The Tesla Model S is now available with as much power as the original Bugatti Veyron, and yet the part of the refreshed EV we want to talk about first is the steering wheel. Which isn’t really a wheel at all.
Perhaps referencing Knight Rider’s self-driving KITT (and we know how much Tesla CEO Elon Musk likes his pop culture references), the updated Model S has a yoke. This might seem cool if you’re 10. Anyone a little older will realise that in anything other than a track car with a super-quick steering wheel, such an arrangement isn’t all that practical.
There aren’t any stalks, either, with the car instead using buttons on the yoke. In a Tweet, Musk said that the Model S “guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map,” something you can thankfully override on the touchscreen.
We’re not convinced it’ll even be possible to sell the Model S like this in the UK, where there’s a piece of legislation decreeing that a steering wheel can’t be designed in a way that might result in jewellery or clothing getting snagged. At present, the UK configurator merely shows the same left-hand drive yoke cabin as other markets, so we’ve asked a Tesla GB representative what the score will be here.
Back to the rest of the cabin, it’s all change. The interior is barely recognisable compared to the outgoing car, featuring a reshaped dashboard with a new landscape 17-inch, 2200x1300 central infotainment display. Working our way down, there’s a new wireless charging pad for mobile devices, leading to a redesigned centre console.
Life’s pretty good for whoever’s in the back, too. There’s a wireless charging pad in the new rear central armrest, and USB-C fast charging for every passenger. Rear-seat passengers get more legroom plus an additional screen. The car is compatible with wireless controllers so you can “game from any seat,” Tesla says, enjoying 10 teraflops of processing power allowing for “in-car gaming on-par with today’s newest consoles”.
The exterior rejig isn’t as drastic as the first Model S facelift, but there are some noticeable tweaks to the front and rear bumpers that reduce the drag coefficient to 0.208. There are new wheel options too, and new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S boots.
As first confirmed in Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting last September, the long-awaited Plaid powertrain option features a trio of motors and a whopping 1007bhp (1020hp) on tap. 0-60mph happens in just under two seconds (and we mean just - the official time is 1.99sec), while the top speed is 200mph. It’ll dispatch a standing quarter-mile in 9.23 seconds, crossing the line at 155mph.
The range is 390 miles, which jumps to 520 in the Plaid+. There’s a Long Range model with a still very potent 661bhp dual-motor powertrain, which will travel up to 412 miles on a single charge. In the UK it’s £83,980 for the Long Range, £110,980 for Plaid, and £130,980 for Plaid+. Delivery for all derivatives in the UK won’t take place until 2022.