Tesla has unveiled its biggest update to its Model S sedan since its unveiling in 2009 and launch in 2012. That’s normally an eternity for production cars, although a few have gone longer recently (see: Dodge Challenger and Charger, Nissan Frontier) and Tesla has been able to update the Model S with software tweaks more than other automakers.
This time, though, the refresh is significant outside and a full revamp inside. The exterior gets revised front and rear ends and a more pronounced stance, thanks to some subtle flaring in the door panels ahead of the rear wheels that give the illusion of a rake and more width. It’s a relatively safe update, but the car’s styling was always pretty timeless to begin with. Tesla says the new model has a .208 coefficient of drag (Cd), which the company claims makes the Model S the “lowest-drag car on Earth.”
Inside, the most dramatic change comes via the yoke-style steering wheel, which is either a nod to Formula-style race cars or a throwback to the Knight Industries Two Thousand, depending on your viewpoint. There are no longer stalks or shifters to either side of the wheel. The center stack now has a horizontally aligned 17-inch display with 2,200 by 1,300 resolution and a slight leftward tilt. Tri-zone air conditioning, ventilated front seats, and HEPA filtration deliver more luxurious cooling, and you get wireless and USB-C fast charging with enough juice to power a laptop. The audio system now has 22 speakers and 960 watts of power with active noise cancellation.
Second-row seating also gets a redesign, with additional legroom and headroom, a new LCD for rear passengers, and integrated wireless charging in the center armrest. The company says the car now has up to 10 teraflops of power and can support in-car gaming with today’s latest consoles, including wireless controller compatibility and the ability to play “from any seat.”
The new Model S starts at $79,990 for the dual-motor Long Range, which snaps off 0-60 runs in 3.1 seconds and yet runs for 412 miles on a full charge, with 670 peak horsepower (“peak” being a nod to the fact that depleted batteries affect power, unlike with fossil-fuel-powered vehicles). The $119,990 Plaid edition gets three motors and all-wheel-drive, and Tesla is claiming an insane under-2-second 0-60 time, 1,020 peak horsepower, a 200 mph top speed, and a 390-mile range. You’re not getting all of those at once, though you’re also not getting 25mpg in a V-8-powered 2021 Mustang GT at 150 mph with the accelerator pedal pushed into the floorboards, even if it can achieve that kind of fuel economy at normal highway speeds. Finally, an 1,100-hp Plaid+ option will cost $139,990 and have a reported range of 520 miles, which would be ludicrous if true–in pure Tesla fashion, of course.
The Long Range and Plaid arrive in February, according to Elon Musk; look for the Plaid+ before the end of the year. The Model X crossover SUV will also get the new interior and dashboard screen, plus new Long Range and Plaid versions, although its exterior remains unchanged.