Critics for Speed

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Tesla announced new versions of its luxury cars that break major barriers for electric vehicles. But are the upgrades, as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk claims, enough to hand Tesla the title of fastest car in the world?

 The P100D Model S with Ludicrous mode will propel the car to 60 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds. Tesla’s Model X sport utility vehicle will get there in 2.9 seconds. The bigger, 100-kilowatt-hour batteries also provide the first official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency range of more than 300 miles on a charge.

These speeds are crazy fast, matched only by sold-out supercars with tiny production runs: Ferrari’s $1.4 million LaFerrari, Porsche’s $845,000 918 Spyder, and Bugatti’s $2.3 million Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. Tesla’s new Model S, at $134,500, is just as quick as any vehicle on the road. Even its seven-seat SUV beats the McLaren 675LT.

 Speeds like this offer more Gs than Earth, so the rate of acceleration is faster than falling. It can feel difficult to support your head and shoulders if you first don’t lean back on the headrest. And perhaps the strangest feeling of punching it on a Tesla is that, with two all-electric motors, the wheels don’t slip and acceleration is practically silent.

For the first time, Musk said, “the fastest car in the world, of any kind, is electric. In the future, people are really going to look at gasoline cars in the same way we look at steam engines today: They’re quaint, but it’s not really how you get around.”

Squeezing another 10 kilowatt hours out of what was already the world’s largest car battery posed a difficult challenge, Musk said. The improved battery packs use the same Panasonic cells as previous Teslas, but they require new wiring and changes to the seats to ensure safety, given the additional weight. Musk said the packs are reaching performance and capacity limits for the current generation of cells. The company will be shifting to a larger cell with the launch of the Model 3 next year, enabling additional gains for the entire Tesla lineup.

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