Electrifying Lime Rock Park& s Short Circuit in a Tesla …

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TESLA Model S – 85 kWh Auto

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January 27, 2014, 6:49 pm

Electrifying Lime Rock Park s Short Circuit in a Tesla Model S P85 (Yes, We Tracked It)


It s been super-mega-awful cold and/or snowy pretty much everywhere in the country lately, but there was one glorious day in northwest Connecticut where the flakes stopped dropping long enough for the sun to bore a hole through the frigid air and defrost Lime Rock s half-mile autocross track. Tesla Motors capitalized on this rare hiatus it snowed again the very next day, natch by rustling up a couple of its Model S sedans and calling a pop-up press trip. I was there.

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When we tested the Model S. we called it a good car, not just a good electric, and it offers pleasant cruising manners, pampering luxury, and hedonistic performance. But how would the 4700-plus pounder do on a tightly kinked miniature track? Shivering with anticipation sunny doesn t necessarily equate to warm in New England and huddled around the impromptu fire pit/hobo camp set up to keep us warm, I patiently waited my turn.

I didn t have to wait long. My first run was in a 362-hp 85 model (the 85 denoting the largest available battery pack, an 85-kWh unit), which had the stock 19-inch wheels and all-season Goodyear Eagle RS A2s. The experience was nothing to write home let alone an article about.

Yes, the braking was impressive, the handling was excellent for a big luxury sedan, and the instant-on torque of an electric motor delivered plenty of shove from a stop, but there was no joy in Mudville: No sooner did the speed build up then I had to dive into the brakes.

That sort of description is pretty much how anyone, ever, would describe driving an autocross-style course, but in my experience, it s usually less digital of an experience than it was in the regular 85 more akin to smoothly linking the gates of a ski slalom course than lurching from cone to cone. It felt like I was racing racing a 1/24-scale slot car on a 1/32 track. I ll allow that it could have been my technique and/or the fact that I was still acclimating to the course, but this same boy racer noticed a huge difference when I set out behind the wheel of the highest-performing Model S, the P85. We re talking night and day.

Apples and oranges. New York and Detroit-style. And it wasn t just because of the black wheels.

The P (for Performance) has more horsepower (416 vs, 362), more torque (443 lb-ft vs. 325), and offers an even harder kick in the back (we recorded 4.6 to 60 from the P85). The P85 I drove at Lime Rock had 21-inch Continentals, and they allowed for more slide when transitioning from the upper loop of the track to the lower section while still biting nicely through the tighter turns.

The S is a heavy rear-wheel-drive sedan, but its 1300-pound battery pack lives low under the passenger cell, creating a low center of gravity that inspires confidence. What s hard to explain is the way in which the P85 unlike the regular 85 seemed to shrink and drive smaller the harder I pushed it. Really.

When the Tesla rep in the back seat commented on how much fun I seemed to be having, I briefly wondered how he had wedged himself into the back of a two-seat sports car.

In sum, the experience left me wanting only two more things: The chance to take the Model S out on Lime Rock s full, 1.53-mile track; and the chance to do it in a P85+, which has significant suspension upgrades, staggered Michelin Sport P2s, and a carbon-fiber spoiler. Now if Tesla would only redesign the grille .

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