A Tesla Model S prototype currently testing at the Nürburgring Nordschleife has been informally timed lapping the circuit in 7:23. The stopwatch timing was made by a correspondent of the German publication Auto Motor und Sport. The Tesla did have have the advantage of using race compound tires, but that doesn’t account for the almost 20 second advantage over the Porsche Taycan’s publicized lap time (7:42). The Tesla also looks to have the potential to surpass the track performance of every gasoline saloon, save limited production specials from Jaguar and BMW.
Note that this is not the ultimate lap time that the Tesla Model S will achieve on the Nordschleife circuit, just an interim report of an informal time recorded by an experienced observer. Auto Motor und Sport reports that the tires used in recent testing appear to be race compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires. Note the R suffix for “Race.”
For its timed lap, the Porsche Taycan is reported to have been fitted with road-biased sports tires (either Goodyear Eagle F1s or Pirelli P-Zeros, according to Porsche, via Jalopnik). Porsche has also used Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (no -R suffix) for timed laps in the past (e.g., on the 918 Spyder). How many seconds per lap are the race compound tires worth?
Michelin itself says that the race compound gives a 0.5 second per km advantage around the Nordschleife, over the road-biased (and less expensive) variant. Given the ~20 km length, this then would amount to an aggregate 10 second advantage from the stickier race compound. Whilst they are street legal, such tires are rarely fitted to mass production vehicles since they wear faster and have different noise and wet-grip characteristics compared to a road-biased sports tire.
Even discounting this 10 second tire advantage, where is the Tesla’s “additional” 10 seconds of performance over the Taycan coming from? Likely from additional power from the 3 motor “Plaid powertrain” setup and sophisticated track mode software.
If we roll back the race compound tire advantage to level the playing field, assuming a lap time of 7:33 on road tires, not only will the Tesla Model S beat the Taycan “Turbo S,” but it also has the potential to be the fastest (prototype) production saloon — of any powertrain — on the Nordschleife, and most other circuits. It will have to improve to 7:32 to match the Nordschleife lap time of the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV, set back in 2016, but that will very likely happen over the coming weeks of testing.
There are a couple of limited production run specials from Jaguar (XE SV Project 8) and BMW (M4 GTS) that can lap the Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 20-something seconds. Both have aggressive aero and racing-style rear wings, and only a few hundred of each were ever produced. Unlike the Model S and the Taycan, these are typically not counted as true “production cars” by the Nordschleife faithful.
Aside from these, the next fastest saloons are the Porsche Panamera Turbo (7:38) and the BMW M5 (7:39), a good bit behind the (smaller and lighter) Alfa Giulia, but faster than the Taycan, mainly due to having a higher top speed.
Nevertheless, let’s not assume the combustion car manufacturers will be happy to settle for 2nd place. If the Model S’s final lap time does indeed take the production saloon record, you can bet that BMW, Alfa Romeo, and Porsche will all be planning upgrades to their existing sports sedans, ready around the time the Model S “Plaid” goes on sale next year. In the longer term, the performance dominance of EV powertrains is assured (and both the Taycan’s lap time and Model S’s lap time are already astonishing for such a new technology). Nonetheless, combustion makers will not be ready to cede the performance crown just yet.
I’d expect the Model S’s final lap time to come in at close to 7:20 on the race compound tires (or 7:30 on road compound sport tires). We’ll know more in the coming weeks. Elon Musk has said that Tesla expects the production version (coming October/November 2020) to be faster still:
It’s a start. We expect these track times to be beaten by the actual production 7 seat Model S Plaid variant that goes into production around Oct/Nov next year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2019
Please jump into the comments with your lap time estimates and other thoughts.
Article images from company press websites.