In Depth

Tesla Model S ‘Plaid’ 2020: Taycan-rivalling EV spied at the Nurburgring with new bodywork

EV maker claims new model can lap the track 20 seconds faster than its rival

A track-honed version of the Tesla Model S is in the works - and it has once again been spied testing at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany. 

Footage of a Model S test car lapping the 12.9-mile circuit, posted by YouTube user Carspotter Jeroen, reveals that Tesla is taking a more radical approach to the so-called “Plaid” edition of its range-topping EV.

The prototype sports aggressive bodywork, complete with a large front splitter, a vast diffuser and a clear rear wing with “a steeper angle of attack than the piece on other pre-production examples”, Motor1 reports.

The car has been designed to compete with Porsche’s all-electric Taycan, which set a time of seven minutes and 42 seconds around the Nurburgring in August. Prototype versions of the Model S Plaid hit the track a few weeks later, allegedly setting a lap time that was 22 seconds faster than its rival.

But the electric carmaker said in a tweet that it could go even faster, perhaps as low as a seven minutes and five seconds lap, with a few “improvements”.

In the weeks leading up to the car’s Nurburgring debut, Musk told his 28.2 million Twitter fans that he’d be sending a Tesla Model S saloon to the circuit. He later confirmed that the car was a prototype for the upcoming Model S Plaid, a performance-focused version of the four-door EV.

While he didn’t confirm that Tesla would be gunning for the Taycan’s time, Musk said the Porsche EV “does seem like a good car” that achieved a “great” lap at the undulating track.

When does it come out?

According to Auto Express, Tesla chief Elon Musk has confirmed that the Model S Plaid will enter production next summer. This suggests that the car should arrive in the showrooms by the end of 2020.

Design

Although Musk claims that the Model S Plaid is a powertrain option, akin to the Model 3 Performance, it appears that the upgrade will bring a number of visual modifications with it.

Prototype models spied testing in Germany have a slightly wider track, accompanied with small bolt-on wheel arch extenders. Carmakers typically add these to their performance-focused models during the testing phase, but the wider arches on the production model should be cleanly sculpted into the bodywork. 

Another notable feature is a larger, more “aggressive” grille, says Autocar. Given that the car should produce more power than the current Model S Performance, the larger opening should help keep the car’s battery systems cool when being driven around a circuit.

The test cars are also adorned with a small, transparent rear wing and sportier wheel rims. There’s a good chance that these makeshift modifications are purely for testing purposes. 

Battery specs and performance

Tesla’s current Model S Performance is no slouch, boasting a claimed 0-60mph time of 2.4sec and a maximum speed of 162mph. 

But it appears that the Plaid version will focus not just on outright power, but also on handling and stability to give the Taycan a run for its money. 

According to Autocar, the Model S Plaid will be equipped with three electric motors. It’s not known how powerful the set-up will be, but the current twin-motor Model S Performance produces around 671bhp. 

Details about the chassis modifications are scarce, though the recent spy shots suggest the Plaid model will have improved aerodynamics, a wider track and grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

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