Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Quick and fast are not necessarily the same thing, though the words are often used interchangeably. The newly unveiled Tesla Model S P85D with all wheel drive and the rear wheel drive Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat are both very, very quick and very, very fast. But one is quicker than the other, and one is faster than the other. We provide further perspective to a recent Torque News debate.
First: the Hellcat
Torque News is quite fond of the Dodge Hellcats, both the two-door Challenger and the four-door Charger. The Charger SRT Hellcat packs a phenomenal and loud 707 horsepower and 650 lb-feet of torque. It can make the 0-60 sprint in 3.7 seconds without drag radials, and a quarter mile in 11 seconds flat. The Charger Hellcat tops out at 204 miles per hour.
Tesla’s Model S P85D
The new all wheel drive system unveiled by Tesla last week is a truly remarkable example of what electric propulsion is capable of. The P85D adds a 221-hp electric motor to the front wheels to complement a re-tuned rear unit that is capable of 470 horsepower. Together, the system puts out 691 hp and 687 lb-ft of instantly available torque for some truly mind-blowing off the line performance. The drive mode that unlocks all that power? It is correctly labeled “Insane.”
Model S P85D has an official 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds, making it the quickest four-door production vehicle ever built. It can run the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 155 miles per hour.
The most impressive part of the P85D is that adding a second motor and 221 horsepower actually improves the efficiency of the car. Despite an additional 291 pounds of weight, the unique efficiency curves of electric motors allow Tesla to optimize current flow on a time scale of milliseconds to keep the motors at a more frugal operating point.
Quicker, not necessarily faster
We will reiterate an important point: the Tesla is quicker than the Dodge. No internal combustion car, no matter how large the engine, can hope to compete with the P85D off the line. The fundamental characteristics of torque-speed curves mean that an all wheel drive electric car with 687 lb-ft of torque will fry any dinosaur-burner from a dead stop. That is reflected by the superior 0-60 time of the Tesla, and the advantage from 0-30 would be even greater.
Electric vehicles are limited by their batteries, however. Model S cannot sustain its maximum level of power as long as the Hellcat, largely because the batteries can only tolerate so much heat generation and obviously deplete quickly under high load. Hence, the Model S P85D’s governed top speed of 155 miles per hour.
That is why it is fair to call the Charger Hellcat a “faster” car than the new all wheel drive Tesla. It can go faster, and that is indisputable.
A deeper look
Model S also weighs more than the Hellcat, but not by a whole lot despite the heavy battery pack. The Tesla tips the scales at 4,936 pounds while the Dodge weighs in at 4,560 pounds. The greater power-to-weight ratio of the Hellcat lends it an advantage, though the aerodynamics of Model S are far superior.
Driving dynamics are also worth considering in any debate between the two cars. Tesla claims their new all wheel drive system will provide the “most capable road holding and handling of any vehicle ever produced,” and though that grandiose proclamation may not be verifiable, it is not misleading.
A powertrain that can instantly vary the torque split between the front and rear combined with the low center of gravity due to the floor-mounted battery and a perfect 50:50 weight distribution (vs. 54:46 for the Dodge) makes it hard to argue against the Tesla. The electric sedan is said to be able to post a very impressive 1G lateral acceleration.
The main advantage the Charger SRT Hellcat holds over the Model S P85D is its sticker price: the Tesla goes for about $120,000 while the Dodge is expected to be slightly more than half that. It also holds an advantage in any sustained high-speed driving, as Model S eventually has to limit the car’s output to protect the battery pack. However, if money was no object you would be insane (in this writer's humble opinion) to take the Hellcat over Model S as a daily driver on real roads.
The point here is that both cars offer truly incredible performance. Some people need the roar of a V-8 engine in their fast cars while Tesla drivers will tell you no sound compares to the thrill of flooring the accelerator in a Model S. But to each his own.