Tesla makes its cars Ferrari-fast with super Ludicrous mode – USA TODAY
Some future models of Tesla cars may be getting an upgraded battery.
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SAN FRANCISCO — How about an automobile that can keep pace with a $1.4 million Ferrari LaFerrari supercar for about one-tenth the price?
That’s the latest proposition from Tesla, whose electric sedans will now be capable of hitting 60 miles per hour in a scant 2.5 seconds, or about twice as fast as a Bentley Continental Flying Spur and on par with Ferrari’s latest state-of-the-art machine.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the news of more powerful batteries to power the most capable versions of its electric cars Tuesday, including a range now topping 300 miles per charge. On a conference call, Musk noted the new top-of-the-line Tesla Model S P100D sedan, with aptly named “Ludicrous” mode, will cost $134,500. The Model X P100D crossover with the same high-performance option will cost $135,500 and will hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
The sedan will have a ranges of 315 miles, and the crossover will go 289 miles. Breaking the 300-mile barrier (up from 294 for the 90D) is an incremental if symbolic milestone as the automaker looks to erase so-called “range anxiety” as a reason not to buy an electric car.
Customers who have ordered what had been the highest-performance Tesla — the P90D with Ludicrous, which hit 60 mph in 2.8 seconds — will be able to upgrade to the new peak model for another $10,000. Existing P90D owners who want to make the switch will have to pay $20,000 because the change requires replacing and recycling their cars’ existing motors.
Musk pointed out that the new Model X, a four-door SUV, will be faster than the vaunted 1990s McLaren F1 supercar, which now trades hands for around $12 million. He once owned one.
“You have a seven-seater SUV that beats a McLaren F1. That’s nuts,” Musk said. “The public pays attention to precedents and superlatives. This will help convince people around the world that electric is the future, and that it’s time to move to sustainable transport.”
Tesla shares (TSLA) jumped briefly early Tuesday after Musk tweeted about upcoming product news but dropped after the announcement and closed up 0.9% at $224.93.
Among the few modern sports cars that might give the newest 100-kilowatt, battery-equipped Tesla Model S fits include the Porsche 918 Spyder (2.2 seconds to 60 mph for $900,000), the McLaren P1 (2.6 seconds for $1.3 million) and the lauded Bugatti Veyron (2.4 seconds for around $2.2 million). But none of those cars carry more than two passengers. The Model S has a back seat and even a rear-facing third kiddie row.
On the other end of the financial spectrum, Tesla has its financial future riding on its forthcoming Model 3 sedan, its first midmarket model with a starting price of $35,000. It is set for production in mid-2017. The company is building out a $5 billion Gigafactory in the Nevada desert to build both battery packs for the car and perhaps, eventually, automobiles.
Musk said the improvements made to the battery pack to achieve the new speed marker will spill over into the Model 3’s design. But he also suggested well-heeled customers buying the new P100D models will be contributing directly to Tesla’s future goals.
In a blog post, Musk said “without customers willing to buy the expensive Model S and X, we would be unable to fund the smaller, more affordable Model 3 development.”
On the call, Musk added, “Yes, this is an expensive car, but the important thing is it’s paying for the Model 3, both in terms of free cash flow and learning more about the core technology. People who care about the Model 3, they should appreciate that people buying the P100D are helping pay for their car’s development.”
Musk brushed aside questions about the company’s Autopilot mode other than to say that a coming software update “will address autonomy” functions. Last May, a Tesla Model S was involved in an accident that killed its driver. Regulators are investigating the incident.
There were no updates to Tesla’s Model 3 production timeline other than Musk saying he remains focused on “refining the machine that builds the machine, which ultimately is more important that the (vehicle) itself.”
Musk has said that by finding improvements and efficiencies in its manufacturing process, Tesla will be able to reduce costs that will benefit both consumers as well as its own bottom line.
Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava @marcodellacava.