Tesla Model S Plaid event: Notes from the Elon Musk show

We’re still digesting last night’s events here at the Electrek newsroom, and Fred did a great writeup of what’s new last night, but here are our initial reactions. Spoiler alert, we’re serious Plaid fans and will have more to say on it during this afternoon’s Electrek Podcast at 4 p.m. ET.


We knew a ton about the car since Tesla basically announced it and began selling it earlier this year. So there weren’t any huge surprises here. I think Elon Musk putting it in a presentation really brought it all together however.

That said, I do find that Musk comes off as unprepared (first time I’ve seen these slides!) compared to more polished presenters. I think the pitch to non-Tesla superfans fans would come off a lot better in a format similar to Battery Day where someone smoother like Drew Baglino could highlight the points and then get witty/informative commentary from Musk.

Why was Plaid+ cancelled?

We’re not sure. Perhaps the official story that the regular Plaid clearing the <2 second threshold of 0-60 meant that much else wasn’t needed. We should note that that official 1.99 secs 0-60 is from a rolling start and won’t be official in Europe since they require a standing start (and go to 62 and change mph or 100km/h).

Another theory: With Rimac launching its Nevera with 0-60 time of 1.85 seconds and quarter mile of 9.1 seconds on 1,914hp and 2,300Nm of torque, perhaps Tesla decided to go back to the drawing board. Maybe a $150K sedan isn’t the way to beat the two-seat electric super-coup with $2.4M price tag. Maybe Tesla is going to put its effort (finally) into the Roadster, which should be a platform where Tesla can beat Rimac handily even with a 10x less expensive vehicle.


Not yet anyway. Musk mentioned that the Plaid S was a 5-seat sedan (5:35) and the 7-seat option wasn’t mentioned as far as we can tell. Additionally, it is still not a configure option on the website.

Is it dead? Perhaps, unless there is a lot of demand pressure? I have to wonder about the liability of rear facing kids’ necks when blasted off at a sub 2 sec 0-60. Perhaps Tesla disables the acceleration when kids are sensed in the rear seats? Perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to begin with? I’d still like to see the option returned for the slower LR Model S – my kids loved their third-row Model S experience in our S40, but it was slow in comparison.

Tesla waited a year to launch the third row in the Model Y, so maybe that is a good expectation timeframe to see that. In the past, it hasn’t been a retrofit option because of the extra reinforcement needed for the rear bumper to keep it from collapsing on impact.


Coefficient of Drag at .208 is amazing and it was announced back in April, but Mercedes kind of stole this trick with their super slippery EQS at a slightly better .20. Musk seemed to be hinting at hedging there however, noting that Tesla measured drag with wheels moving while others measured with steady wheels. In either case both cars will be incredibly efficient, which will help their long range.

350kW V4 Superchargers?

They weren’t mentioned explicitly, but Elon Musk did say that the Model S would add 187 miles of range in 15 minutes, which is slightly faster than Hyundai’s Ioniq 5/Kia EV6 similar claim to charge 62 miles in five minutes of charging. Tesla advertises 175 miles in 15 minutes for its smaller Model 3.

Back-of-napkin math here: 187 Miles in 15 minutes is 748mile/hour of charge rate. Assume 100kWh usable battery pack since range didn’t grow astronomically and ~400 miles of range or 4 miles/kwh. So that’s back to a ~187kW average charging speed over 15 minutes. At a 250kW average charging rate, Tesla could theoretically put on 250 miles in 15 minutes, so the bottleneck would seemingly still be the battery.

Musk did mention “280 kW, 300 kW, and eventually 350 kW” of charging in the future but didn’t elaborate on timetables or if they needed a new V4 Supercharger to get there or if the V3s had some upgrade room. I don’t know if we will have to wait until the new 4680 cells come out to see much more improvement here, however. But 15 minutes to get three hours of highway driving is already amazing.

Range? 420, 412, 405 miles

Although Musk mentioned a 412 mile range for the long range or “420 thereabouts”, the window sticker, below says 405 miles but labelled “Plaid Test”. Tesla’s website says EPA 405 miles for LR and 390 miles for Plaid. Either way, ~400 miles is not too shabby.

…unless you want those sweet 21-inch Arachnid wheels which come in at just under 350 miles.

Heat Pump HVAC

Heat pumps are of course not new technology, but Tesla’s relentless drive to make their cars more efficient in cold weather has put this technology as an important piece, especially in weather extremes.

“It’s 30% better in cold weather range it requires 50% less energy for cabin heating in freezing conditions.”

