By Paul Herrold
Unless you’re used to being catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet, or strapped into the seat of a Top Fuel Funny Car at the NHRA Nationals, there are few experiences that will prepare you for a 0-60 mph launch in the new Tesla Model S Plaid edition. With a recorded 1.99-second to 60 mph run on the books, you’ll be shoved back into your seat so hard that you might find it hard to breathe; the acceleration forces on your body are—quite literally—breathtaking. If you ever have a chance to drive or just ride in one of these… do it, it is thoroughly impressive.
The all-electric Model S was introduced in June 2012 as the first fully manufactured vehicle to come out of Elon Musk’s start-up company Tesla. A big hit with critics, customers, and—most importantly—investors, the Model S launched the company and its founder into stardom. Practically unchanged since its debut, the 2021 model year finally saw a major refresh for the S, with some new bodywork, an interior update, and the aforementioned Plaid edition featuring three independent motors (other Model S versions make do with one or two motors) which combine for a mind-blowing 1,020 horsepower. To confirm: This is a 4-door, 5-passenger, AWD luxury sedan with over a thousand horsepower on tap.
Sure, there are still a few minor build quality issues—none of which compromise the drive experience–but overall, the Model S is a super smooth, whisper-quiet daily driver that can hit 200 mph and—for drag-racing fans out there—run a standing ¼ mile in a reported 9.23 seconds at 155mph.
But don’t think of this car as a one-trick pony—it offers more than just stunning acceleration. Unlike Teslas of the past, the Plaid edition is finally a driver’s car. With its adjustable air suspension and selectable drive modes, you can turn your Tesla into a relaxing highway cruiser or an all-out sports car. It’s a car that can change its mood easily.
And speaking of change—you’d best forget the flat-bottom steering wheels on most sports cars, or the square steering wheels found on new Ferraris and Corvettes. Tesla one-ups everyone with a full-on steering yoke, just like the one from the Eighties TV show Knight Rider. If you fly Boeing airplanes for a living, you are going to feel right at home in this car. Admittedly, parking maneuvers can be a bit difficult, but the yoke does allow a full view of the instrument panel from any angle, and it always keeps your hands in the correct 3 and 9 o’clock position – it just takes some getting used to. Also featured on the 2022 Model S is the “predictive gear selector” that automatically puts the car into Drive or Reverse. Using parking sensors and cameras, the car predicts if you want to go forward or back-up. The system works surprisingly well; however you can override it—just in case.
Also interesting is that the updated Model S has no air vents, at least not the type of vents that you manually swivel around. Instead, air flows inside the cabin through hidden openings along the dashboard. You can control not only the fan speed, but also the direction of the air flow all via the center touchscreen–it’s borderline magical.
Performance like this doesn’t come cheap. The Tesla Model S Plaid starts at $135,990 and, if you want to be part of the 200-mph club, you’ll have to pony up an extra $4,500 for the 21” wheels. Unfortunately, the big rims dial your driving range back from an EPA-estimated 396 miles, to just 348. Other add-ons include the semi-autonomous “Enhanced Autopilot” system at $6,000 or the “Full Self Driving” option, which comes in at a whopping $15,000. With Full Self Driving, and everything else, the Model S Plaid comes to $155,490. It’s not cheap, but when you compare the price to other cars offering this kind of performance, the Tesla is actually something of a bargain. Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche… no performance brand builds a car that can match these performance figures, carry 5 people, and provide enough trunk room for a Costco run, and certainly not at this price. The Tesla Model S Plaid is truly the ultimate “everyday” supercar—it’s absolutely astonishing.
Tesla Model S Plaid Gallery
Click below for enlarged images.