Since its debut, the Tesla Model S has been the luxury electric sedan segment leader. Admittedly, it was sort of the leader by default, as there haven’t been very many full-size luxury electric sedans since, but the leader nevertheless. However, in recent years, the Model S has gotten a bit tired, a bit old and outdated. While its battery ranges and power figures have increased, its chassis, styling and cabin tech have aged. Now, though, Tesla has given its most expensive car a refresh, which comes with some new and interesting features. (We don’t own the press photos but you can see the updated Model S here)
Almost the entirety of the refresh comes inside the car. While the exterior received a few changes, they’re marginal at best. It still looks like a regular old Model S. Inside, though, it’s drastically different than before and it looks mostly better.
The majority of the cabin has been inspired by the Model S’ cheaper sibling, the Model 3. To be honest, it’s never a good idea to borrow design elements from your cheaper cars and add them to your more expensive cars. You want the tech to drip from the top down, in the way that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class tech and design trickles down to the C-Class. However, this new design does look a bit more modern than the old car’s.
Gone is the massive tablet-style touchscreen in the center of the dash and in its place is a new landscape-style screen that’s integrated more cohesively into the dash. This will work better for drivers, as they don’t have to take their eyes off the road as much. What’s also nice is that Tesla also kept the digital gauge cluster in front of the driver, rather than removing it, a la Model 3. This is, again, better for drivers.
Most of the new cabin looks very good; it’s clean, minimalist, elegant and seemingly ergonomic. There is one issue that’s causing an incredible stir on the internet, though — its steering wheel. Rather, it’s actually a steering yolk, like that of an aircraft. While we’ve seen steering “wheels” like this in concept cars, they really don’t ever make it to production because the lack of a closed loop on a steering wheel is problematic.
Several media members have pointed out a few issues with the new yolk-style wheel. For one, it’s actually a safety hazard. In the event of a collision, the closed loop of a steering wheel actually helps keep your hands on it. However, with the new Model S’ yolk-like wheel with no top, a driver’s hands will likely slip off in the even of a collision. Not great. Also, it makes shuffle-steering — the act of moving your hands across the steering wheel to make lock-to-lock turns — extremely awkward. All the while, there’s really no benefit to the steering yolk other than a futuristic aesthetic. It does look cool but it seems a bit impractical at best, with no noticeable advantage.
When the new Tesla Model S Plaid does have an advantage is in its power and range. The Plaid is the Model S’ top-of-the-line trim level and it boast a shockingly impressive spec sheet. It boasts a tri-motor setup, with two electric motors out back and one up front, with 1,020 horsepower and 1,100 horsepower in the ultra “Plaid+” spec. With the latter power figure, the Model S Plaid+ is said to hit 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, which would make it the fastest accelerating car ever made, if true.
Potentially even more impressive is its claimed range. The top-end Plaid+ car is said to have a maximum range of 520 miles, which would be by far the most of any electric car to date. The only car that will have a similar range anytime soon is the Lucid Air Dream Edition, which will boasts over 500 miles of range.
The Tesla Model S Plaid+ model also gets new suspension upgrades, brake upgrades and better exterior aero. So it should handle better as well.
While there’s a lot to criticize the Tesla brand for, being able to put out 500-plus miles of range is immensely impressive and it flat-out dwarfs the ranges of cars like the BMW i4, iX, Audi e-tron GT, Mercedes-Benz EQS and any other electric car not named Lucid. We’re very interested to see the Model S Plaid+ on the road and what it can do.