Tesla has just announced the first major redesign of the Model S since it launched the electric sedan in 2012. This new version, which starts shipping in March, has a refreshed exterior, a simplified interior, and the option for a more powerful powertrain that lets the car travel at least 520 miles and go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under two seconds.
That speed is achieved in part thanks to a very small drag coefficient, one that puts it on par or maybe ahead of electric cars like the Lucid Air or the Porsche Taycan Turbo. Tesla claims that all told, the new Model S with the updated powertrain is the “fastest accelerating production car ever made.”
Tesla’s Model X is also getting some touchups on the outside and the interior update, and there will be a version with that new powertrain, though the SUV’s refresh is not as extensive.
The new Model S has some light updates to the exterior of the car, including a standard large glass roof, but the biggest visual change is inside. Tesla has axed the portrait touchscreen in favor of one more like what’s found in the Model 3 and Model Y, though with far smaller bezels (like we’ve seen on the Cybertruck prototype). There’s also a stalkless U-shaped butterfly steering wheel, much like what we’ve seen in the forthcoming second-generation Roadster, and a screen behind the center console for rear-seat passengers. Unlike the Model 3 and Model Y, the new Model S still features a screen behind the steering wheel.
The first big overhaul since it launched in 2012
The new Model S starts at $79,990 for a “Long Range” dual-motor version that gets 412 miles of range. Or people can spend $119,000 for one with the new, more powerful “Plaid” powertrain that goes 390 miles with that sub-2 second 0–60 time. The “Plaid+” version with 520 miles starts at $139,000.
The Plaid and Plaid Plus versions have top speeds of 200 miles per hour (with the “right tires,” according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk), while the Long Range tops out at 155 mph. Tesla says that the Plaid versions should be able to do five times as many quarter-mile runs as previous Model S sedans, thanks to the new powertrain and the new heat pump that was developed for the Model Y.
The new Model X retains the same exterior design but features the new landscape dashboard screen, butterfly steering wheel, and rear passenger screen. The new Model X starts at $89,990 for a Long Range dual-motor spec that has 360 miles of range, a top speed of 155 mph, and a 0–60 time of 3.8 seconds. Tesla is selling a version with the Plaid powertrain for $119,000 that gets 340 miles of range, has a top speed of 163 mph, and can get to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds.
Both updated vehicles also come with an infotainment system that’s powered by a chip capable of 10 teraflops of processing power, allowing passengers to play games like The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 (with wireless controller support to boot).
A Model S and X redesign has been rumored for years, with Electrek posting allegedly leaked renders of the new interior all the way back in 2018. Musk threw cold water on the idea in 2019, though, when he tweeted “[t]here is no ‘refreshed’ Model X or Model S coming.” Tesla instead was constantly making minor improvements to both vehicles, he said.
But that tune started to change once Tesla started testing out a new powertrain in 2019 dubbed “Plaid” — which, much like the “Ludicrous” acceleration mode in Tesla’s cars, is a Spaceballs reference.
Musk said at Tesla’s Battery Day event in September 2020 that the Plaid Model S would be coming in late 2021. But aside from the basic specs, and the addition of the car to its website, Tesla didn’t mention anything about a design refresh.
Update January 27th, 9:59PM ET: Added information about games in the new Model S and X and about the sedan’s drag coefficient.