Tesla Model S Plaid

01 Tesla Model S Plaid FD 2023 lead front
Pioneering electric saloon returns to the UK with 1020bhp for bonkers acceleration

No matter how jaded you may be by acceleration, the Tesla Model S Plaid takes pushing you back into your seat and flinging you at the horizon and turns it into an event to remember.Given a sufficiently long track, it takes off and doesn’t let up until it hits its 160mph limiter, with no hesitations, no gearchanges and virtually no noise. It somehow feels like a different order of speed to even a Porsche Taycan. What scrambles your mind is that this isn’t some exotic hypercar, it’s an everyday-usable saloon. That could easily be all the reason you need to buy one.And buy one you now can – with some caveats. You’re stuck with left-hand drive, and it’s £113,480 before options, though that almost seems cheap when compared with anything else that’s similarly rapid.The Plaid has a 421bhp motor at the front and two 414bhp motors at the rear for a total of 1020bhp. You will note that those numbers don’t add up: that’s because they’re limited by the amount of power the circa-100kWh battery can supply.This head room does mean that power can be directed to wherever the software deems fit, thereby enabling some torque vectoring.Apart from that, the Tesla Model S has received a subtle facelift and a completely new interior.Tesla’s EV-drivetrain engineering might is undeniably formidable. Here’s a big saloon that hits 62mph in 2.5sec (not quite the 2.1sec Tesla claims) and yet in normal driving returns 3.3mpkWh – efficiency many EV makers can only dream of. That results in a 373-mile range, and if you want to go even farther, a 10-80% charge takes just 29 minutes.As ever, there are things Tesla has gone all out to be the best at and others it has deemed fit for compromise. Clearly the drivetrain was its priority here, along with the all-controlling 17in touchscreen.The interior used to be something that might put you off the Model S but, while it still doesn’t give off the indulgent feel of a Porsche, it’s no longer the barren and creaky place it used to be.The materials look and feel good and it’s as practical as ever. It’s very minimalist, to the extent that Tesla has deleted the column stalks for the wipers, indicators and drive selector. I didn’t miss those as much as I had expected, but I always had the sense that some clever tech was doing a job that a stalk could do slightly better.Where the Plaid simply isn’t on the same level as the Porsche Taycan is in terms of chassis and refinement. It’s quite noisy on the motorway; the ride is fine, rather than great; there are constant low-level vibrations through the wheel; and you generally feel disinclined to probe the handling capabilities.This is a big car that sits you on the wrong side, naturally denting your confidence on a typical B-road.The steering is the biggest issue. With the round wheel (rather than the infamous yoke), it’s reassuringly weighted and does quite a lot of self-centring. But go faster and it relays absolutely nothing about grip levels. Thanks to bespoke meaty Michelin tyres, there is enough, but given the performance potential, you want a bit more accuracy and reassurance.Push it and the front is the first to go. The stability control keeps a close eye on proceedings but will permit some disappointing power understeer. For all the talk about torque vectoring, there’s very little you can feel of it happening.There is an amusing Track mode that lets you dial down the stability control and adjust the front-to-rear power split, but compared with the Taycan, which can be trusted to apportion torque to each axle in a transparent way, it feels quite crude. If you plan to venture on track, you will want the Track Package with its carbon-ceramic brakes, because the heavy Plaid can easily overheat its standard stoppers.The Plaid is a hard car to place, then. You see the performance and the Track mode and think ‘electric super-saloon’, but if that’s what you want, you should go and spend your £120,000-odd on a Taycan GTS with a mere 590bhp. You would buy this Tesla for the mad performance and the long range – and get a pretty decent electric car thrown in.
Source: Autocar

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