Cyberpunk 2077 – Is The Tesla Model S Plaid The Best Car On The Planet?
The next version of the Tesla Model S is here. In an event on Thursday streamed live on video, the first deliveries of the Model S Plaid were announced at Tesla’s test track in Freemont, California, next to its factory. The company has always strived to make the “best cars on the planet”. With the Model S Plaid, Tesla might just have achieved that goal.
The headline feature of the Plaid is just how fast it is. With TV comedian and legendary car enthusiast Jay Leno at the wheel, the Tesla Model S Plaid set a 9.247-second quarter mile, hitting a trap speed of 152.16 mph. This is the fastest quarter mile ever recorded for a production car, beating the Bugatti Chiron Sport and Porsche 918 Spyder. What makes this even more ridiculous is that the latter two vehicles are hypercars – obscenely expensive and fast sportscars – whereas the Tesla Model S is a big executive family vehicle. Not a cheap car, but not millions either.
Elon Musk claims this means the Model S is the first production car to break the two-second 0-60mph barrier and has subsequently announced that the Plaid is so good that the Plaid+ has been cancelled. It was still visible on the Tesla website for a bit, but you could no longer place an order for one, and now it has been removed entirely. With a 200mph top speed and 1,020hp, the Tesla Model S Plaid is full of enough insane specifications already for a four-door car.
This is all part of Tesla’s plan to make EVs not just environmentally friendly, but the best cars in every way. However, one downside of the cancellation of the Plaid+ is not that the world needed an even faster EV, but that the Model S Plaid+ was going to have 520 or more miles of range, and the Plaid “only” offer 390 miles. This could give Mercedes an opportunity with its EQS, which promises a range of 481 miles, leaving a window of opportunity for alternatives to surpass the Model S Plaid – and there’s the Lucid Air to consider too. However, Tesla is also upping the Model S’s charging speed, so it can replenish 187 miles of range in 15 minutes on a Tesla Supercharger, of which there are now 25,000 worldwide.
Strangely, the range doesn’t seem to have gone up much since the last iteration of the Model S, despite this version having a number of improvements, including an all new battery pack – possibly the 4680 batteries discussed at Tesla’s last battery day, although Musk didn’t mention this specifically. The motors are also supposedly more efficient, thanks to carbon-sleeved rotors, another first for the Plaid. The carbon holds the rotor together at rotational speeds of up to 20,000rpm. The Plaid allegedly has the lowest drag coefficient of any car ever made of just 0.208cd. Musk stresses is with the wheels in motion, which some other manufacturers don’t include in their calculations.
Musk was at pains to mention a new heat pump, with 30% better cold weather range and 50% less energy required in very cold weather. This means it can now do back-to-back drag races without degradation. This was something that Porsche had targeted with the Taycan, which had a long feud where it was able to beat the Model S on multiple repeated acceleration runs, and around the infamous Nurburgring.
Tesla is also targeting safety with the Plaid and hoping to get the lowest probability of injury of any car tested. Tesla already has the top five models in the NHSTA rankings for this. Musk says the Plaid is “Faster than any Porsche, safer than any Volvo”.
One area where the Tesla Model S was in dire need of an update was in its exterior. Although this has been improved, it doesn’t look that different from previous models, despite the enhanced drag coefficient. The interior, however, is significantly changed. There has been much talk about the “yoke” steering wheel, which we really hope is an option, not standard. This is meant to give you a better view of the main instrument display screen. There are also no stalks, which is going to be odd for functions like the indicators. You no longer even need to select drive now, apparently. The Plaid will allegedly guess whether you want to go forwards or backwards based on where obstacles are in back or front of the car. It will even tailor automatically to your behavior.
One change we already knew about was the separate smaller media screen for rear seat passengers. Rear seat passengers also get dual wireless phone chargers, to complement the two at the front. The USB C ports go up to 36W so could charge a laptop as well. The air conditioning is tri-zone, so rear passengers have their own controls alongside both front occupants. The front passengers finally benefit from ventilated front seats, too.
Another major interior alteration is that the 17in front infotainment screen is now landscape. Musk claims it will be like a “home theatre experience”. It will be complemented by a software-defined hi-fi, which can be improved with over-the-air updates. Perhaps most welcome of all, there is an all-new UI with much greater customization than before. This was long overdue. The navigation can also guess where you want to go based on your synchronized calendar, although as one heckler at the event requested, waypoints would be nice too.
The infotainment now allegedly has the same performance as a Sony PlayStation 5. Musk claims this is going to be increasingly important as cars gain self-driving capabilities, to give passengers something to do as the car drives itself. He already claimed there would be enough power to play Cyberpunk 2077, but at the event on Thursday the demonstration showed someone actually playing this game in the car.
This all sounds amazing, as is usually the case at every Tesla event. There is no doubt the Tesla Model S Plaid is the fastest production car around, with amazing range, a much-improved interior and backed up by one of the best (and most reliable) charging networks in the world. But not all these things are the primary purchasing criteria for some buyers. Many will still sacrifice some performance for the plush interior and better range Mercedes is promising with the EQS. Musk calls the Model S interior the future, but some people want something more traditional.
There is also the small matter of availability. Unfortunately, although this event was about the delivery of the first 25 Tesla Model S Plaid cars in the US, it won’t be arriving in Europe until Q1 2022 and won’t reach the UK until the end of 2022. So while the Tesla Model S Plaid looks amazing on paper and a few lucky people in the US are now enjoying their first taste of the fastest production car in the world, the rest of us will still have to look at other alternatives for the time being, or wait a long time.