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Tesla Model S 85D review

Dual motors give the cutting-edge Tesla Model S electric saloon 4WD but charging it is still an issue.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Adding four-wheel drive to the Model S hasn’t really changed 
its character, but that’s no bad thing, as it still feels like a rapid executive car that’s a rolling showcase for Tesla’s cutting-edge technology. The extra grip is a bonus in slippery conditions, while the on-board tech adds extra safety and convenience features that automatically upgrade. This latest version cements the model S as the most complete and appealing electric car on sale.

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It’s been less than a year since the Tesla Model S went on sale in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped the brand giving its upmarket saloon an update. Look closely at the tailgate, and you’ll see a D badge has now been added, which denotes Tesla’s new dual-motor configuration. 

An electric motor at each axle means the Model S now has four-wheel drive, while the latest software updates have added some cutting-edge safety features, too.

From the outside, the car’s clean, sporty design remains intact, while the spacious cabin is still dominated by the huge 17-inch touchscreen on the centre console. And just like before, Tesla’s smart keyless entry system means you don’t need to press a starter button or even release a handbrake to get going. Simply put the car into drive, and it pulls away in near-silence.

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There aren’t many clues to the extra electric motor up front, although you are aware of some additional whirring ahead of you. Then, at higher speeds, wind and tyre noise takes over.

The 85D’s 422bhp power output is split 50:50 between the two electric motors, and as there’s no propshaft, you can’t bias the 600Nm of torque to the front or rear. 

In reality, that’s not much of an issue, and the Model S sprints from 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. Full blistering power is available as soon as you press the throttle, too.

While acceleration is searing, the driving experience is geared towards comfort rather than sharpness. The batteries are mounted low in the chassis, so the car feels agile and there’s lots of grip. However, the suspension is better suited to absorbing bumps than keeping body roll in check, while the steering doesn’t deliver much feedback. Our car featured the £2,100 optional air-suspension, which can adjust ride height and makes it a great high-speed cruiser.

The 85D also marks the introduction of Autopilot, a system which adds a raft of electronics and sensors that will bring autonomous driving closer to reality. 

It’s currently a £2,100 option, with blind spot warning, lane keeping and automatic emergency braking. But future software updates will add auto lane changing witha tap of the indicator stalk, self-parking and even self-steering, as the electronics monitor traffic, road signs and surroundings.

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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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