Remember when Tesla rocked the world with its first high-output Model S? It was the P85D—P for "performance," D for "dual-motor all-wheel drive," all powered by an 85kWh battery, the largest available from Tesla at the time. In our first real-world P85D test back in 2014, we clocked a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds.
Gosh, that was ever so long ago.
In the ensuing two years, Tesla has involved itself in a continual time-shaving effort. In late 2014, the promise was 3.2 seconds, using "Insane Mode" launch control. By mid-2015, the Model S P85D was upgraded to "Ludicrous Mode," with 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. Then came the P100D in the summer of 2016, named for its larger-capacity 100kWh battery. It did 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, making it the quickest-accelerating four-door in the world—and tying it with the Porsche 911 Turbo S as the quickest new car on the market at the time.
It didn't stop there. In November of 2016, Tesla announced an "easter egg," an over-the-air software update that optimized Ludicrous Mode acceleration even further. When Model S P100D owners started receiving the update in early 2017, they unlocked 0-60 times as low as 2.4 seconds—or, depending on the level of accuracy of your measuring equipment, 2.39 seconds.
And now, in February 2017, another record has fallen:
Take a look at that trajectory. From the time the first P85D came out in late 2014 until now, the hottest Tesla's 0-60 time has dropped by slightly more than one full second. That's an improvement of more than 30 percent—on a vehicle that, in its very first iteration, could outrun all but the most serious performance vehicles.
Yes, most of that improvement is thanks to the upgrade from 85kWh to 100kWh batteries. Just like in conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, more power potential leads to quicker acceleration. But it's the small, incremental improvements that are most fascinating here. From the original P100D's 2.5-second run to this week's 2.276—an improvement of nearly nine percent—no hardware was changed. More to the point, the 2.5-second P100D you bought back in 2016 may very well be a 2.276-second car today, with nary a wrench or data cable involved.
You know where this leads. Eventually, through software updates, battery improvements, and the perfect alignment of drag strip conditions, a future Tesla model will rocket from a dead stop to 60 mph in under two seconds. It's the natural order of things, as records fall and Tesla CEO Elon Musk hungers for another vehicle improvement he can announce via a surprise tweet or conference-call muttering.
And Tesla's vehicles are uniquely equipped to make this happen. As Jason Cammisa explained when the 2014 Model S P85D was new, a Tesla does its most devastating accelerating in those first few moments when a conventional car is working to build up a head of steam—the little milliseconds when the revs are climbing, the turbos (if equipped) are spooling, and everything is working against the momentum of all those moving parts that would rather stay stationary than spin up to maximum speed.
And that was back when 3.4 seconds seemed lightning quick.
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Does it really matter? That's the question you ask us—and frankly, some of us ask ourselves—every time Tesla finds a way to shed another tenth of a second in 0-60 time. And beyond 60 mph, in this latest P100D test, the gasoline-powered supercars of the world start to run away. All that zero-RPM electric motor advantage disappears when the pistons and turbos come up to speed. And while Tesla naysayers on the Internet have a habit of overstating the electric car's range and charging limitations, with a P100D you still have to plan your drag strip outings a little more meticulously than folks who can just fill up at any corner gas station.
Tesla's advantage here is undeniable. Unlike any other automaker out there today, Tesla's products get faster as they sit parked in their owners' garages. And that's not going to stop with a 0-60 time of 2.276.