Tesla Model S P85D breaks Consumer Reports' test scale

Tesla's latest Model S performed so well in the nonprofit publication's testing that its score was literally off the charts.

Stop me if you think you've think that you've heard this one before.

The Tesla Model S is the best-performing new car in Consumer Reports' history. The Palo Alto auto maker's Model S P85D acquitted itself so well that it broke CR's testing scale, forcing the publication to recalibrate its future testing methodologies. The P85D netted a 103-point score on a 100-point scale. This is not the first time a Tesla has been CR's top-performing car ever -- the standard Model S earned similar praise back in 2013.

Consumer Reports' ratings are closely watched, not just by the nonprofit's 8 million subscribers, but also by the auto industry and general consumers. Its praise is highly coveted.

Consumer Reports lauded the 127,820 P85D's "brutally quick" acceleration, long range and efficiency. It scored a mile-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 87 in the magazine's testing, and netted the quickest 0-60 mph time of any vehicle it had ever tested, 3.5 seconds. (Consumer Reports purchases its test vehicles, and as such, it doesn't often splurge for exotic test cars from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, or other ultra-high-performance automakers whose cars routinely eclipse that figure).

The P85D joins Porsche's Boxster and Lexus' LS as a vehicle so competent it broke CR's testing scale. Josh Miller/CNET

Despite its seemingly more-perfect-than-perfect score, CR cautioned that there are some trade-offs when it comes to P85D ownership, including fewer luxury features than rivals (e.g., no seat coolers, some less-than-premium materials), and a firmer and louder ride than other Model S trims. It also mentioned the range limitations inherent in electric cars as a continued area of concern for some buyers (this, despite Tesla having done more than any other auto maker to alleviate range anxiety concerns with its free network of Supercharger stations and large-capacity batteries). The P85D's results also don't factor-in reliability ratings, as the model remains too new for CR to have enough data to comment on this aspect of ownership.

Despite the car's premium price and the above caveats, Mark Rechtin, CR's Cars Content Development Team Leader, says, "Tesla Model S P85D is an automotive milepost. It's a remarkable car that paves a new, unorthodox course, and it's a powerful statement of American startup ingenuity."

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