At first glance, the new Tesla Model S Plaid doesn’t look that different from the original Model S that launched back in 2012. But, as Elon Musk’s rather casual presentation at the launch revealed, this is a brand-new vehicle.
The Model S Plaid is the fastest production car ever made, at least in terms of acceleration. It breaks the 2-second barrier for 0-60mph and can do a quarter-mile in 9.23 seconds. That beats McLaren, Porsche, Ariel, Lamborghini, Bugatti and even the insane Dodge Challenger SRT Demon that could do 2.1 seconds – though, only using 100 octane fuel.
As Musk describes it, the car is “crazy fast.” But rightly, he makes the point that, for electric cars to really succeed, they have to show that they really are the best option. “Sustainable cars can be the fastest cars, the safest cars, the most kick-ass cars in every way.
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The car’s three motors – which are light enough to lift by hand – feature new carbon-sleeved rotors, which required a specially developed machine to build. They are single speed and spin at up to 20,000rpm (thanks to the carbon) and generate over 1,000 horsepower to take the Model S Plaid from 0 up to a maximum of 200mph.
The Model S Plaid isn’t just faster, thanks to a new battery and the lowest drag coefficient of any production car (0.208), it also offers a 390-mile range. In addition to the Plaid model, Tesla has released a new Model S Long Range that has a 405-mile range, though this has two motors rather than three, reducing it to a (still nippy) 3.1-second 0-60mph and 670 horsepower. Charging speed has been increased, too – it can give you 187 miles charge in just 15 minutes using a Tesla Supercharger. The time it takes to have a coffee, according to Musk.
While Superchargers were brand new when the Model S launched in 2012, there are now more than 25,000 of them across the globe, with 30 more apparently added this week alone. Musk also suggests that they will get more powerful in the future, upping their current 250kW rate to 280kW or maybe as high as 300kW in time, reducing charging time even further. Soon charging a Tesla could be as fast as filling your gas tank.
Inside the Model S Plaid looks like a spaceship. There’s a typically clean design, as we’ve seen on the Model 3 and Model Y – though this does maintain a second screen for the driver’s instrument panel. The main center console screen has also been turned into a landscape position for better entertainment usage.
The new steering wheel is a yolk design, like something off a Formula One car (or Knight Rider), which is designed to give drivers better visibility and suit the auto pilot operation – when steering is rarely required. There are also no stalks for the indicators or drive modes. This all sits on the steering wheel.
According to Musk, “all input is error,” so the car will predict which way you want to go, based on the surroundings. Parked facing a wall – it will select reverse. It will also adapt over time as you regularly choose certain settings or modes. These are geocoded to the location and will learn until the car feels like it’s reading your mind.
As cars become increasingly autonomous, using technology like Tesla’s Autopilot, entertainment is likely to become more important. Passengers – and eventually the driver – will be free to watch movies, play games and browse the internet. The Tesla Model S Plaid has this covered.
Dual wireless phone chargers are placed in the front and rear, with multi-device Bluetooth to connect to the entertainment system and 36W charging via a USB-C port. There’s also a new sound system with 22 speakers for immersive sound and a second screen in the rear.
The center console is a 17-inch 2200x1300 display capable of 60 frames-per-second and features a new UI for tablet-like operation. The route mapping links to your calendar to provide automatic destination points based on what’s on your schedule or the time of day – choosing to go to work or home. This can be quickly chosen from the menu or set to auto-generate.
Not only does the screen provide access to watch Netflix but you can also play games. The system has a level of performance close to that of a Playstation 5, which allows you to play the latest AAA games. The demo shows Cyberpunk 2077 being played using a Tesla-branded PlayStation controller.
This level of gaming inside a car is seriously impressive and is characteristic of everything about this new Model S Plaid. While its looks aren’t mind-blowing, the technology – from the electric motor to the machine learning – really is. If you’re a gadget fan, this is the only car for you right now.
The Tesla Model S Plaid is available for order now, priced from $124,490/£118,980/AU$186,990. The Long Range model starts from $74,490/£83,980/AU$129,990. Be prepared to wait though. While models are already being shipped, delivery time is estimated at the end of 2022 for new orders.