Everything You Need To Know About The 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid

10 min read

Everything You Need To Know About The 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid

10 min read

For the better part of a decade, Tesla’s dual-motor Model S has been a veritable giant killer at the drag strip. There’s no shortage of online footage showcasing the automaker’s flagship sedan silently putting the hurt on Dodge Challenger SRT Demons and all manner of supercars, and if CEO Elon Musk’s claims regarding the new Model S Plaid prove true, it will be a force to be reckoned with.

In the years since its 2012 debut, the Model S has helped to reshape the public’s perception of electric vehicles both on and off the track, offering features, range, and capability that has undoubtedly influenced the product development roadmaps for major automakers like Ford and Porsche.

On June 10th, Musk took to the stage at the automaker’s factory in Fremont, California, to mark the first deliveries of the refreshed and revamped sedan. "Basically our product plan is stolen from ‘Spaceballs,’” he said regarding the Plaid and “Ludicrous Mode” naming conventions, both of which are references to the 1980s sci-fi spoof.

Jokes aside, Musk took a few minutes to run down the particulars of the new Model S Plaid, and if these numbers are proven out, Plaid is definitely no laughing matter.

Powertrain And Performance

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid rear

At the Fremont event, Musk said that the Model S Plaid’s 0.208 coefficient of drag is a “true 0.208," noting it was measured with the car in motion and the wheels turning rather than stationary in a wind tunnel.

Any way you slice it, the Model S Plaid boasts some seriously impressive figures. Its 1,020 horsepower comes by way of a triple motor setup (two up front, one in the rear), a configuration which now allows for rear torque vectoring. And thanks to a larger radiator and a new heat pump, the automaker says that the Model S Plaid will deliver this power repeatedly rather than degrading over extended use and during repeated acceleration sprints (as was the case in previous iterations of the Model S).

Along with a new structural battery pack that utilizes Tesla’s new, more efficient 4680 lithium-ion cell design, the Model S Plaid is said to catapult to 60 MPH in just 1.99 seconds (not including rollout) and run the quarter mile in 9.23 seconds at 155 mph. If verified by independent testing, these figures would make the Model S Plaid the quickest accelerating production car ever made. Special wheels and tires that are projected to be available later this year should also allow the Model S Plaid to reach a top speed of 200 MPH.

Tesla Model S Plaid cutaway

The Model S Plaid uses a tri-motor setup in which one motor powers each of the front wheels and a third motor provides power to both of the rear wheels. The design allows for rear-wheel torque vectoring, which should enhance the car’s handling capability.

That impressive top speed figure is achieved without the use of a two-speed transmission thanks to a new motor design that features carbon sleeved rotors. “This is a super-hard thing to do because carbon and copper have very different rates of thermal expansion,” Musk explained at the Fremont event. As such, Tesla had to design and create a machine to produce these new motors, which can turn at rates higher than 20,000 RPM. The carbon sleeves are required to prevent the rotors from being damaged due to the massive amount of centrifugal force that would be applied to them at those speeds.

Under normal driving conditions, the Model S Plaid’s new battery and powertrain configuration is said to deliver 390 miles of range on a single charge, though it should be noted that this estimate applies to base Plaid models with 19-inch wheels – examples outfitted with the optional 21-inchers that enable the aforementioned top speed will see that range reduced to about 350. Regardless of which wheels it rolls on, the Model S Plaid should able to get 187 miles of charge from one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations in just 15 minutes.

Design And Features

Tesla Model S Plaid wheels

The Model S Plaid is currently available with the same 19-inch "Tempest" wheels and the 21-inch "Arachnid" wheels that you can get on any other Model S, but it will require special wheels and tires to achieve its 200 MPH top speed. The automaker hasn’t provided much in the way of details about the new performance set other than to say that they’ll be available in the fall of 2021.

As with all 2021 Model S sedans, the Plaid trim gets a minor exterior refresh that includes a new front bumper with revised air intakes and a reworked rear diffuser, both of which help the car achieve a very slippery drag coefficient of 0.208.

Bigger changes are afoot in the cabin. The interior now adopts more of the Model 3's minimalistic approach, eschewing conventional air vents, turn signal stalks, and other ancillary components for a more futuristic aesthetic, while an F1-inspired steering wheel yoke provides a racy vibe. A 17-inch, horizontally-oriented touchscreen display dominates the center console and works in conjunction with a new 22-speaker, 960-watt audio system to provide a home theater-like entertainment experience, which Tesla says will become of greater and greater importance as the automaker rolls out more advanced autonomous driving features.

And to that end the infotainment system packs computational horsepower that’s on par with a Playstation 5, allowing it to run contemporary video games at 60 frames per second. Dual inductive chargers are outfitted for both rows of seats, while a 36-watt USB-C power supply is also on hand for phones, laptops, and other compatible devices. A second 8-inch display provides entertainment for rear passengers as well.

Plaid is also said to incorporate a fully automated startup procedure. Step within the vehicle’s proximity and the door handles will extend automatically. Once you’ve settled in, the Autopilot system’s cameras are used to provide a best guess as to whether you want to move forward or in reverse, and your driving behaviors at a given location are “geocoded” into the vehicle’s software in order to simplify subsequent trips.

Pricing, Options and Availability

The Tesla Model S Plaid starts $131,100 including destination, but without factoring in any potential EV tax credits. White is the only no-cost paint color available – opting for red will add $2500 to the price tag, while black, blue, and gray each are available at $1,500.

Black interior is standard; cream and black-and-white options are available for $2,000. The last option on the Model S Plaid’s list is the previously mentioned “Full Self-Driving” system, which will set you back $10,000.

Tesla had also originally planned to offer a Model S Plaid+ as an upgrade above and beyond the standard Plaid model. Previously, Musk had said that Plaid+ would deliver 1,100 horsepower, an even quicker 0-60 sprint, and up to 520 miles of range on a charge, but the model was unceremoniously canceled via Twitter just days before the Fremont event. Regardless, the first 25 examples of the Model S Plaid have already been delivered to customers, and would-be Plaid owners can place their orders now at Tesla’s website.


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