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Tesla's Model S P85D Gets Consumer Reports' Highest Rating Ever

Consumer Reports gives Tesla's new high-performance P85D version of its Model S a perfect score, calling it "the best-performing car ... ever tested."
Image: A Tesla P85D is seen on display at a Tesla showroom in Pasadena
A Tesla P85D is seen on display at a Tesla showroom in Pasadena, California, on Aug. 3.MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

Tesla just made Consumer Reports history.

The product testing agency on Thursday gave the new high-performance P85D version of the automaker's Model S a rating of 100 — a perfect score — calling it "the best-performing car that Consumer Reports has ever tested."

"It really blew up our system," said Jake Fisher, the head of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. "It actually scored above 100 in our system before we had to make some changes to account for this car."

A Tesla P85D is seen on display at a Tesla showroom in Pasadena, California, on Aug. 3.MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

Initially, the P85D Model S scored 103 points when Consumer Reportsmeasured the car's acceleration, braking, handling and other key performance characteristics. Fisher and his team then modified their scoring model to make the P85D fit into a 100-point scale.

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When asked about the rating from Consumer Reports, Tesla spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn said, "The Model S being the first car to receive 100 out of 100 points is truly a testament to our commitment to continually give our customers enhancements in range, performance and value, and ultimately a better driving and ownership experience."

The glowing review comes just two years after Consumer Reports gave the base model version of the Model S a near perfect score of 99 out of 100. At the time, that was the highest rating ever for a vehicle.

So what did Tesla improve with the high-performance Model S?

A big change is the addition of a second motor, giving the P85D dual motors and turning the single-motor, rear-wheel drive Model S into an all-wheel drive electric car that is more responsive and efficient.

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"When we tested the first Model S it went zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds. The P85D goes 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. That's incredible," Fisher said.

For Tesla, the review is further validation of CEO Elon Musk's drive to build an electric car that can also deliver an incredible driving experience. Critics scoffed at Musk's vision as he was building the Model S; but Fisher said the team at Tesla deserved credit for delivering a car with very few flaws.

"Let's be frank, this car is $130,000," he said, meaning that a lot of people won't be able to afford it. "But this is a glimpse into the future of the automotive industry. A glimpse where cars can be extremely efficient, and extremely fast, and extremely comfortable."

Though Consumer Reports gave the P85D a perfect score, it was careful not to call it a perfect car. Fisher said the time it takes the vehicle to fully recharge (which can be about 30 minutes) is an issue that Tesla still needs to tackle.

He's also not crazy about the instrument panel between the front seats, which features a screen the size of iPad that also includes a web browser. "I think maybe Tesla went a bit too far with that," he said.

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Fisher admitted, though, that in complaining about the instrument panel he was getting picky about a car Consumer Reports owns and will likely continue to test, as Tesla improves the Model S with over-the-air software updates in the future.

Until then, Fisher said the P85D is in a class all its own.

"There's no other product that scores a 100 at Consumer Reports. It's unlike anything we've ever seen," he said.