Skip to main content

Tesla gives the Model S over 1,000 hp and a spaceship-like steering wheel

Released in 2012, the Model S is the oldest member of the Tesla range. It’s about to look a lot newer than its age suggests thanks to a much-needed update that brings a fully redesigned interior and a lot more power.

Not much has changed on the outside, and the sedan remains recognizable as a Model S. Look closely and you might notice stylists gave it a nip-and-tuck that brings a redesigned front bumper, small aerodynamic tweaks out back, and new wheels. Visually, it takes a well-trained eye to tell the latest evolution of the S apart from its predecessor.

Related Videos

The evolutionary updates are only skin-deep; The interior is a revolution. Tesla boldly replaced the round steering wheel with a rectangular unit that reminds us of an airplane’s yoke. It looks cool, and it’s unique on the new-car market, but there might be a good reason for that. Think of how many times you put your hands on the upper part of your car’s steering wheel. Time will tell if this is the steering wheel of the future, or if it’s an annoying gimmick.

Another noteworthy change in the driver’s line of sight is that there are no stalks on the steering column. The Mercedes-Benz-sourced gear selector is finally gone, and the turn signal stalk has been replaced by buttons on the left side of the steering wheel. Switches on the opposite side let the driver honk the horn and activate the wipers.

The digital instrument cluster remains, and the driver now has an unobstructed view of it, but the tablet-like, portrait-style touchscreen that the Model S popularized is replaced by a 17-inch landscape-oriented unit similar to the one found in the Model 3 and the Model Y. It displays the latest version of Tesla’s infotainment system with a 2200×1300 resolution. Owners willing to pay for connectivity can use the screen to stream videos and play games.

Speaking of games, the back seat might be the best place to travel in. The small screen that Tesla added to the rear part of the center console packs 10 teraflops of processing power, a number the firm claims is on par with the newest gaming consoles, and it’s not wrong. Sony’s PlayStation 5 offers 10.28 teraflops of processing power, while the Xbox Series X reportedly goes up to 12. The rear-seat passengers can play a variety of games using wireless controllers.

When it went on sale, the Model S landed in a segment of one. The competition is heating up, Porsche notably entered the segment with the Taycan, and Mercedes-Benz is planning a competitor named EQS, and most of its rivals are putting a strong focus on performance. Tesla fired back by releasing the Plaid model it has talked about for years. Pegged at the top of the Model S range, it receives three electric motors that join forces to zap the four wheels with 1,020 horsepower. Tesla quotes a 1.99-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, which is shockingly quick, a top speed of 200 mph, and up to 390 miles of driving range.

Surprisingly, an even quicker model named Plaid+ is on its way with over 520 miles of range. Full details about this variant will be released closer to its on-sale date. At the bottom end of the line-up, the Long Range model carries on with 412 miles of range, a 155-mph top speed, and a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.1 seconds, which is plenty quick.

Tesla charges $79,990 for the Model S Long Range, $119,990 for the Plaid, and $139,990 for the Plaid+. Buyers are no longer eligible to claim federal incentives, but some will be able to request tax breaks at the state level.

Looking ahead, the Model X will receive the same interior and powertrain upgrades as the Model S.

Editors' Recommendations

Tesla cuts price of touchscreen upgrade by $1,000 amid recall pressure
tesla media control unit price cut model s car

A massive 17-inch touchscreen is one of the signature features of the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars. Known as the media control unit (MCU), it's been pushed to its limits by the various new features Tesla has added over the years, so Tesla started offering an upgrade for older cars last year -- and it just cut the price of that upgrade by $1,000.

The price of the upgrade has dropped from $2,500 to $1,500 — with no explanation from Tesla. The listed price on the company's website was simply changed, according to Electrek. The upgrade switches out the MCU in older Model S and Model X electric cars with a more powerful version that can handle newer software features and is aimed at providing better touchscreen response as well.

Read more
The best Tesla Model 3 alternatives
2020 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Going electric doesn’t require a vehicle from Tesla. While the folks at Tesla offer an impressive set of features in the Model 3, including a range of up to 353 miles, the near $38,000 starting price can be quite intimidating. Beyond the sticker price itself, some consumers may be concerned about repeated Tesla quality control concerns or are simply not fans of the company’s more minimalist interior and exterior design. We’ve compiled a list of alternative vehicles that you can check out when you're ready to hit the road in a new electric vehicle but don’t want Elon Musk as your copilot.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric 2020

Beyond Tesla, manufacturers of electric vehicles seem to have little interest in producing sedan offerings. However, if you’re dead-set on selecting a vehicle that looks somewhat like a sedan, even though it’s technically a hatchback, take a look at the Ioniq Electric from Hyundai. Starting at around $33,000, the Ioniq Electric has a range of up to 170-miles. The higher-end Limited trim offers a healthy selection of technology-focused features, including a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless device charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 7-inch LCD gauge cluster, and Highway Drive Assist. While the Hyundai doesn’t get quite the mileage that the Tesla Model 3 can achieve, the Ioniq Electric still offers enough range for short and medium-range trips -- long-range adventures will need some extra charging stops.
Chevy Bolt EV 2020

Read more
How to buy a Tesla online
Tesla Roadster front view

Tesla has sold cars online since its inception. Early on in the company's history, adopting a digital sales model was a way to avoid setting up a network of third-party dealers. Fast forward to 2020, and it's turned into an excellent way to put new cars in the hands of customers while limiting in-person contact. Here's how it works.
Find the model and version that suits you

To start, visit the company's official website and select the model you're interested in. Tesla currently sells six cars: The Model S, the Model X, the Model 3, the Model Y, the Roadster, and the Cybertruck. Only the first four are in production, but each one is offered in several configurations. For example, the rear-wheel-drive Model 3 is available in one configuration called Standard Range Plus, while buyers who need all-wheel drive can select the Long Range or Performance version.

Read more