A Plaid Tesla Model S has set a new electric lap record at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack in Germany, with a lap time of 7:35.579. This beats the Porsche Taycan’s time by 7 seconds, and is quite competitive with the gas-powered competition as well.
Update: Tesla and Nürburgring have released a statement that 7:35.579 is the official record, despite that being the slower of the two laps on the time slip.
Nürburgring Nordschleife, also known as “The Green Hell,” is one of the most famous racetracks in the world, known for its exceptional length and technical difficulty. While most race circuits are 2-4 miles long per lap, the Nordschleife (“North Loop”) is nearly 13 miles long per lap. The track winds through Rhineland forests on roads that are less flat and well-maintained than modern race circuits, with a combination of every type of corner you can imagine (and lots of graffiti from the locals).
As a result of this, and its location in Germany, it gets used by many manufacturers to test the capabilities of new cars, to shake down vehicles and see if they can handle the extreme stresses of racing – and to brag about their car’s capabilities.
Tesla has been at Nürburgring for the last couple weeks testing their new product and doing record attempts, so we were expecting news soon. Their achievement was announced today on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter account with a partial photo of the time slip:
This photo doesn’t include a lot of information, but shows the most important parts: the laptime and average speed.
The Nurburgring track has multiple configurations, and by looking at the time slip we can tell that this record was set on the longer 20,832 m configuration. This configuration is only used in closed sessions, with most laps being set on the 20,600 m configuration, which is a few seconds faster. For public driving sessions, the track uses the “bridge-to-gantry” configuration which is 19,100 m long.
It looks like the Tesla did two laps as well. We don’t know if these were done back-to-back or with a cooldown period in between, but there’s only a 5-second difference between them. This is relatively good consistency (on such a long lap), particularly considering electric cars have had difficulties even finishing a single lap before. We saw this early on with a Tesla Model S back in 2014 that couldn’t complete a single lap under full power, and even the Porsche Taycan overheated on their second lap of the Nordschleife. If the Plaid saw only a 5-second variation between laps, that’s not much power loss at all.
Oddly, Tesla and Nürburgring are treating the higher laptime as the official record.
In comparison to other vehicles, the Model S Plaid’s 7:35.579 lap stacks up very well (and the 7:30.909 even better). There are always arguments over what constitutes a record in a particular car segment – whether a car is actually a production car, whether it was modified from stock, and so on – but the Plaid is in the same ballpark as the fastest comparable vehicles, gas or electric.
The 2020 Porsche Panamera Turbo set a 7:29.81 last year on the same longer configuration, which puts the Model S 6 seconds behind the 4-door model from one of the world’s most respected racing marques. At the time this was a record for a production full-size car (also known as “E-segment” in Europe or “executive car” in the UK), but later that year the Mercedes AMG GT63 S set a 7:27.80 lap time. A second means a lot in racing, but on such a long lap as this, these times are still quite close.
There is one 4-door still faster than each of these, the Jaguar XE Project 8, but it does not have rear seats, so doesn’t really fit into the same category.
As mentioned above, the Plaid Model S also beats the fastest electric competitor, the Porsche Taycan, which previously held the fastest production electric 4-door record. Though that was set with the Taycan Turbo, rather than the Turbo S, so Porsche might still have a little extra time in their pocket.
Getting out of the 4-door category, the Model S Plaid’s better lap even matches some sports cars that it has no business competing with. For example, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 set a 7:29.90, which is not far ahead of the Tesla’s lap.
And finally, there are other electric cars that have lapped faster than this. The $1.48 million NIO EP9 set a 6:45.90 back in 2017, which was faster than any production car ever made at the time, gas or electric – though we can debate whether or not the EP9 counts as a “production” car when only ~20 units were built. And the fastest electric car ever to lap the track was the Volkswagen ID.R with a 6:05.336.
This may not be the last we see of Tesla at Nürburgring. Previously, while testing the Plaid powertrain, a modified Model S set an unofficial time of 7:13. Tesla even thinks a time as low as 7:05 would be conceivable. So it must be possible to get an electric sedan to go faster around the track than today’s Plaid record, but we’ll see if Tesla, or anyone else, puts the updates or modifications into place that might facilitate even faster lap times.
Update: Tesla tweeted out a YouTube video of the official record lap (below) and as expected, it was done with the stock yoke steering apparatus.
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