With numbers like that, you really can’t build a good EV any longer with resistance heating. The industry will have to shift, especially if they want to sell in cold weather locations.

The new Plaid Tesla has a double-size radiator for heat rejection so that drivers can do lots of high-performance driving without overheating the batteries. You can also see the Plaid air intake at the front is expanded greatly (which makes that .208 all that more impressive).

It will be interesting to see how this helps on tests like Nurburgring (which Elon mentioned it was time to revisit) and Pikes Peak. Tesla’s inability to perform many back-to-back high-performance starts and handle longer high-performance track runs has been one weakness that Porsche and others have focused on, so it will be interesting to see how real-world results play out.

Safety sells

I know as a father that telling my wife that I need to buy a car that goes 0-60 in under two seconds is a non-starter. There’s nothing here for her in this slide, even though, for me, it has me looking at my bank account.

But just look at Tesla’s safety slides and note Musk’s claims that it has the lowest probability of injury of any car ever tested.

… and Tesla dominates as the safest cars ever tested by the US government. Musk thinks Tesla Plaid Model S will be the lowest of Tesla’s vehicles except the Model 3 RWD.

“Faster than any Porsche, safer than any Volvo” – Elon Musk knows a good sales pitch.

Interior highlights

Maybe some of the biggest updates are in the interior.

Best charging options on inside

Tesla isn’t just building the best car chargers, it is also building the best charging car.

Musk mentioned 36W USB-C so plenty of juice to fast charge a phone, tablet, or even a laptop. On top of that, 2×2 Inductive Qi chargers for phones sets a pretty solid standard. That’s plenty of power for wireless gaming controllers too, which will also take advantage of the multiple Bluetooth connection capabilities.

I’m surprised however that Tesla didn’t decide to match the Hyundai/Kia 2kW AC output that can power bigger devices for camping. Tesla owners of course can always hook up a 2kW inverter to their 12W system and get similar results.

We know the Cybertruck will have built-in AC charging, so it’s only a matter of time until it gets into all of Tesla’s vehicles.

More room

Tesla highlighted that they were actually able to move the front seats up a bit giving more headroom and more room in the rear. Additionally all of the car interior controls will be available in the back seat. That will be particularly popular in the Chinese market where high-end customers often have drivers.

Musk said that the back seats in previous Model Ses were “not amazing,” but the Plaid has a “legit” rear seat. In addition to more legroom, there’s more room on the sides (due to decreased interior trim) and a more reclined seating area. This of course will also appeal to those in the Chinese and other markets with customers with drivers.

Musk mentioned “acoustic glass” to lower Tesla’s wind noise, which is a complaint about Tesla’s cars vs. other luxury automakers.

The Yoke’s on you

The Yoke steering wheel made the cut, and Musk highlighted its better front screen visibility, and that a normal version would be available. We don’t know yet if this is a “steer by wire” car, which would allow drivers to not have to turn the wheel more than a full rotation. I think Tesla is thinking autonomy here, and it remains to be seen how the yoke handles in real-world testing.

Autonomy increased

One area that we’re going to need some seat time to determine is the Model S Plaid’s ability to figure out if you want to go forward or backward. Called the “auto shift” feature, you get in and you hit the gas and the car decides if that means forward or backwards. T-B-D!

Musk also mentioned that Tesla was trying to get rid of every intervention learning where you want to go from your calendar and then your habits. This of course would be an evolution to what Tesla is already doing with integrated calendar.


Tesla is leaving others in the dust here with its center stack having PS5 capable graphics. Musk did a presentation with Cyberpunk, but is there even another car that plays Pong? I know some people will never use this, but for my kids, it makes the car an adventure. I’ve even been known to play a few rounds of Beach Buggy 2 while waiting for my kids or wife.


Don’t worry folks, people will know you are in a Plaid Model S. If the updated exterior body and air intakes aren’t a giveaway, then Tesla’s Badge (via) certainly will.

Electrek‘s take:

The big takeaway for me here is that the Model S is again THE MOST lust-worthy car out there. As Musk alluded to a few times in the presentation, the Model S had grown long in the tooth with respectable specs compared to other high end EVs – and even Tesla’s own lower cost Model 3/Y. It is now, again, the fastest charging car we are aware of. It is far an away the fastest accelerating production car under $2.4M. But there’s so much else.

With the improvements here, The Model S Plaid is now, again, the Tesla to have. I think a lot of us are looking worryingly at our banks accounts.

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Avatar for Seth Weintraub Seth Weintraub

Publisher and Editorial Director of the 9to5/Electrek sites. Tesla Model 3, X and Chevy Bolt owner…5 ebikes and counting