2021.5 Tesla Model S Refresh Brings 200mph “Plaid” Version

Huge Performance and range gains are coming, along with an all-new dashboard and a steering...yolk.

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 the main instrument panel in front of the driver, but like the smaller, cheaper Tesla BEVs, the big infotainment screen is now in landscape orientation. Tesla has also added wireless charging for devices and a small screen for rear passengers, and the company boasts of “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 carmakers 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.