Nine years ago, the Tesla Model S made its debut and changed the automotive world as we know it. It marked Tesla’s coming of age, with the brand’s first independently produced car; it was fast, plus, spacious. In essence, it managed to combine supercar performance with luxury car comfort. Cars were never the same again.
Enter the all-new Tesla Model S Plaid. It’s just been launched by a leather-jacket-wearing Elon Musk, whose penchant for revealing technological breakthroughs with the nonchalance of a high schooler talking about a rad “science” project remains unchanged. The latest “Delivery” event was live-streamed from Fremont, California, and saw Musk bring in the latest, fastest Tesla by launching it, flat out, on a quarter-mile runway, not far away from the site where the first Model S was manufactured. So what makes the new Model S as momentous a car as the first one?
Performance that goes “Beyond Ludicrous.”
Honestly, the performance figures on this make the original Tesla Roadster seem like a wheelbarrow in comparison. The Model S Plaid has a tri-motor setup, delivering 1020hp of peak power, across the entire rev range, right up to 321 kph (top speed). Elon Musk doesn’t shy away from bragging about its acceleration. “It’ll hit you right in the limbic system.”
Straight away, he talks about the car’s phenomenal acceleration. “It’ll hit you right in the limbic system. We wanted to make a spaceship out of a car”. The Tesla Model S Plaid has a tri-motor setup, which delivers 1020 hp of peak power across the rev band. It hits 0-100 kph in 1.99 seconds. It’s the quickest production car of any kind to be ever made. “It’s also the fastest production car to complete a quarter-mile” (400 meters), according to Musk.
It doesn’t end there. The new Model S Plaid features all-new battery architecture, which, in Plaid configuration, gives the Model S a range of 627km on a single charge. Even Supercharging speed has been optimized, says Musk, adding that the new car can obtain roughly 300km worth of charge “before you can finish a cup of coffee.” In other words, it does it in under 15 minutes.
The Plaid packs an all-new battery pack, new carbon sleeper rotors, and torque vectoring – the latter allowing the optimal distribution of power to individual wheels in milliseconds. Musk claims that the car is so quick that the centrifugal force attempts to expand the rotors, and it’s the carbon componentry that keeps it all together.
Part of its outrageous acceleration figure is also because this is the slipperiest car ever made. “The Tesla Model S Plaid has the lowest drag coefficient of any car ever made. And we’ve tested that while the wheels were in motion”. It has also been engineered for maximum safety. While no independently assessed crash safety assessment has verified this claim, Musk claims that it has been designed to get a five-star safety rating and is essential, “faster than any Porsche. Safer than any Volvo,” dealing one more in a series of gripping blows to European prestige car brands.
It must be noted that despite there being zero Superchargers in 2012, the Model S became a runaway success. Today, Musk claims, there are 25000 of them across the world. “We’re just going to keep building new ones,” he added, with not inconsiderable glee.
A cockpit from the future
When renderings of the Model S Plaid’s interiors first broke cover, many were skeptical whether any of it would make its way to the production model. After all, an F1-style yoke steering wheel is usually what conventional carmakers would use on “never-going-to-be-real” concept cars. While the jury’s still out on just how legal such a steering would be in different parts of the world, Tesla claims that it has been optimized for Autopilot – Tesla’s patented self-driving software, which is deemed to grow increasingly autonomous shortly.
Due to Autopilot’s expected advancement, Tesla has felt bold enough to place a 17” horizontal screen in the middle of the dashboard because, with the car driving itself, in-car entertainment will take on far more important than before. Mid-presentation, the car’s infotainment screen started to play Cyberpunk to demonstrate its graphic processing capabilities. “It can play games at 60FPS. It’s basically as powerful as a PS5,” said Musk. It even has wireless controller compatibility, so you can game from any seat in the car—even the rear seat, where legroom is a major improvement over the previous Model S.
The navigation has also been optimized to point out superchargers along your route automatically.
It’s not impossible to extract more straight-line speed from electric cars. Rimac even launched a supercar not too long ago, which, until this moment, was the fastest production car. But to do it in a luxury sedan, with a sub-600km range, an advanced autonomous driving system, and series-production levels of reliability (the Rimac is limited to a few hundred) is what gives Tesla the sort of advantage that prestige carmakers can only hope to overcome shortly. A lot of these claims need to be field-tested. But at present, it would take a while for any carmaker to match Tesla in terms of performance, ecosystem, and software technology.
The Model S was and remained the blueprint for EVs for the remainder of the decade.