Of the four electric vehicles currently available in Tesla’s fleet, its Model S and Model X sit as the two longest in production. At a higher price point than Tesla’s two newer models, these veteran EVs offer a combination of the efficiency, performance, and luxury that originally put Tesla on the map. Below is a thorough comparison of Tesla’s Model S sedan vs. its Model X mid-sized SUV.
What is Tesla Model S?
The Model S sedan is Tesla’s longest running EV in production to date. It made its official debut in 2012 after years as a prototype for the automaker. Since then, the sporty EV has held a reign as the best selling plug-in electric in both 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, after Motor Trend magazine named the 2013 Tesla Model S its “car of the year,” it followed up in 2019 naming it the ultimate “car of the year” for the magazine’s entire history. Sales of the veteran Tesla have slowed since the launch of the automaker’s more cost-friendly Model 3 and Model Y EVs, but the Model S still sits as a premiere sedan that offers a variety of luxury and performance for those who can afford it.
Tesla’s Model S did not see a full refresh announcement during 2020, but the previous year has seen some welcomed improvements to the EV. This past fall, Tesla upped the range of its Model S Performance trim from 348 miles to a 387 miles. It also saw an increase in acceleration from 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds according to Tesla. This was followed by a November announcement that Tesla had also boosted the range of its Long Range Plus trim up to 402 miles, and of course, the full refresh announcement this month.
What is Tesla Model X?
Tesla describes its Model X EV as a “mid-sized SUV” that currently sits as the automaker’s second longest running model on its shared assembly lines with the Model S. The two EVs also share over a quarter of the same parts although they look quite different in design. Originally unveiled in 2012, first deliveries of the Model X began in 2015. Since then, this Tesla has seen over 150,000 deliveries.
Tesla’s largest EV Model X has also seen some small upgrades this year. This past fall, Tesla updated its website to reflect a mile range of 371 miles on its Long Range Plus version, offering a range increase of 20 miles. The Tesla Model X Performance trim saw a decrease in clocked acceleration by one-tenth of a second, claiming to travel 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds while in “ludicrous mode.”
While neither of these two Tesla models saw the most exciting (and arguably overdue) overhauls to their design in 2020, the new year said otherwise. We previously reported that Tesla had announced a complete production shutdown for both models through the holidays and into the new year. This move has led toward speculation about a possible refresh of both EVs. Finally, Tesla came forth and confirmed a refresh was in fact coming for both veteran models.
- Exclusive first look at Tesla Model S and Model X interior refresh: going spartan like Model 3
- Tesla Model S ‘Palladium’ refresh spotted on test track ahead of launch
- First Look at Tesla’s new refresh Model X electric SUV
As the two higher end EVs currently available from Tesla, both the Model S and Model X have plenty to offer drivers under their floor. Both models now come with dual motor or tri-motor all-wheel drive (AWD) options to choose from. Let’s begin with the elder, Tesla’s Model S.
The least expensive version of the Model S sedan is still a powerhouse of EV achievement. The current Long Range trim can travel 412 miles on a single charge, hit a top speed of 155 mph, and can fire from 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Previously, the Model S came in a Performance trim focused on speed. Well that appears to have been dropped for even more speed. Tesla now offers two different tri-motor options listed as Plaid and Plaid+.
Plaid and Plaid+
Now if that’s not nasty enough speed for you, you’re in luck. This past fall, Tesla confirmed an even higher end version of its banner EV with the unveiling of its tri motor “Plaid” powertrain. While the Plaid has yet to be delivered, Tesla’s website now lists estimated deliveries for late 2021. The initial Plaid specs shared by Tesla were quite staggering.
It now appears that the automaker has split the powertrain into two separate versions. The standard Plaid offers the same top speed and 0-60 as previously advertised. This is 200 mph and under 1.99 seconds respectively. It appears however, that the Plaid now offers a mere 390 miles of range compared to the 520+ miles previously advertised.
Speaking of that, Tesla has now surprised customers with the announcement of the Plaid+ powertrain. This version offers the same speed as its Plaid counterpart, but does in fact include the 520+ mile range on a single charge. This extra range comes with a price tag however.
Similar to the Model S before Tesla’s Plaid announcement, the Model X came in two different trims focused on either range or speed. With the new refresh however, the Model X is now available in either dual motor AWD or a tri motor Plaid option. The dual motor Model X Long Range can travel 360 miles on a single charge (a slight downgrade of 11 miles from the previous Long Range Plus). That being said, it can still hit a top speed of 155 mph, although it’s larger and heavier than its older sibling. It’s 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.8 seconds loses its head to head battle with the Long Range Model S, but is still an improvement of .6 seconds compared to its previous version.
Much like the Model S, Tesla has dropped the Performance trim in favor of a tri motor Plaid Model X. This version can travel an EPA estimated 340 miles, reach a top speed of 163 mph and can go 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Truthfully, this feels more like a rebranding than anything as the the Plaid powertrain offers nearly the same specs as the previous Performance trim. Plaid loses one mile of estimated range in exchange for .1 seconds saved on its 0-60. The top speed of 163 mph remains the same.
