On Wednesday evening, Tesla revealed a comprehensive refresh for its Model S sedan and Model X SUV. The revised battery electric vehicles go into production in the next few weeks at the company’s factory in Fremont, California, and include brand-new interiors and some exterior styling changes, but significantly both models will get updated powertrains, including new battery packs, power electronics, and drive units. And there are also “Plaid” versions of both sedan and SUV, the former with a supercar-rivaling 0-60mph time and 200mph top speed.
First introduced in 2012, the Model S received a minor refresh—notably a new look for the front and some small tweaks on the interior—back in 2016. This time, the work has been far more radical. Unlike the Models 3 and Y, the Model S still comes with a main instrument panel in front of the driver, but like the smaller, cheaper Tesla BEVs the big infotainment screen is now in a landscape orientation. Tesla has also added wireless charging for devices, a small screen for rear passengers, and boasts “10 teraflops of processing power” for “in-car gaming on-par with today’s newest consoles,” as well as compatibility with wireless controllers.
The most visibly obvious change has to be the new steering wheel. Or rather, steering yoke. While other car makers have experimented with flat-bottomed steering wheels in the past (and even square wheels in the case of the Austin Allegro), the new Tesla controller owes more to the controls of a Boeing 747, or perhaps K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider (the original, not the mid-00s remake with a Mustang). Presumably, Tesla expects Model S owners to use the car’s automated parking feature rather than parallel parking, an activity that invariably involves rotating the steering wheel more than 360 degrees.
You would have to take a new Model S apart to see the changes to the powertrain, which incorporate much that Tesla has learned from the more recent Models 3 and Y. There are now three versions of the Model S. The $79,990 dual-motor Long Range has a range of 412 miles (663km), runs 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds, and tops out at 155mph (250km/h). This version should be available in March.
Around the same time, deliveries of a new $119,990 Plaid Model S will also begin. This uses a tri-motor powertrain with a total of 1,020hp (760kW), with a 2-second 0-60mph time, a 200mph (321km/h) top speed, and a range of 390 miles (628km). Tesla says that the new powertrain allows the Plaid Model S to conduct many more runs at the drag strip before the battery’s thermal management system cries uncle.
If that’s still not enough, there’s the $139,990 Plaid+ Model S, due in late 2021. This one has all the superlatives—520 miles (836km) of range, “1,100+ hp” (~820kW), and claims that it will be the fastest accelerating production car to 60mph and the fastest production 1/4-mile drag car of all time.
The Model X hasn’t been ignored. The interior refresh for the three-row SUV looks very similar to the Model S—a bigger landscape infotainment screen, a smaller main instrument display, that steering yoke, and a second screen between the front seats for the middle row of passengers to use. Expected in April, there are two variants. The $89,990 Long Range features a dual-motor powertrain, 360 miles (579km) of range, and a 3.8-second 0-60mph time. Above that version is the $119,990 Plaid Model X. This uses the same tri-motor powertrain as the Plaid Model S, hits 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds, and has a range of 340 miles (547km).
Listing image by Tesla