The world’s most popular American EV has been given a mid-life update with a new cabin and an even quicker powertrain option. Tesla has unveiled the 2021 Model S with minor cosmetic tweaks, all-new dashboard and the much-awaited Plaid variant which can accelerate from 0-96kph in 1.99 seconds.
There is a caveat to that acceleration time: it does not include the rollout. In this context, the ‘rollout’ is the difference between the actual acceleration time and the measured acceleration time which does not include the first foot (0.3m) from the initial standing start position. This acceleration time measurement is valid in North America, hence why Tesla can claim the new Plaid Model S to be the world’s first production car to do 0-60mph in under 2 seconds. However, I do look forward to the plethora of YouTube videos where people launch the new Model S Plaid to see how quick it is in real-world testing with no caveats. It will certainly be quicker than the previous fastest model and that already offered face-rippling acceleration.
The new Plaid variant seems to replace the Performance trim. It uses a tri-motor setup with AWD for a total output of 1020hp. No word on the torque figure but the term ludicrous might be a fair description of it. The estimated range is claimed to be just over 625km but the top-spec Plaid Plus variant offers more than 830km and over 1100hp. Furthermore, the claimed top-speed for the Plaid Model S is a racey 322kph or a nice round 200mph, provided you have the right wheels and tyres equipped.
On the outside, the only noticeable change is the sportier front bumper. However, most of the buzz is about the car’s new cabin design. Two key changes on the Model S dashboard have caught the public’s interest: New laptop-like 17.0-inch central touchscreen display to replace the iconic vertical display and an aeroplane-inspired steering yoke to replace the traditional wheel.
Let’s start with the new screen which boasts a resolution of 2200x1300px and enough computing power behind it to play heavy-duty video games like The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. The rest of the dashboard has been redesigned to accommodate this new horizontal display and the overall aesthetic does look nicer than before. The central console under the screen acts as a giant wireless charging pad that can vertically accommodate two massive smartphones.
Moving into the driver’s seat, we move onto the new steering yoke. This shape is not uncommon in concept cars that never make it to production but Tesla seems to have deemed this design fit for their updated model lineup. Its design seems to be inspired by the controls of a commercial aircraft with the hand-grips only on the bottom half of the design. A closeup of the new steering yoke with the ball-bearing styled controls makes it look like a cartoonish face with the horn acting as the snouty nose. Not sure how this new steering design fares in terms of driver safety (many people seem to struggle with the wheel design anyway) but it seems to have had a polarizing effect on the public with some people loving it and some not.
The rear section of the luxury sedan has been redesigned as well with increased legroom, a dedicated infotainment display mounted to the central console tunnel and a fold-out armrest with integrated storage and wireless charging. The Model S has got a banging sound setup too with its 22-speaker and 960W audio system with active noise cancelling. As always, the Tesla flagship sedan comes packed with the company’s autonomous driving tech as well.
Tesla has given the same cabin updates to the 2021 Model X as well along with the new Plaid powertrain variant. For the falcon-door SUV, that’s a new 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds (sub-rollout of course). The company announced that North American deliveries of the new Plaid Model S to begin next month itself (February 2021).
Now for the prices. In the USA, the Plaid Model S starts at $120,000 with an extra $20,000 for the Plaid Plus package. The base-spec Long Range variant starts from $80,000. That’s a lot of performance for the money but is it worth double the base price? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons for more cool updates from the car world.