After reading above, it’s clear that either Tesla option will offer you a drivetrain performance you’re looking for to get you where you need to go. Yes, it’s obvious that one option is a five seat sedan (pending a potential third row to the Model S), while the other is a large SUV. There are more subtle differences between the two that may end up being the deciding factor in your EV search. Here are a few comparisons of the additional features available on our two Tesla models.
First let’s compare what these two Teslas have in common. Both come with standard black interior included, although the X comes with carbon fiber trim while the Model S has Ebony Wood Decor. This surrounded new yoke steering, offering a futuristic looks for future drivers. Both refreshes see new horizontal touchscreen displays, as well as a second display in the back seat.
Just recently, Tesla revealed both the Model S and Model X are moving to 12 volt lithium-ion batteries offering more capacity and life. Lastly, both models still come equipped with a HEPA air filtration system to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the cabin. This is quite a relevant tool as we STILL sit in the throes of a global virus pandemic.
The first feature the Model X can boast over its predecessor is its doors. The current Model X comes with self presenting and closing front doors, as well as Falcon Wing rear doors. The latter provide easier access to the second and possible third row seats of the interior, another feature available solely on the Model X (for now). In addition to the extra seats, the Model X hosts a best in its class cargo space of 91 cubic feet. Its cargo space is quite a bit larger than the Model S’ 28 cubic feet of extra room.
The Model S’ best feature is its tri-motor Plaid options, offering the very best in range and speed. Overall, the Model S and Model X share many of the same included features sure to offer any driver comfort and intuitive functions. That being said, the Model X has more to offer in terms of additional features and upgrades, all inside and out of a much larger interior.
Of course performance, comfort, and an interior loaded with features are all important when choosing an EV like a Tesla. More often than not however, pricing remains the single largest factor in a final decision. The bottom line may be particularly important when comparing a Model S to a Model X since these two EVs are hands down the most expensive options in Tesla’s arsenal, regardless of the powertrain you choose. Below is a detailed breakdown of each trim to offer the full spectrum of how little or how much each of these Teslas can be. Please note that these prices are accurate at the time of this article and we will update them for you as they change. Furthermore, none of the pries include the additional $1,200 for destination and documentation fees.
Starting with the Model X Long Range trim, the most basic model including white paint and zero added features starts at $89,990. If you were to add all the most expensive additional features including red paint, custom interior, 22″ Turbine Wheels, and full self-driving capabilities (FSD) the price jumps to $116,490. Note that this price includes the six-seat interior (most expensive option) for $6,500. The seven-seat option would be $3,000 less.
The new Plaid trim picks up just above where the high end Long Range version left off at $119,990 and can go as high as $146,490 including the same wheels and six-seat, captain’s chair interior. For full perspective, the most basic, bare bones Model X will cost you almost $90,000 and can go as high as $147,000 all in. These are the purchase prices without taking into account any gas savings or potential tax incentives from your state.
Compared to the Model X, Tesla’s Model S starts at a slightly lower price and can quickly hockey stick upward as you add more performance. Starting with the Long Range trim, this Model S starts at a purchase price of $79,990 completely standard. If you were to add each and every additional feature such as the red paint, 21″ Arachnid Wheels, custom interior, and FSD capabilities for an additional $10,000, you’re looking at a price of $99,990. We’re just getting started on price tags too, we haven’t gotten to the Plaid yet.
While the tri-motor Plaid Model S has yet to rip down any residential streets, Tesla has already taken a hefty number of pre-orders and has shared what features are currently available for a lofty price. For example, for a brand new white Plaid Model S with only the included features, you’re looking at $119,990 off the bat. To give the full range of effect in this potential purchase, we will add all of the available features in their most expensive options. With red paint, 21″ Arachnid Wheels, and FSD capabilities, the Plaid can cost $138,990 all-in.
Now if we were to go for the added range in the Plaid+, our prices are higher. This trim starts at a mere $139,990 and tops out at $158,990 with all the add-ons. That’s still nearly $12,000 more than Tesla’s second most expensive EV, the fully-loaded Model X Plaid. To offer additional texture, you could purchase four brand new, Model 3 Standard Range Plus Teslas and still have nearly $11,000 leftover for upgrades.
Which to choose: Tesla Model S or the Model X?
Overall, these are Tesla’s longest produced vehicles for a reason. Both helped make the automaker a household name and provide the luxury and performance many other EVs have yet to match. In terms of overall performance, the Model S in any trim stands on its own. Head to head, the Model S won on paper in nearly every category including price (aside from the bonkers Plaid+), offering more performance value for your dollar.
That being said, the Model X SUV sits as a close second, especially after this latest refresh. It offers impressive performance on a larger and heavier vehicle. The Model X is also a clear winner in additional features, tendering Falcon Wing doors, best in class cargo space, and multiple seating options to fit five to seven passengers. Due to those bonus features however, the Model X is the more expensive Tesla, again, apart from the Model S Plaid+.
If your preference is performance (particularly speed) and value, the Model S is the better bet. However, if you prefer to get behind the wheel of an EV that can haul a lot of cargo and/or passengers while still providing great range and speed, the Model X is a no brainer.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.
Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.