At the start of 2021, Tesla revealed the long-awaited Model S Plaid. It’s the high-performance version of its top-end electric sedan with three electric motors for more than 1000hp and unspecified mountains of immediate torque. The first customer cars were handed over at a celebratory event on June 10 where they got to experience the absurd acceleration for themselves. The Model S Plaid claims a 1.99s time for the 0-96kph sprint (minus the rollout) which makes it the quickest production car to date according to Elon Musk. Limited-run hypercars not counting, like the Rimac Nevera, I’d say that’s somewhat agreeable. It is a proven monster in drag races even against luxury EV sedans from established carmakers like Porsche. But what if you were the kind of EV person who wanted to take a Tesla for track days? That’s where tuner-company Unplugged Performance comes in.
Unplugged Performance and Tesla don’t have a public partnership regarding car development. But they did manage to get their hands on one of the first customer-sepc Model S Plaid units and immediately started working to turn the high-performance family-sedan into a stripped out racecar. Their target? A record (or an Exhibition class win) at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb racing event scheduled for June 27. It was seen for the first time at a recent event called the Hypercar Invitational, lapping around the Laguna Seca circuit (yes, the one with the Corkscrew).
The tuner team has made no changes to the car’s three-motor powertrain or changed the factory-spec air springs. They have, however, fitted it with custom Bilstein dampers and a three-way adjustable rear anti-roll bar. And air jacks. As part of the diet, the 2,161kg EV loses the stock seats and most comforts of the cabin but keeps the massive infotainment system which is likely an integral part of the car’s massive brain. There’s only the racing bucket seat for the driver and the cage and none of the body panels has been swapped out for carbon fibre. The main external modifications from Unplugged Performance include the large front splitter and a massive rear wing. Currently dubbed as the Model S Pikes Plaid, it was also sporting special wheels wearing racing slicks.
In the few laps it did do at the event, the Pikes Plaid racecar smashed past the likes of the McLaren Senna and made a Porsche Cayman Clubsport look like it was standing still. At the wheel was veteran race and development driver, Randy Pobst who will also be the one making the Pikes Peak record attempt. MotorTrend reported that Unplugged Performance will add some more race-spec mods such as high-performance brake pads, adjustable rear camber arms and fully adjustable upper control arms.
The stock version of the Tesla Model S Plaid is capable of a top speed of 262kph but a future update with the right tyres should allow it to hit 322kph. For the Pikes Peak IHC, the top speed won’t be an issue and the electric powertrain’s acceleration performance should be plenty.
Unplugged Performance made a similar attempt last year with a tuned Model 3 (pictured above) but suffered a slight mishap in a trial run when the car went off. After a miraculous overnight repair job, they managed to clock the second-fastest time in the exhibition class. The Pikes Plaid has double the power and according to a quote from the MotorTrend report, Tesla has also improved the battery pack and cooling systems so that it has consistent performance irrespective of battery charge levels. With these factors, Unplugged Performance’s modified Tesla Model S Plaid should be able to achieve an impressive time of around 10 minutes for the Pikes Peak hill climb.
Who Are Unplugged Performance?
The company was founded in 2013 and is located in Hawthorne, California. Its office is neighbours with Tesla’s design centre there. Its founder, Ben Schaffer, used to tune JDM cars well past 1000hp before realising the potential for tuning Teslas in a world that was decidedly going towards electric drivetrains only. So far, Unplugged Performance is the only reputed Tesla tuner brand known to the mainstream. They work on suspension, brakes, weight reduction and visual customisation.
Their favourite Tesla to modify so far had been the Model 3, whose performance variant has often been compared as an EV rival to the best driver’s executive sedan in the world: the BMW 3 Series. Unplugged will either sell you specific modern upgrades or you can have a complete tuning package that can be tailored to a customer’s exact design. The company will even prep your Tesla to be used as a track day toy. They work on the Model S, Model X and Model Y as well.
We’ll keep an eye on how the Pikes Plaid performs at the upcoming hill climb event and bring you news on its developments and the final time. The team has already started testing at Pikes Peak to dial in the setup ahead of the main event. So stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for more cool updates from the car world and you can follow us on Twitter & Instagram (@autoloons).