Electric Cars

Tesla Model S 'Plaid' mode: Everything we know

Plaid is the newest and quickest mode set to roll out for the Tesla Model S. But what exactly is it, and how does it differ from the already-quick Ludicrous mode?

Plaid-spec will probably look like this but bulgier.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

So, now that the Porsche Taycan is here and impressing just about everyone, it seems like Elon Musk is trying harder than ever to push the notion that Tesla builds cars that are just as sporting, if not even more so. Specifically, he's been pushing the Tesla Model S in an experimental "Plaid Mode" trim by claiming a lap record at Laguna Seca and also by flogging it around the Nurburgring. That's cool and all, but what exactly makes up the modifications to make a car go maximum Plaid?

Most of what we know is coming from Elon's Twitter account, so we'll have to take what he says with a grain of salt (see also: "Funding secured"). But even with that in mind, it still seems impressive.

Arguably, the most significant tidbit that we're getting from Uncle Elon is that he plans on bringing the Plaid Model S to market sometime around October or November of 2020 -- keeping in mind that Elon's sense of how much time things take to do seems to be kind of... off.

He also plans to use this Plaid Model S as a kind of product development tool for similar modes on other models like X and the future Roadster. He also speculates with confidence that the Roadster will beat the 'Ring record set by Volkswagen's ID R prototype. That strikes us as being pretty optimistic.

Mechanically, the biggest change with Plaid comes in the form of an added electric motor, bringing the count to three in total, with two motors for the rear axle and a single motor up front. Other changes include wider wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport RS tires and flared wheel arches to match, changed aero in the form of a big ol' Gurney flap on the hatch lid and possibly carbon-ceramic brakes. The interior of the 'Ring car is also pretty much stripped out to save weight and thus bears little resemblance to the production Model S.

One thing that we find interesting is the lack of talk by Tesla about its ability to operate under "maximum attack," or driving continuously for long periods. Previous reviews have noted that Model S has suffered from performance fall-off when driven hard at length. 

Comparatively, the Taycan seems not to suffer from that kind of degradation in a meaningful way as evidenced by it handling repeated laps of the Nurburgring, as well as its 24-hour endurance run around Nardo.

Finally, the other big change we currently know about on this Plaid-spec Model S it'll mark the return of the rear-facing jump seats. Musk claims these new chairs will be able to accommodate larger passengers. These seats turn the S into a seven-seat vehicle, kind of, but we're doubting it'll get used as such by many owners.

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Originally published Sept. 17, 12:11 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:13 p.m.: Adds info on spec of Nurburgring test car.