After an onslaught of coverage on the nameplate, Tesla has finally unveiled its new and improved Model S — the large ‘sedan’ that helped start the firm’s path to becoming an electric car powerhouse. And the Model X has inherited a series of updates, too.
The changes are mostly mild. Mostly. Each model comes with a revised front fascia with new vents on the corner flanks, but apart from that it’s largely indistinguishable on the outside from the outgoing model.
The main changes are to range capability. Tesla claims that its Long Range versions of the S and X are capable of 663km and 580km of range respectively, per full charge. These two models are the new entry level models offered to New Zealand customers.
Kiwis are also able to order both models in their performance flagship ‘Plaid’ variants. The Plaid Model S is capable of 628km of range, a 0–100km/h time of 2.1 seconds, and a top speed of 320km/h. The Plaid Model X, meanwhile, can drive 547km to a charge, and will hit 100km/h in 2.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 262km/h.
Then at the top of the tree is the Plaid+, offered exclusively with the Model S as a rival for the Porsche Taycan line (and just about every performance car on the planet). It can travel more than 840km per charge, Tesla claims. Its top speed is unchanged, but its 0–100km/h time is under 2.1 seconds. Tesla claims it’ll complete a quarter-mile pass in under nine seconds, making it the quickest production car in the world in a straight line.
As previously reported, the Plaid+ comes with a local retail price of $257,900. The Long Range and standard Plaid versions of the Model S and Model X are priced at $159,990/$209,990 and $174,990/$209,990, respectively.
Perhaps the most discussed change on both models, though, is the introduction of a weird new steering wheel. The new Model S and X will use a flat-base steering wheel missing the top of its rim, having appeared to be fashioned along similar lines to wheels used in car racing and (maybe more likely) the wheel used in KITT, the autonomous talking car from ‘80s sitcom Knight Rider.
The wheel’s usability is likely to be a significant talking point as cars roll into showrooms. Those who have driven KITT replicas frequently note how difficult wheels of this fashion are to use, particularly when it comes to things like parallel parking and U-turns. The new wheel itself has no paddles or stalks attached, with only a few scroll-wheels on the thick spokes.
The wheel has somewhat overshadowed the other big change inside; a new landscape-orientated central screen which sits over the dashboard, instead of being portrait-mounted and integrated within the dashboard’s construction. The whole dashboard has been remodeled, evoking minimalist lines similar to those in the Model 3.
According to Tesla New Zealand’s online configurator, local deliveries of the new Model S and X will kick off in 2022.