This is the best car Consumer Reports has ever tested

Tesla earns perfect score
Tesla earns perfect score

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."

Initially, the P85D Model S scored 103 points when Consumer Reports measured 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.

A Tesla Model S P85d car is displayed at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition on April 20, 2015.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

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."

This expert is shorting Tesla
This expert is shorting Tesla

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 needed 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 an 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.

Top rated cars (out of 100 points)

Rank Vehicle Score
1Tesla Model S P85D100
2Tesla Model S99
3BMW M235i98
4Mercedes S55096
5Porsche 911 Carrera S95

Source: Consumer Reports

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