How Tesla’s Model S Plaid broke the EV Nürburgring lap record

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Tesla Model S Plaid Nurburgring 2

Tesla has now recorded a Nürburgring lap time with its Model S Plaid, if that matters.

The Model S Plaid has been sent around the Nordschleife recently, with Tesla announcing a Nürburgring lap time of 7:30.9 (BTG) making it the world’s fastest production electric car around the circuit. The new Plaid is now one of just two Model S variants, sitting above the entry-level Long Range with a substantial boost in performance.

With Nürburgring officials having verified the time, this time puts the Model S Plaid 11.1 seconds ahead of the previous record holder, Porsche’s Taycan Turbo (note, not a Turbo S). The attempt is said to have been set by a largely standard car, including the questionable yoke-style steering wheel, but a roll cage, modified centre console with what appears to be a kill switch and a more accurate race-spec dash can be seen from the POV footage – these additions are commonplace for such attempts.

While impressive, it is quite some way from the 7 minute 10 second lap Tesla hinted at back in 2019, proving that its claims still have a long way to go before being considered gospel (has anyone seen the Cybertruck or Roadster yet? Anyone?).

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it would make a second attempt with a modified car, featuring ‘added aero surfaces, carbon brakes & track tires.’ Though Musk says the company ‘doesn’t have the bandwidth’ to provide such upgrades from the factory, he did reveal that a track software update is imminent – this is likely to be similar to the system found in the Model 3 Performance, allowing drivers to disengage traction control, monitor temperatures and alter power distribution.

Peak power is rated at 750kW, delivered by a trio of new carbon-sleeved motors. Though they produce less in this application, Tesla engineers say each motor is capable of delivering around 300kW when battery technology allows for it. It’s claimed 0-100km/h sprint is currently pegged at 1.99sec (with a 30cm rollout), completing the quarter-mile in 9.23sec at 250km/h and reaching a top speed of 322km/h. While it’s hardly lightweight at 2162kg, this figure does make it around 200kg lighter than Porsche’s Taycan Turbo S.

Tesla Model S Plaid Nurburgring

Despite the intense performance, Tesla claims it will still cover around 630km on a single charge. Charging speeds have also been improved with the Plaid able to utilise all 250kW of the firm’s new V3 Supercharger stations, a 25kW improvement over the latest Model S and X models.

The Plaid features torque vectoring which might go some way to counter its hefty kerb weight, with adaptive air suspension also standard. Although not confirmed, the configurator appears to reveal the use of larger brakes too, which would be a minimum upgrade given the four-figure power output. Also new is an upgraded heat pump for better cold weather performance and a radiator twice the size of its predecessor. The latter is said to allow for back-to-back launches and spirited driving without performance degradation – something Porsche ensured was covered in its electric flagship.

Also announced as part of the 2021 facelift, the Plaid will also come with a new interior, swapping its predecessor’s portrait display for a 17-inch landscape unit. Unlike in the Model 3, the driver is also treated to a new 12.3-inch display behind the steering wheel, with an 8-inch unit making an appearance in the back for rear seat entertainment. Both the new yoke-style steering wheel and lack of improved seat bolstering are questionable, but the Plaid does appear to feature seat perforations for improved grip. The wood trim of the Long Range is also swapped for carbon fibre.

Tesla Model S Plaid front track

Exterior design on the Plaid is identical to the Long Range, with only minor tweaks made to the front and rear bumpers for improved cooling – the only way to tell a Plaid apart from the Long Range is its red brake calipers and Plaid badging. 19-inch aero-centric wheels come as standard, however 21-inch ‘Arachnid’ items can be fitted. Drag coefficient has been improved over the outgoing model, with an impressive 0.208 figure outdoing even Porsche’s slippery Taycan.

Stacked up against its arch-rival, the Porsche Taycan, it seems a good value offering on paper. The Tesla is said to reach 100km/h six tenths sooner than the Porsche and boasts a top speed 61km/h higher. Range is also on the Plaid’s side, with Tesla claiming it will travel around 160km further on a single charge.

For now, the first 25 US cars have already hit the road, ramping up production over the next few months targeting 1000 cars per week by Q3 2022.

Sam Jenkins

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