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The Tesla Model S Gets a Refresh

Chris Kaiser

Tesla had unveiled its refreshed Model S including new screens, a revamped back seat, and a steering “yoke”. We explore the details, cool and weird, below.

Model Year, Sh’model Year

Tesla Model S Plaid - tesla.com
Tesla Model S Plaid - tesla.com

While Tesla doesn’t have explicit model years for their vehicles, but they do update them from time to time. And that time has come for both the Model S and Model X, Telsa’s full-size sedan and SUV respectively, both of which are receiving a refresh this year. Though they’re yet to be released, reports indicate that production is well underway, and deliveries are imminent.

Tesla also doesn’t do a lot of big PR pushes for these types of updates (in fact, they don’t even have an official PR department), and instead suffices with Elon Musk’s Twitter account to get the word out. Therefore, much of what we know about the changes to the Model S comes from Tesla’s configurator. That’s right, though the updated Model S is still shrouded in mystery, you can order one, or at least two of the three trim levels. The Model X looks to follow the Model S in adopting most of the same changes, the most significant of which are in the interior.

Screens, Yokes, and Sans Stalks

Tesla Model S - tesla.com
Tesla Model S - tesla.com

Tesla chose to only make minor changes to the exterior of the Model S. The front and rear bumpers get switched out and new 19-inch wheels are about all that’s changing. The inside of the Model S is where things get interesting. The overall design remains in keeping with the rest of Telsa’s vehicles, a Scandinavian aesthetic of simplicity abides.

Tesla Model S - tesla.com
Tesla Model S - tesla.com

The all-important infotainment screen, formerly portrait oriented, is flipped 90° to a landscape orientation and measures 17-inches. Tesla notes that this and the rear seat screen (yes, there’s a new rear-seat infotainment screen) feature 10 teraflops of processing power to provide graphics equivalent to modern gaming consoles. In case you weren’t aware, Tesla does offer in-car gaming, though we hope you refrain from playing The Witcher III on your commute. The Model S’s infotainment system will now come with wireless gaming controllers as well.

Tesla Model S - tesla.com
Tesla Model S - tesla.com

But the infotainment isn’t the most compelling of the Model S’s updates. That award goes to the Model S’s new steering “yoke.” That’s right, instead of a traditional steering wheel, Tesla has installed a yoke like you’d see in dedicated race cars or airplanes. The shape does raise the question of how exactly you’ll be executing three-point turns without a circular wheel. Auto Pilot, perhaps?

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Not only is the steering apparatus oddly shaped, Tesla also saw fit to delete stalks from the steering column. According to Musk, the gear selection will be, like everything else, housed in the infotainment system. If that’s the case, one wonders how you’ll toggle from drive to reverse with the distraction and complexity of navigating the infotainment system. It sure will make rocking your car out of a snow bank a complicated endeavor.

Plaid +: Beyond Light Speed

Tesla Model S - tesla.com
Tesla Model S - tesla.com

The Model S will come in three trim levels: Long Range, Plaid, and Plaid +. The “base” Long Range model offers already impressive numbers with a range of 412 miles, the equivalent of 670 horsepower, and a blistering 0 to 60 time of just 3.1 seconds. The Long Range starts at $74,490 (after a fuel saving of $5,500).

The new premium Plaid trim starts at a $114,490 (after fuel savings) and comes with a tri-motor set up. The extra motor allows the Plaid, listed at 1,020 horsepower, to rocket to 60 in what Tesla lists as 1.99 seconds (so basically 2 second, which is so fast you’d got to ask why bother rounding it down two decimal places?). Top speed is listed at 200 mph and maximum range will run to 340 miles.

Tesla Model S - tesla.com
Tesla Model S - tesla.com

The Plaid + takes these already silly performance numbers and turns them up to 11. According to Tesla, the Plaid + will leap from 0 to 60 in <1.99 seconds and make a quarter mile run in <9 seconds. The listed range is almost as impressive at 520 miles. Those are incredible numbers not easily achieved, and if we had to guess probably part of the reason you can’t order one just yet. The Plaid + will add approximately $30,000 onto the Plaid’s already exorbitant price tag.

Given what the basic $80,000 Long Range Model S is capable of, I’m not sure the Plaid or Plaid + are really worth the money. That is unless you’re desperate to impress all your programmer roommates living at your tech incubator in Palo Alto. Even so, the chance to “go plaid” is pretty enticing. You can expect to see the updated Tesla Model S out for delivery in the coming months.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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