Tesla's New Model D Is Like a Sports Car, Only Cheaper and Better in Every Way

The newest, fastest four-door sedan on the market comes with a sleek metallic finish, leather interiors, and… a charging outlet? You read correctly: At a Thursday night Tesla event in Hawthorne, California, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveiled the latest Tesla Model D, which showcases advanced autopilot features and a performance level to rival an Italian sports car, among other exciting updates.

A super-fast smart car that’s also environmentally friendly? Sounds too good to be true, right? But it's not. It’s here, and it’s called “the D.”

At the surprise Tesla event, Musk revealed a new line of Tesla Model D cars, named for its dual-motor. The line includes three four-door sedan models, ranging from the 60D with a 208-mile range and 380-horsepower motor to the P85D, which has a 268-mile range and 470-horsepower motor. Even better — Musk explained that the P85D comes with three additional performance settings called, “normal,” “sport,” and “insane,” which will allow drivers to fine tune their car’s performance to their everyday driving needs.

Speed isn’t all the car has going for it, though. Here’s an overview of what makes the new Tesla Model D an exciting improvement from its Model S predecessor:

All Wheels On Deck

The Tesla D presents an updated all-wheel drive (AWD) version of the Tesla Model S’s rear-wheel drive system. This will help the car perform better in the snow and rain, because AWD allows the car to shift power to the wheels with the most traction, rather than relying on either the front or the back wheels alone. The company owners are hoping that this new AWD feature will help boost Tesla sales in cold-weather climates like New England and Northern Europe, in which the frequent rain and snow made the previous rear-wheel drive Tesla models less appealing.

Better, Faster, Stronger

The Tesla Model D’s new performance version — deemed “P85D” — can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, putting the latest Tesla model at the performance levels of luxury Italian cars like the Lamborghini and Ferrari. Think of the Tesla D as the Lamborghini’s tree-hugging, granola-eating younger cousin.

If you don't quite believe it, check out SlashGear's video of a Tesla Model D test drive.

A Mind of Its Own

The Tesla D takes the idea of “cruise control” to the next level. When in autopilot mode, the car can do some incredible things, such as: observe changes in speed limit and adjust its pace accordingly, respond to the driver-operated turn signal by shifting lanes, and recognize when a car has slowed or stopped ahead and adjusts its speed to match. You can also summon the car to meet you at a given location, which could be revolutionary for haters of parking garages and crowded supermarket lots everywhere.

The autopilot works by using a 360-degree ultrasonic radar that establishes a kind of cocoon around the car, protecting it from obstacles in the road.

A Car With Small Feet (Ecologically-Speaking)

Let’s not forget arguably the best part: The Tesla D still uses no gas. The Tesla D, like previous Tesla models, is powered solely by electricity. That means absolutely zero gas emissions and no oil changes, not to mention less guilt weighing on your ecological conscience.

If you’re still skeptical about how convenient an electricity-operated car really is in practice, here’s something that should boost your confidence: Tesla has installed Superchargers along popular highways in the U.S., Europe, and Asia to allow Tesla Model S users to charge their vehicles up halfway in around 20 minutes… for free. To make sure you’re not inconvenienced by the 20-minute stop, Tesla made sure to cleverly place the Supercharger stations next to diners and shopping centers along major freeways so that you can stay busy while your environmentally friendly car charges up (again, for free) for the rest of your trip.

Right now, Tesla has 115 Tesla Supercharging stations throughout the U.S., along with 71 stations in Europe and 23 in Asia. You can find a full list of Supercharger locations on Tesla’s website. You can also charge your Tesla, you know… anywhere there’s an electrical outlet. Literally, anywhere.

Of course, all of these great features come at a cost: According to the Tesla website, a brand new Tesla D with P85 Peak performance will run you about $90,000 after federal tax credit. When you compare that to similarly performing cars like the aforementioned Lamborghini and Ferrari, however — which can cost anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000 — the Tesla seems like a steal.

The Tesla Model D will become available by December 2014.

Images: RoadandTrack/Twitter; Tesla Motors