Respected German publication Auto Motor und Sport is reporting that the Tesla Model S Plaid prototype has been hand-timed lapping the Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 13 seconds, according to the outlet’s local source. Adjusting for race-compound tires, this puts the Tesla around 19 seconds ahead of the Taycan Turbo’s 7:42 lap time reported by Porsche in August. It’s also faster than every gas-powered 4-door series production car ’round the ‘ring.
We’ve covered Tesla’s ongoing adventures at the Nürburgring Nordschleife before, reporting initial versions of the Model S Plaid prototype clocking laps of 7:23 in mid September. With further tweaks, it appears Tesla has now shaved a further 10 seconds off this time and has been recorded lapping the ‘ring in 7:13 — on at least two separate occasions (according to Auto Motor und Sport).
Tesla may not be done yet. Winter is now setting in at the Nürburgring, with unfavorable weather and shortening hours of daylight — not ideal for setting lap times. Tesla will very likely be back at the ring at least once more before the Model S Plaid is planned to go on sale sometime in Q3 2020. Tesla will want to record a more formal lap time for the final production-spec Model S Plaid, to help market the car, which will sell for a premium over the regular Model S Performance.
The Plaid prototype was piloted around the ring by Thomas Mutsch, a professional driver experienced in both GT and endurance racing, who has several recent wins in 24 hour races around the Nordschleife. The Plaid prototype continues to be shod in race compound tires, which give an approximate 10 second lap time advantage over production vehicles that are typically tested wearing more standard sport compound road-biased tires. Nevertheless, assuming this would translate into a ~7:23 time on road-biased tires, the Tesla looks set to take the outright 4-door production car record at the circuit. The current standing for series production 4-door vehicles (adjusted for tire choices) is:
Note that the list excludes limited special edition cars that are not in series production.
It’s unlikely that the legacy automakers will let their combustion engine expertise get overtaken by EVs without a fight. There’s evidence that Porsche is developing a faster Panamera version (codename “Lion”) with the intention to (temporarily) reclaim the top spot on the leaderboard for combustion power, with informal lap timing of 07:11. When and to what extent that will translate into a series production Panamera version is as yet unknown. Why doesn’t Porsche develop a version of the Taycan EV to take the top spot? Likely because its business model still involves making most of its income from selling combustion cars, like every other legacy automaker. Perhaps in another 10 years when Porsche is offering more EVs it will finally allow the superior technology to rise to their top spot.
With ever tightening emissions limits being unavoidable for combustion cars, and EVs only at the very start of their performance development curve, this is not a fight that combustion engine vehicles can hope to win in the long run. We have Tesla and the rivalry with the Porsche Taycan to thank for showing what’s already possible.
Article images courtesy of respective brands, author’s own graphic.