Tesla Model S Plaid: On the road with 1020 E-PS

We drove the Model S with three engines and four-digit horsepower - and tested how fast the sprint to 100 km/h really takes.

Cheetah is activated and crouching. A yellow light keeps getting bigger. The pressure releases. What sounds like a nasty trip after using inappropriate chemicals is a crucial part of the Tesla Model S Plaid's acceleration prep — which, by the way, is pronounced "blahd" in California slang. In Cheetah mode, the 1,020 hp electric beast lowers its front end to improve traction until the amber light in the front display reaches full size. Before that, the Plaid's battery has to be conditioned to the right temperature for the power start by pressing the Drag Race button for a few minutes. Simply accelerating from zero to 100 in 2.1 will no longer work in 2022. Because we are about to penetrate the limits of real driving physics. Areas that hardly anyone has ever experienced before.,

The GPS measuring device signals readiness, the right foot remains firmly on the accelerator pedal in expectant tension, the left foot on the brake. Then the one on the left releases. The head slams into the headrest as if hit by a steel beam, the arms, which were just slightly bent, cling bolt straight to the steering wheel and the back merges with the leather seat. Everything is so brutal that people who are sensitive to fainting would do well to ask their family doctor beforehand whether their bodies can take it. Irritating - at least for combustion engine fans - is the absolute lack of contact and slippage with which the three-engined monster is catapulted forward. According to the measuring device, the spectacle is over in just 2.48 seconds and you realize that there is hardly an opponent for the ape-like fast Plaid on street tires straight ahead.

In 2.1* seconds to 100 km/h

Data pedants will remark that it misses the 2.1 seconds of its factory specification. A small asterisk is to blame for this value: It is on the Tesla website and indicates that the factory specification has been measured in the American way with a rolling start (roll out) and not from a standing start, as is the case with auto motor und sport. That does the trick It lasts just a few tenths of a second, but doesn't change anything about one of the most spectacular acceleration experiences in automotive history.,

At the latest now it has its fan base and if it then scurries up the grandiosely winding mountain roads of Malibu like an eddy current, you can't be happy resist. Be careful! Don't enter the curve too quickly, it's not a fleet-footed super sports car sprinting here, but a weighty US car that drives too hard and sometimes noticeably understeers - 2.2 tons can push. If you hold back a bit, you can centrifuge smoothly with the plaid and will be kneaded "Bääm" into the seats again at the exit of the curve with pleasant pressure on your hind paw.

285 Pirelli on the rear axle

The basis for this dynamic firework is engineering craftsmanship: The center of gravity, which is primarily defined by the battery, is low, the adaptive air suspension has been significantly upgraded in contrast to its predecessor. It no longer has a massive lower link block, but has grown into a class-befitting five-link rear axle. Firmly packed in a new cast aluminum frame. The two synchronous permanent magnet motors at the rear, this is new, previously they were asynchronous, rotate a carbon fiber encased rotor. This lowers the rotational masses and holds the construct together better at 20,000 revolutions. They also master the individual power distribution to the wheels - engineer German torque vectoring. Another synchronous motor with permanent magnets, trimmed especially for efficiency, pulls on the front axle.,

On the other hand, the 19-inch light-alloy rims, which are aerodynamically optimized with plastic hubcaps and are socked with 285 Pirelli P Zero at the rear and 255 Pirelli P Zero at the front, look more conventional. Plaid can feel this when braking, because the pedal feel could be a bit firmer and the violence a bit greater. We have already checked the braking distance from 100 km/h using a measuring device and it is above 36 meters. This is only average, but still needs to be verified in a real test.

