Tesla takes aim at upstarts with 390-mile range, 200 mph Model S Plaid
Take that, Lucid —
Tesla’s longest-serving car gets its long-awaited refresh.
Jonathan M. Gitlin
On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to a stage in Fremont, California, to debut the production Model S Plaid. The Model S redefined our expectations of an electric car when it was first introduced. But it has remained little changed since 2016 as Tesla has focused on the cheaper but much higher volume Models 3 and Y. Five years is a long time in the car world, and others in the industry—notably Lucid and Mercedes-Benz—have the potential to change what was once the default answer to the question “what’s the best, fanciest electric car I can buy?”
The Model S Plaid is Tesla’s response to all the upstarts, and the first 25 vehicles will meet their new owners on Friday. “Then [Tesla] basically should be at several hundred cars per week soon and a thousand cars per week next quarter,” Musk told attendees.
Unfortunately, we’re light on technical specs—Tesla got rid of those kinds of resources when it decided to do away with a press office. Its three-motor powertrain provides a peak power of 1,020 hp (760 kW). That’s sufficient for a sub-2 second time in the 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) dash (with a rollout) and a 9.23-second 1/4-mile time, which really is quick. Top speed will be 200 mph (321 km/h), but if you plan to drive that fast, you’ll have to wait until the fall, when the right tires and wheels are available.
Drive it a little slower and Tesla says you can go 390 miles (657 km). The car can DC fast-charge at 250 kW, which will add 187 miles (300 km) of range in 15 minutes. Musk did not share details about the battery pack beyond the fact that it’s new; he was more effusive about the drive motor, which can run at 20,000 rpm. And there’s also a more efficient heat pump that should significantly improve cold-weather range.
The interior has had some handsome upgrades, with either wood or carbon-fiber trim available. The controversial multifunction yoke appears in place of a regular steering wheel, and the old portrait-oriented touchscreen is gone, replaced by a 17-inch, 2200×1300 touchscreen. The infotainment system supports wireless controllers and packs a lot of processing power—10 teraflops—which Musk says will provide a gaming experience with performance comparable to a Playstation 5. There’s a 22-speaker audio system and a third 8-inch screen (after the infotainment system and the 12.3-inch main instrument display) for rear-seat passengers.
The Model S Plaid starts at $129,990, $10,000 more than when it was first announced back in January. If you tick all the boxes on the order page (including $10,000 for “full self-driving capability”), you can reach almost $150,000. That’s still cheaper than a comparably equipped Lucid Air, and unlike the Lucid (or the Mercedes-Benz EQS, for which US pricing remains unknown), a fully specced Model S Plaid can be delivered in August of this year, Tesla says.
Listing image by Tesla