Elon Musk's Tesla Just Officially Debuted Its Model S 'Plaid'

You-know-who is back in the all-electric luxury game.
Brad Bergan
The Tesla Model S 'Plaid'.Tesla

Elon Musk's Tesla just unveiled its long-awaited Tesla Model S "Plaid" on Thursday, in an exclamation of CEO Elon Musk's aims to rekindle public interest in the company's nearly decade-old all-electric sedan, which could see its first intimidating competition from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

The event was live-streamed from Tesla's factory in Fremont, CA at roughly 11:15 PM EDT, after repeated delays, with the initial reveal set for June 3, then pushed back to June 10 at 4:00 PM EDT, and finally pushed even further into the night.

Elon Musk said the Tesla Plaid Model S will shortly become the "quickest production car ever made," so strap in and get ready for a big one.

If you ordered one, deliveries have officially begun, and your car is on its way.

Tesla's Model S Plaid debuts after much delay

Deliveries of the reworked Model S are also delayed, with Tesla initially telling its customers to expect shipments to arrive in March. The refreshed Model X SUV was also scheduled for deliveries in March, but this, too, was pushed back. And if these repeated delays lead you to suspect Tesla models may sometimes not come to fruition, you're not wrong. The Plaid Model S might not have been a thing, with rumors running thick for years that Musk felt unamused by the concept. In 2019, he tweeted that "[t]here is no 'refreshed' Model X or Model S coming."

Turns out, Musk was wrong. Less than two months after his definitive tweet, a prototype model of the Plaid powertrain rolled onto the Laguna Seca raceway, which it lapped in only one minute and 36 seconds. Later, Tesla drove another prototype into the sun during its Battery Day presentation in September 2020. In case you missed it, Plaid, just like Tesla cars' "Ludicrous" mode of acceleration in the company's vehicles, are both references to a movie Musk likes, called "Spaceballs".

Tesla will face serious competition in the all-electric luxury vehicle game

In contrast to the CEO's rapidly aging taste in film, the Tesla Model S Plaid's specs are built to compete in a rapidly unfolding all-electric economy. The vehicle has an estimated range of 390 miles, with a maximum speed of 200 mph (322 km/h) — although Musk said this requires the "right tires." The Plaid can accelerate from zero to 60 mph (0-100 km/h) in 1.99 seconds, reportedly. Some have cast doubt on this rating. Set at an initial price of $129,990 the Plaid is a big fiscal step above the $79,990 long-range Model S. There were plans for a "Plaid Plus" release of the Model S with a greater range of more than 520 miles, but Musk canceled it with a tweet because, in his words, the Plaid is "just so good."

The Model S also comes with a more minimalist interior design, featuring a landscape touchscreen not unlike those present in the Model Y and Model 3. The steering wheel is butterfly-shaped, and the center console supports an extra screen for rear-seat passengers. As for the driver: they get their own "cockpit" screen equipped behind the steering wheel. The company also said the vehicle's new powertrain will enable it to achieve five more times the number of quarter-mile runs than earlier Model S variants, in addition to an enhanced heat pump developed for the Model Y. There's also a novel infotainment system powered by a chip with 10 teraflops of processing power, which means anyone in the car, except maybe the driver, can play "Cyberpunk 2077" or "The Witcher 3", with wireless controllers.

All-new battery pack for the Tesla Model S Plaid

Elon Musk drove a black Model S Plaid around the track at Tesla's Fremont factory, and immediately praised the car's less-than-2.0-second record of accelerating to 60 mph (roughly 100 km/h). With an improved supercharger, the car's battery offers 187 miles with 15 minutes of charge.

"It hits you right in the limbic system," said the billionaire during the live stream. The car has a peak power output of 1,020 HP, with a 390-mile (628-km) range, and can complete a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) in 9.23 seconds, according to CEO Musk. The new motor uses carbon-sleeved rotors, a first, according to the CEO. "We actually had to design the machine that makes the rotor," he said. The car is "single-speed from zero to 200 miles per hour."

There's much to admire about the refreshed Tesla Model S Plaid. But it's going to see stiff competition from the Audi E-tron GT, Mercedes EQS, Porsche Taycan, and the Lucid Air. This means Tesla will need to raise the ante on its flagship vehicle to stay in the all-electric luxury vehicle game.

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