The yoke steering wheel takes some getting used to

Unfortunately, the much-discussed angular yoke steering wheel is rather below average. Anyone who only takes small to medium curve radii and doesn't have to maneuver or countersteer quickly will like it. However, tight hairpin bends like those above Malibu ensure that a hand is looking for a hold and the danger of slipping is not only immanent, it has also happened to the author several times. Yes, a Formula 1 steering wheel looks similar, but the translation is much more direct. Yoke is different, more eccentric but, to put it mildly, no better. The fact that there is no classic turn signal lever and the turn signals are activated via two touch buttons to the left of the impact absorber doesn't make things ergonomically any better.,

Anyone who thought that Tesla was already on a different planet to the rest of the car world when it comes to operation can now feel it different universe: forward and reverse is activated by swiping on the new now horizontally oriented touchscreen, all levers on the steering wheel are gone and the two roller buttons on yoke are the only physical controls. The rest is touched, even the hazard warning switch. The font and control tiles are small, as is typical for Tesla, and the extremely important car symbol on the screen – below which is the control for many vehicle functions – is laterally covered by Yoke. The voice control understands almost everything you say, but does not convert everything into an action.Of course, Tesla wants to make operation different and, above all, cheaper to produce, but not necessarily better. Real Tesla fans will like it, the rest will be amazed.

500 km range is great

What we find great, on the other hand, is how economical the very aerodynamic Plaid with a drag coefficient of 0.21 remains with its immense power. On our test drive at an outside temperature of 20 degrees, it barely consumed 21 kWh/100 km, despite the sometimes brisk driving style. With quiet highway connecting stages, it even stays at 18.5 kWh on average. That's easily enough to get more than 500 km out of the probably net 100 kWh battery in real traffic.,

By the way, we also strapped it to a dynamometer in Los Angeles to see if it really had 1,020 American hp. On the test bench it was only enough for 829 hp. However, this value should be treated with caution, since the Tesla does not behave like conventional combustion engines on the test bench. In extreme cases, it starts to jump. Another dyno test in the USA certified the Plaid 1,100 hp in December 2021. Anyway, there are more than enough.

Loose baffle, crooked tailgate

Unfortunately, there is also pressure from below, because Tesla is staying true to its tight set-up this time too. Even in comfort mode, transverse joints are taken hard and waves are cut off dry instead of gently dampened. A Plaid driver we meet at a Supercharger confirms that we are not alone in this assessment. The businessman says he loves this car, but the suspension and noise comfort is, the original sound is "shit" and the quality too. To prove it, he shows us the leather of his yoke steering wheel, which is worn on the sides. Tesla wants $850 for the swap even though its Model S is less than a year old. Our plaid also has its problems: the steering wheel's shock absorber is loose, the tailgate is inserted crookedly and metal strips in the interior are gaping apart. However, the materials appear to be of higher quality than before and in many places also better processed.,

Plaid impresses with its charging capacity. Even with a 30 percent battery level, there is still almost 250 kW in it. While the Teslas previously only showed their maximum charging speed as a peak with very low battery charge, the new one now lasts much longer. Starting at 25 percent, we had a range of 200 km in a quarter of an hour.

Automated driving

On the return trip, the autopilot beta mode is allowed to run. In the USA, this is allowed many more autonomous functions than in Germany, even autonomous navigation along the route is possible. A double click on the steering wheel scooter activates it in a pleasantly conservative way. It cruises the first few miles with slight curves on the highway like a human driver.However, as soon as the situations become more complex and tighter, the driver has to repeatedly intervene in the zigzag course that then arises. Once even with hard countersteering. The attempt at an autonomous turning process has to be aborted with courageous braking because Plaid is approaching the intersection too quickly. On the freeway, the plaid directs the automatic lane changes activated by pressing the turn signal buttons too quickly. In short: there is still a long way to go. Fortunately, such a beta version is not released in Germany for normal drivers, but only for the developers. The pure distance control cruise control, on the other hand, does its job largely without any problems.,


At the end, Elon's Powercar leaves you alone with the sensations. Genius or madness? Tesla fans will choose one, the critics the other. What remains for the author is the memory of the madness acceleration.


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