Call up Lord Helmet and Colonel Sanders, because Tesla’s gone Plaid. Not one to go down without a fight, the new 2021.5 Tesla Model S Plaid aims to take on the 2021 Lucid Air Dream Edition and its 1,080-hp electric powertrain. Why the funny model year? Tesla doesn’t really “do” model years, and previously released info on 2021 Model S changes separate from these; given the rollout of this newly updated Model S, it could be a 2021, 2021.5, or 2022—the point is that Tesla continuously updates its cars, and we try to assign a coherent model year to new vehicles we cover.
Of greater importance, Tesla claims the Model S Plaid will be the quickest production car ever made. That’s not a subtle boast. Separately, Tesla has also thoroughly updated the rest of the Model S range—with all the fuss over the Tesla Model 3 sedan and Model Y compact crossover, we’d began to wonder if the Model S and the Model X SUV had been forgotten.
They have not been.
New Interior, Who Dis?
Tesla announced specs for the new Model S during its fourth-quarter earnings call and showed pictures of the car’s wildly revamped interior. The most stunning element is the steering wheel, which has been replaced by an aircraft-style yoke, as seen on the delayed Tesla Roadster.
Beside the yoke, the Model S’s interior has been simplified in the style of the Model 3 and Model Y, with its giant center screen rotated 90 degrees to a landscape orientation. (If the photos are any indication, the new screen will make good on Elon Musk’s offer to let Tesla drivers play Witcher in their car.) Unlike the 3 and Y, though, the Model S retains a separate digital instrument panel behind the wheel—er, sorry, the yoke. The closely related Model X SUV will get its own version of this new interior.
Tesla Model S Plaid: Liquid Schwartz or Big Battery Pack?
Enough about the interior, though—you want to know about the wild Plaid model, don’t you? In what appears to be a clear shot across the bow of the upcoming 217-mph Lucid Air, the Model S Performance version has been replaced by a pair of three-motor models called Plaid and Plaid+ which, according to Tesla, will be the quickest production car ever made. The company is claiming a zero-to-60-mph acceleration time of 1.99 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 9.3 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph for the $121,190 Model S Plaid and the $141,190 Model S Plaid+ will accelerate even more quickly than that. The Air Dream Edition, meanwhile, sprints to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds, per Lucid.
Going Plaid also nets a notable increase in driving range for the Model S. While the entry-level Model S Long Range Plus currently manages 402 miles on a full charge, per the Environmental Protection Agency (Tesla says it’ll now do 412 miles, but that’s its claim and not verified by the EPA—yet), the Plaid will reportedly top 520 miles. How? Likely from a battery with notably more energy capacity than the 100-kWh pack employed by lesser variants of the electric luxury sedan. The dual-motor Model S Long Range, priced at $81,190, will offer a 155-mph top speed and a zero–60 mph time of 3.1 seconds in addition to its 400-miles-plus of range.
We’d guess the Plaid’s pack will match or exceed the energy capacity of the Air’s 113-kWh unit, which Lucid estimates will afford its sedan 517 miles of range (we saw 490 miles during a demonstration ride along). Then again, there’s always the chance Elon Musk got his hands on some Liquid Schwartz, too.
The only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid
— Tesla (@Tesla) September 23, 2020
Tesla Model S Plaid: The Price of Going Plaid
For those curious, yes, the Model X gets many of the same changes as the S and will only offer one variant of the tri-motor Plaid, with a claimed 2.5-second zero-to-60-mph time, 163-mph top speed, and 340-mile range. Both Plaids, the Model S and Model X, will share the same $121,190 selling price. That figure comes in well below initial expectations, which we had guessed would be much, much, pricier. Still, that makes the Model S Plaid some $40,000 more expensive than a regular, two-motor Long Range model.
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