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For 2021, the Tesla Model S is back with better technology, a steering yoke instead of a wheel, and more speed than anything else on the market.

What’s New for the 2021 Tesla Model S?

Considering that the Model S is still technically in its first generation, 2021 might feature the biggest updates to the platform ever. Every interior display has been updated and one has been added for rear-seat passengers. A new steering yoke is available and the top trim level is the fastest accelerating car on the planet, save for the $3,000,000 Rimac Nevera.

2021 Tesla Model S

2021 Tesla Model S – tesla.com |  Shop 2021 Tesla Model S on Carsforsale.com

Body Style

Starting Price

MSRP $91,190

Drivetrain

Drivetrain

AWD

Drivetrain

Fuel Economy

124 City / 115 Hwy (MPGe)

Number of Seats

Seating

Seats 5

The Breakdown

The 2nd fastest accelerating car in the universe

Super-futuristic technology

Outstanding range

Sub-par steering

Questionable build quality

No Android or Apple connectivity

It’s time for a ground-up rebuild

2021 Tesla Model S Specs

Trims & Pricing

Long Range - $91,190
Plaid - $131,190

2021 Tesla Model S Powertrain

2021 Tesla Model S
2021 Tesla Model S - tesla.com

Nothing that can fit four full-sized adults feels quite like the 2021 Tesla Model S in a straight line. All versions of the Model S provide standard AWD and feature either a dual-motor setup that makes 670 horsepower or a tri-motor setup found in the Plaid that makes 1020 horsepower.

That said, the Model S is actually so fast that many passengers will be happy to only experience it once. The Long Range can hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, with the Plaid shooting to the same speed in a blistering 1.99 seconds. Beyond the wild acceleration, the 2021 Tesla Model S is nimbler than expected. At more than 4,700 pounds, it’s not supposed to handle corners as well as it does, but the low-set battery pack keeps it grounded. The steering feedback could be better though.  

The only real challenger to the Tesla Model S right now is the Porsche Taycan. While the Taycan can’t keep up in a drag race or even a range comparison, it is the more communicative car. Still, the Model S is better than it’s ever been. Instant torque is a cure for many ailments. The brakes are good too. Feedback is strong and easy to modulate. We’d love to see how they handle an hour or two of real abuse though.

2021 Tesla Model S Battery Charging & Range

Clearly, Tesla is at the top of the EV pile right now. The EPA says that the 2021 Tesla Model S Long Range can get up to 120 MPGe combined. Ultimately, that means it’ll go just over 400 miles on a single charge if you can keep your right foot in check. Even the Plaid trim level can go 396 miles. Simply put, until Lucid comes online with its 517-mile range in their Air, no EV can go as far as a Tesla.

Interior, Comfort, & Cargo Space

The 2021 Tesla Model S is all about elegant simplicity in its design. While not everyone will love that, there’s something to be said about it. The design is thoughtful and practical. Even first-time passengers can get up to speed quickly. If we’d ask for anything, it would be higher quality materials and better seats.

Considering the total cost of the Model S, the materials aren’t as nice as most of its rivals offer at a lower price point. They’re not even that close to catching up either. The seating is nice, but it could be more supportive. It could also feature more aggressive bolstering. Both improvements would benefit drivers in a large way.

When it comes to the rear seat, we couldn’t be much happier though. Headroom in the Tesla Model S is surprisingly good, and cargo space is a revelation. Fold down the rear seats and the Model S isn’t too far afield from a modern-day El Camino, albeit, with about 5 times the horsepower and 10 times the style. Tesla brags that you can fit a full-size bike back there without taking the wheel off, but truthfully, you could fit much more than just a single bike back there.

Entertainment & Technology

2021 Tesla Model S
2021 Tesla Model S - tesla.com

Tesla is where the whole giant center screen took off and it’s nice to see an update for the 2021 model year. Now a horizontally laid out platform, this screen gets almost everything right. It’s smartphone fast, it’s clear and easy to read, and its user interface is top-notch. The driver information display is also updated. 22 speakers are, in two words, glorious overkill. They provide full sound and great overall range. If there’s a gripe to be had, it’s that Tesla still doesn’t include Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

While we won’t wade into the debate about how safe “Full self-driving” is, we can say this. Autopilot is incredibly advanced and impressive during testing. No, it’s not actually capable of taking you from A to B on its own, but that’s not really the point. It’s capable of taking the strain off of you while driving. Keep in mind that airplane autopilot also requires intervention from time to time. Maybe it’s time to worry less about what it’s called and focus more on what it actually provides.

Safety Features

Considering the full suite of advanced driver assistance technology found in the 2021 Tesla Model S, it’s hard to do anything but laud it. Safety equipment includes lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors both front and rear, and forward collision mitigation. It’s also scored well when tested by the IIHS and NHTSA. It famously broke one of the machines at the NHTSA because it was too strong.

2021 Tesla Model S Trims & Pricing

2021 Tesla Model S
2021 Tesla Model S Long Range - Carsforsale.com

LONG RANGE – $91,190

For what would be considered a “base model” in other companies, the 2021 Tesla Model S Long Range is very well equipped. It’s underpinned by a dual-motor layout providing all-wheel-drive and 405 miles of range. It comes with LED headlights and fog lights, adaptive air suspension, heated seats in both the front and the rear, a power liftgate, a wireless device charging pad, and a 17-inch infotainment system featuring 22 speakers.

2021 Tesla Model S
2021 Tesla Model S Plaid - Carforsale.com

PLAID – $131,190

The 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid loses a bit of range and drops down to 396 total miles. It adds a third motor though for extra power. Beyond that, no other improvements are made to this Model S trim. Optional extras like “full self-driving” technology, larger wheels, and special paint colors are available on both trim levels.

Warranties

The 2021 Tesla Model S carries with it a limited warranty that covers 4 years or 50,000 miles. The powertrain is covered for 8 years regardless of the mileage accumulated. That’s around average for the segment.

What we think

2021 Tesla Model S

2021 Tesla Model S – tesla.com |  Shop 2021 Tesla Model S on Carsforsale.com

It’s hard to find a real rival for the 2021 Tesla Model S. Other brands have some value over the Model S, but none seem to be as well rounded. Of course, there are more rivals coming. Tesla will have to work hard to continue leading the way.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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