 464bhp electric motor on the back axle powers the rear wheels while up front Tesla has added a smaller motor with 218bhp on the front axle to drive the front wheels.

It makes the P85D four-wheel drive and capable of traveling on all road conditions including snow and ice – just like an Audi RS6. Tesla’s system can adjust the torque between all four wheels 100 times per second thanks to its electric powertrain, giving superb levels of grip.

Hop in, pull down the Mercedes-derived column gear change selector to ‘D’ and you’re good to go – there’s no need to start the car as carrying the key fob in your pocket both opens the doors and switches the ignition on. Touch the throttle and you’re thrown back in your seat with the only noise being a high-pitched whistle from the electric motors. 

Once you’ve had enough of that, it’s time to experience the neck-snapping acceleration. A few prods on the tablet screen in the centre of the dash and the driver can change the ride height, control how severe the brake regeneration is and tweak a multitude of other functions. It’s also here where you can switch the P85D’s acceleration from ‘Sport’ to ‘Insane’ mode.

Do that and you’re not only flung back into your seat but your neck snaps into the headrest as you ride on the twin electric motors’ full power. As you race to 60mph your body is put through 1g – such is the severity of the dual motors unleashing their arsenal.

The sensation is made all the more ‘insane’ by there being no engine noise to accompany it. While a Nissan GT-R can get to 60mph a few tenths quicker, that car’s wailing V6 and rapid-fire gearchanges make it very clear what’s happening. With the Tesla, though, there’s just an eerily quite cabin and uninterrupted acceleration courtesy of the single-speed gearbox.

Straight-line speed isn’t the Tesla’s only forte, though. Thanks to that four-wheel drive system that’s continually shuffling the power to whichever wheel that needs traction the most, the P85D handles well too. The car’s natural style is to stay flat through corners; carry too much speed into a bend and the front washes wide but it’s only natural for a car that weighs more than 2.2 tonnes. The steering is weighty – it can be made unnecessarily heavy in ‘Sport’ mode – and while it misses out on being the last word in precision, the P85D is a credible sports saloon.

Once you’ve stopped behaving like you’re insane, the P85D switches from supercar-baiting into a luxury car. Inside the P85D stands out from the crowd thanks to some neat design touches like the swooping aluminum door handles and, of course, the 17-inch touch screen. That screen acts very much as the ‘heart’ of the car as it controls all functions with impressive ease.

Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, red brake calipers and alcantara headlining, but there are a whole host of optional packs and extra equipment that can be added. A premium pack which adds ambient lighting and leather is priced at £2,900, while two rear-facing seats in the boot (turning the P85D into a seven-seater) come in at £2,100.

The most interesting option is the Tech package for £3,500. It comes with Tesla’s Autopilot system that uses a forward-looking camera, radar and 360-degree ultrasonic sensors to monitor the road. Lane-changing technology that lets you tap the indicator stalk to make the car automatically move lanes and automatic parking that lets the Tesla will park itself will both appear soon via automatic software updates to the car.

Tesla claims a range of 300 miles between fill-ups with overnight charging recommended. The company is rolling out more of its ‘Supercharger’ battery-replenishing stations across the UK that top up the batteries by more than 50 per cent in around 20 minutes. Tesla can also sell you a second onboard charger doubling the rate of charge for £1,250.

The P85D sits at the top of the Model S range and is priced at £79,080 after the £5,000 government grant. That’s nearly £14,000 more than the Tesla 85D dual-motor that still has 371bhp and gets to 60mph in 5.2 seconds, so potential buyers would have to value the extra grunt to justify the considerable price premium. That said, for those who want to brag they have the fastest-accelerating electric car in the world and have faith in the UK’s still-young charging infrastructure, the Tesla Model S P85D will be the very best car money can buy.

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