Tesla Model S 420 Plaid Is The Best Car In The World (But Not For Me)

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The previous iterations of the Model S were the best driving machines for years. But they lacked the finesse and aura of quality the competition offered. The Mercedes E-class, Audi A6, or BMW 5 Series had not only the luxury, but also the long legs and high speed they showed on the Autobahn. Speeds even illegal in the rest of the world gave drivers of these machines a feeling of superiority.

Over the years, a lot has changed. Electric driving is no longer a hobby of a few rich eco fanatics. With the introduction of the Ford F-150 Lightning, even in the USA, the realization that electric driving is the future is taking hold. Mercedes with its EQS and EQC, Audi with its series of e-tron models, the Jaguar I-PACE, and the Porsche Taycan have redefined what can be expected from an electric car.

The voices that ask for a 600 mile range at 100 mph followed by a 5-minute refill are mostly silenced. The plethora of dials, switches, and knobs that makes the cockpit of some of these cars as intimidating as the cockpit of a large 747 airplane are no longer the sign of technology they once were. The more user friendly and simpler design philosophy started by Tesla is now the leading design method for most new cars.

In this new world, Tesla has relaunched its Model S. The new Model S, both the normal Long Range and the overpowered Plaid versions have functionally the same interior. Only the vented seats and some carbon accents are different. This new interior is as luxurious and of the same high quality as the interiors of the MABP (Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Porsche) competition. The differences are differences in taste. And as is well known, there is no accounting for taste.

What is really different between the Long Range AWD Model S and the new Plaid version is the tech. The Plaid is the successor to the performance version. It has three motors and many big and small enhancements to make it the best sports sedan in series production that money can buy. Both have a range of around 400 miles, or nearly 420 as Musk joked. That 420 will become reality when we see the next battery or other upgrade, perhaps even coming over the air. Tesla has increased range over the air before.

Image courtesy of Tesla.
Image courtesy of Tesla.

Now you expect of me a list with the specs. Preferably, in comparison with the specs of the competition. This is not that kind of article. I have the same answer as was standard at Rolls-Royce when a customer inquired about the horsepower. It is enough.

For the nerds that really like a long list of numbers, I have a link to an excellent source. It’s the best on the web in my eyes.

The new Model S Long Range All Wheel Drive is again the best in class below $100,000. If you have a strong preference for technology and performance, you probably find this Tesla on the top of your short list of favorite cars.

For those willing and able to spend between $100,000 and 1 million, it is a different case. Those cars are for bragging rights. If you want the best performance on a circuit, even if it is the Nürburgring Nordschleife, you need very creative arguments to explain why you do not have the Tesla Model S Plaid. Perhaps something like: “My kids did not like the Tesla colors” or “My wife insists on real leather seats” or “The acceleration is too much for my heart.” Even the argument “I did not want show up in a cheap car costing less than $250,000” could be a valid excuse. If it is ostentatious luxury in that price segment you seek, perhaps a Rolls-Royce or Maybach is the better choice.

For all other big spenders, many of you will be seduced to buy the best car your money can buy. In this category, it is likely the Model S. That is why I predict higher sales for this renewed model. The previous Model S was stuck at 50,000 vehicles per year. For this next-generation Model S G2, sales of the same volume as the MABP competition enjoy are more likely IMNSHO. That is over 150,000 per year.

Image courtesy of Tesla.

The normal Model S G2 was expected to start delivery in February, the Plaid version was scheduled for October, and the Plaid+ somewhere in the middle of next year. The Plaid+ with its bigger battery and longer range is no longer on the books. Now, both the Long Range AWD and Plaid are in production for delivery. It’s “Elon time” with an extra dimension — four months too late combined with three months too early.

The plain Plaid is nearly as good on all sport-associated specs, which made the Plaid+ redundant. The larger Plaid+ battery that enabled extra range and towing ability should be in the standard Model S LR AWD. That is the version that benefits the most from a larger battery.

The new Tesla Model S’s sound/speaker system, visualized. Image courtesy of Tesla.
Image courtesy of Tesla.

These are really great cars, if you are into this kind of vehicle. To be honest, if I got one for free, I would only be interested in the resale value. It is far too big for my taste. It is too low for my oversized belly to get into. The 22 speaker sound system would only be used for telephone conversations. I don’t play games anymore. Netflix in 4K on my tablet is good enough for me. Parking this land yacht is often impossible. I never have thought driving on 4 wheels is sporty. In a closed box, you do not feel the wind in your face. You cannot hang into corners. For sporty, 2 wheels are better. On 4 wheels, I expect to be transported to my destination while I sit relaxed behind the wheel — preferably, with Full Self Driving taking over my duties as driver.

For me, it is either a Tesla the size of my Zoë, or the Cybertruck. (The Cybertruck I can convert into an RV. That is worth the burden of it being too large.) The type of performance I am interested in is of the endurance and resilience type. Perhaps driving one day to China, never the Nürburgring.

The all-new Tesla Model S Plaid. Photo courtesy of Tesla.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 280 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen