How the Tesla Model S became the quickest accelerating production car on planet earth

A few years ago, before Tesla became a household word, if you had told a car guy that an electric vehicle could someday offer faster acceleration than a Ferrari or a Porsche, he’d have laughed in your face. Nowadays, that motorhead is probably driving a Model S, which has demonstrated the best acceleration of any production vehicle — 0-60 in less than 2.3 seconds. “This 4,891-pound Tesla Model S P100D does it best, reaching 30, 40, 50, and 60 mph from a standstill more quickly than any other production vehicle we’ve ever tested, full stop,” writes Motor Trend* in a recent review.


Above: Tesla Model S P100DL accelerates like lightning (Image: Motor Trend*)

Thanks to the instant torque of an electric motor, most electric vehicles (EVs) excel off the line. Even a lowly LEAF can hold its own against a ‘stang or a ‘vette in a friendly drag from a traffic light. Past 30 mph, the muscle car (assuming the driver notices that you’re racing) will start to pull away from the LEAF - but not from a Model S. As Motor Trend verified, a top-of-the-line Tesla can beat any street-legal car all the way to 60.


Above: Tesla Model S P100DL being tested on Motor Trend's track (Image: Motor Trend*)

A handy infographic from wireless charger maker Plugless list the vehicles with the 10 best 0-60 times. Four of the top 10 are electric, and three are Teslas - a Model X P100D with Ludicrous mode can drag neck-and-neck with a Ferrari, a Lamborghini or a Porsche, and still get your daughters to soccer practice on time.


Above: Tesla Model S P100DL is the quickest production car on the planet; Note: Tesla's top figures in this infographic above are actually slower than Motor Trend's recent 0-60MPH test which yielded a time of 2.28 seconds (Source: InsideEVs via Plugless Power)

At speeds over 60 however, horsepower matters more than instant torque, so it turns out there are a few dinosaur burners that could outrun an S. MT found that the Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 started to pull ahead once the needle went past 70 mph. However, it seems the most fun is to be had in the zone between 0 and 30 mph, where the phenomenon that Motor Trend calls by the technical physics term “jerk” snaps one’s body and neck around, and wrenches one’s concept of electric vehicles into a new position.


Above: Graph showing the acceleration rates of a Tesla Model S P100D, Porsche 911 Turbo S, and Ferrari LaFerrari (Image: Motor Trend*)

Of course, any old Model S has more than enough pickup to deftly pass a semi or show off on a highway onramp. But if you want to experience that world-record jerk, a few steps are necessary. First, you need to have a P100D with the Ludicrous option, and then you need to activate Ludicrous mode from the Settings menu. The waggish Model S will ask you, “Are you sure you want to push the limits? This will cause accelerated wear of the motor, gearbox and battery,” and offer you two options: “No, I want my Mommy,” and “Yes, bring it on!”


Above: Tesla's cheeky 'ludicrous' message (Image: Electrek)

Selecting Yes puts the S into Launch mode, which conditions the battery and motors for maximum possible performance. According to MT, the battery temperature is raised slightly and the motors are cooled using the AC system. This can take a few minutes. And as the mischievous Model S warned you, each Ludicrous launch puts considerable wear on the powertrain. For this reason, a few months ago Tesla updated the Model S software so that it would limit the number of times Launch mode could be used in a vehicle’s lifetime (some ICE performance cars have a similar system to prevent excessive wear). However, in response to owner dissatisfaction with the limiting software, Tesla decided to scrap it. So you can now blast off until your motors blow up, if you like.


Above: Tesla Model S P100D racing on Motor Trend's track (Image: Motor Trend*)

Those who crave more technical details about how Model S gets to 60 so quickly will certainly find them in a recent installment of Engineering Explained. Acceleration authority Jason Fenske sets out to answer a hypothetical question: If a Roadster could be equipped with a similar powertrain, would it be even faster than a Model S? Along the way, he explains quite a lot about the physics of how autos achieve awesome acceleration.


Above: How the Tesla Model S P100D hit 60 MPH in 2.28 seconds (Youtube: Engineering Explained)


*Source: Motor Trend