Sedans

Tesla claims Laguna Seca lap record and has eyes on the 'Ring, but what's under the hood?

Yet another salvo fired in the EV performance wars: Tesla claims it's secured a production lap record at the Laguna Seca Raceway. We're not so sure.

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Quick? Yes. Record-setting? No.

Tesla

We may never know for sure exactly what started the EV performance wars of 2019, but the arrival of the Porsche Taycan on the scene really stirred things up. When that car set a new Nurburgring Nordschleife EV lap record of 7:42, Tesla's Elon Musk was quick to respond that its own 'Ring attempt was coming (an attempt that Porsche eagerly welcomes). But Musk is now claiming that his company has secured the sedan lap record at California's Laguna Seca Raceway.

I'm not so sure.

After many tweets surrounding a Nurburgring run for the Model S, on Wednesday Musk claimed the record in the tweet below, promising a video was coming in the next day.

Today, Tesla dropped the promised video of a 1:36.555 lap time around Laguna Seca, indicating that time is a full second faster than "the record for a four-door sedan."

That appears to reference to the 1:37.54 lap time set by the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 almost exactly a year ago. On the surface, Tesla has indeed set a faster time -- but dig a little deeper and it's clear that Jaguar still holds the record for a sedan.

Bozi Tatarevic on Twitter was quick to point out that the car appears to have significant modifications, including a Model 3 steering wheel. Exactly what other modifications the car is running remain to be seen. (We've reached out to Tesla for clarification and will update this if any further details are provided.)

Tesla itself said that the car is running a new drivetrain dubbed Plaid ("The only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid," per Musk). This three-motor configuration was first announced to be part of the new Roadster, due next year, but Musk recently clarified that Plaid will also appear on the Model S sedan and Model X SUV.

Given the Plaid drivetrain isn't available to consumers, and given Tesla hasn't clarified other details such as suspension and tires, it's impossible to call this lap time any kind of record. But is it impressive? Absolutely. And though we're on the edge of our seats waiting for the next assault's results, we've got some video footage of this new Plaid-spec Model S on the Nurburgring courtesy of YouTuber Automotive Mike.

Does the modded Model S look like it's fast? Absolutely, but it's worth saying that it doesn't exactly look graceful as it carves its way through the corners. What's more, its tires sound like they're also exceedingly unhappy with what's being done to them thanks to the Model S' certified Thicc-boi weight of nearly 5,000 pounds.

Much like with the Laguna Seca situation, the Nurburgring "record attempt" doesn't seem to have a specific class in mind. Nor does it seem to be sanctioned by the 'Ring itself, with Tesla again having ignored the process for setting a time that's been adhered to by other manufacturers. Beyond that, our pal Bozi -- the Encyclopedia Brown of car esoterica on the internet -- points out that there is no official record for electric sedans at the 'Ring so the Tesla would have to gun for one of three records, two of which are possible and one which is seriously never going to happen.

Those records are for "midrange cars," which is held by the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 with a time of 7:23.164; "executive cars," which is held by Mercedes-AMG's GT 63 S 4Matic+ with a time of 7:30.11; and the "electric (sports) cars" record which Volkswagen set at 6:05.336 with its ID.R and is currently the second-fastest time ever set there. We'll leave it to you to figure out where Tesla might try and slot itself in.

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Originally published Sept. 12, 12:09 a.m. PT.
Update, 2:01 p.m.: Adds video and more detail on Tesla's plans for the Nurburgring.