2021 Tesla Model S Plaid
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2021 Tesla Model S Plaid Review

Tesla gives us a glimpse into the future of performance with its 1,020 hp, $170,000 Tesla Model S Plaid. Oh, and a yoke-style steering wheel?

Key Features:

  • Hypercar acceleration
  • Innovative technology
  • Comfortable and practical

Direct Competitors:

  • Lucid Air
  • Mercedes-Benz EQS

Say what you will about Tesla’s eccentric behavior, it sure knows how to alter our perception of the automotive industry. 

Consider the following fun facts about the 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid : it’ll hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 2.1 seconds, cross the quarter mile in 9.23 seconds, and keep warping all the way up to a manufacturer claimed top speed of 322 km/h, making it one of the fastest production automobiles in the world. It’s the second fastest electric vehicle ever produced after the 2.4-million-dollar Rimac Nevera. Welcome everyone, to Elon Musk’s psychedelic universe.

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The Model S Plaid's pricing and rivals

The Plaid variant was born out of a massive update for the Model S, Tesla’s flagship sedan. It’s also the first major facelift since the vehicle was launched back in 2012. From a design standpoint, it’s very much the same car, albeit a slight massaging of both front and rear sections, slightly new headlights, and new wheels. 

Pricing for a Model S Plaid (pronounced “Plad”) kicks off at $169,990 before options and additional paint colors. In typical Tesla fashion, the options list is thin, with only two different wheel designs to choose from, three interior colors and the controversial $10,600 full self-driving assistance technology.

Even ten years in, the Model S still has very few rivals. Perhaps the all-new Lucid Air (just named MotorTrend's 2022 Car of the Year) could be considered its most direct competitor in terms of pricing and performance. There’s also the all-new all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQS full-size sedan. That’s about it.

2021 Model S Plaid interior

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid | Photo: Tesla 

The interior is where most of the car’s updates were applied. The Model S gets a completely redesigned dashboard layout, but also significantly improved build quality and fit and finish. Alcantara now spans the roof and pillars, while supportive, plush leather seats keep all occupants firmly in place. 

The digital gauge pod remains (unlike the Model 3 and Model Y which eliminate it) and gets an updated display. The central command screen – still 17-inches in size – is now installed in a landscape configuration. Its software was updated to incorporate new features, like the option to personalize widgets like on a smartphone.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid | Photo: Tesla 

There are now PRND hard buttons located just underneath a new dual-phone wireless charging tray. The center console is also all new, with a deeper storage area. Out the rear, occupants have access to their own tiny screen, which allows them to stream content from YouTube, Netflix or Twitch.

Perhaps the most striking change is the new yoke-style steering wheel which appears like something taken straight out of an aircraft. It’s something that takes getting used to. That yoke also incorporates most of the car’s main controls, since the Model S has lost all its stalks. Everything, from blinkers to headlights to wiper operation is now all operated via buttons installed on the yoke.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid | Photo: Tesla 

Performance and driving impressions

Driving the Model S Plaid around town is somewhat of a handful due to its odd steering arrangement. It forces you to always keep your hands at 9:15. The absence of stalks is unsettling at first, requiring you to completely rewire your understanding of driving an automobile.

Then there’s the way you engage the darn thing into D. There are three ways to do so: from the hard buttons, through the infotainment screen or autonomously. Yes, autonomously! One simply needs to hold the brake pedal and the car knows when it’s ready to release it. Reverse is equally weird. One needs to pull back a tiny car icon located in the infotainment screen. There’s absolutely nothing intuitive about driving a Model S Plaid.

Putting down 1,020 horsepower and 1,050 lb-ft of torque

But the level of performance is out of this world. Forget anything you’ve ever driven. A Plaid is faster. Thanks to a 100-kWh battery that sends up to 460 volts of instant power to three electric motors – one in the front, two in the rear – the Model S Plaid pumps out an astonishing 1,020 horsepower and 1,050 lb-ft of torque. Range is EPA certified at 560 km.

To unleash all the Plaid’s fury, one must first activate Dragster mode from the infotainment system. Once that’s done, the car engages its cooling systems and starts a 15-minute countdown. Once the car is ready, simply hold down the brake pedal, followed by the throttle, and wait. This will then engage the “Cheetah Stance”, where the air suspension changes the car’s posture for optimal grip. 

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid | Photo: Tesla 

Hang on, release the brake, and you’re gone.

The first thing that you’ll notice is an aggressive shove into your chest, coupled by pressure to the rear of your head along with a dizzying feeling. Before you know it, you’re well over 100 km/h and gaining velocity at indescribable speeds. If your neck muscles can manage it, look down at the instrument cluster. It’s displaying a large Plaid animation, inspired by the movie Spaceballs, further emphasizing the sense of speed.

Verdict: is the Tesla Model S Plaid worth it?

Sure, the 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid isn’t exactly affordable, but in this price range, nothing equals its mind-blowing performance. You need to pay several hundreds of thousands of dollars more to keep up with it in a drag race. Perhaps, more importantly, is how rapidly it renders the internal combustion engine obsolete. With the Plaid, Tesla gives us VIP access to the future of the automobile. And there’s absolutely nothing boring about it.

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2021 Tesla Model S Plaid key specs:


637 km (EPA est.)

¼ Mile Time

9.23@250 km/h trap speed

Peak Horsepower

1,020 hp


19” or 21”


739 L


2,162 kg


2.1 s 0-100 km/h (with rollout subtracted)

Top Speed

322 km/h (when equipped with paid hardware upgrades)

Drag Coefficient

0.208 Cd


Tri Motor

Supercharging Max

250 kW

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