Tesla Model S Plaid review (2024): The budget electric hypercar

The Tesla Model S has been around since 2012, making it one of the first high-performance fully-electric vehicles to be available to consumers. A lot has changed in just over a decade, with the EV market now flooded with alternatives.

However, the Model S still holds an interesting proposition for those who want a practical 5-door saloon with an exhilarating straight-line performance. The Plaid (or Palladium) is the epitome of this ideology – the tri-motor electric vehicle outputs 1,020 hp (760 kW) of power, 1,420 Nm of torque and claims to get to 60mph from a standstill in sub-two seconds.

If you’d prefer to watch a review of the Tesla Model S Plaid, head on over to our YouTube channel.

Tesla Model S Plaid price & competition

All that performance comes in at around £100k, which is surprisingly affordable considering the hypercar-like acceleration that’s available; the regular Model S costs around £85k instead. To put things into perspective, its nearest rivals are: the Audi RS e-tron GT which starts from £118,285, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S from £148,300, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S Sport/Cross Turismo from £149,300, the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ from £161,860, the BMW i7 M70 xDrive from £161,905, and the Lucid Air Sapphire which isn’t currently available in the UK.

Tesla Model S Plaid audio review

There is, however, something significant that we should highlight, at the time of writing and in the UK the new Model S is solely available as a left-hand drive vehicle, which is quite shocking for a vehicle of its stature. Aside from the affordable quadricycle, the Citroen Ami, it’s the first EV we’ve come across to ship as an LHD only.

Furthermore, it’s only available via the manufacturer’s inventory. In other words, there’s no means of going through the Tesla configurator and customising your order. With that said, there aren’t many options to choose from, so if the LHD proposition hasn’t already put you off, this won’t be of great concern.

Read next: Porsche Taycan Turbo review: 670hp of EV goodness

Tesla Model S Plaid exterior review

Despite the lack of customisation, you’ll often find all the exterior colours available through the online configuration: Ultra Red, Deep Blue Metallic, Solid Black, Pearl White Multi-Coat and the pictured Midnight Silver Metallic.

No matter the colour, the Model S Plaid looks the part and is near-identical to the regular Model S. You have a sleek design at the front, a uniform side profile with 19″ or 21″ alloys fitted, and a snazzy rear look with somewhat aggressive taillights.

The combination of all of this gives the Model S Plaid a drag coefficient of just 0.208, making it one of the most streamlined production vehicles in existence; it’s only beaten by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz EQS (0.20) and Lucid Air (0.197). The lower the figure, the better the vehicle is at cutting through the air. This ultimately affects efficiency, which is paramount in an electric vehicle as it helps prolong its driving range.

As for its towing capacity, it’s rated at 1,600kg for braked trailers and 750kg for unbraked trailers. There’s also 75kg of roof load capacity.

Reax next: Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo review: Best electric Porsche?

Tesla Model S Plaid interior review

Inside, the Model S Plaid has that distinct Tesla look. It has a minimalist design with the central 17″ display dominating the dashboard. The screen can also swivel towards the driver or front passenger, making it even more practical. It’s certainly needed as almost all the vehicle’s operations are conducted through it, including the drive mode.

Indeed, Park is initiated by tapping the ‘P’ sign, Neutral by ‘N’, while to drive forwards you have to swipe up and the opposite if you want to select Reverse. It certainly takes some getting used to, but once you get your head around it, it becomes second nature. We should note, that if the display is to malfunction, there is a set of touch-sensitive buttons located by the centre console that will allow you to perform the basic operations, ie. Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive; theoretically, you shouldn’t ever get stranded.

Tesla Model S gear selector

On that note, all your climate controls are on said display, which isn’t a problem when you’re at a standstill, but is a bit of an ordeal when on the move. Thankfully, the infotainment system is extremely responsive. It’s among one of the best, if not the best, in the world. The system is buttery smooth, intuitively laid out and provides a good degree of customisation. Your vehicle settings are accessible by the touch of a button, while the volume slider can be quickly swapped with the climate controls – both can also be swiped upwards to expand on their respective settings.

Better still, the infotainment system is loaded with useful tools and even has a bunch of entertaining apps, which allow you to play games when you’re at a standstill – handy when you’re charging. Surprisingly to some, however, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are still missing from Tesla’s systems. One can’t use third-party navigation apps or achieve high-quality audio playback from files stored on your smartphone. While there is USB playback and a few high-res streaming services available via the infotainment system, the extra layer of flexibility would have been appreciated.

Speaking of which, the Model S Plaid has 22 speakers dotted around the cabin that combine to produce a total of 960 Watts. This yields an excellent, albeit not perfect, audio experience. If you’d like to hear how it sounds, watch our detailed review on YouTube.

Elsewhere, the Model S Plaid has a 12.3″ instrument cluster, which is useful for checking your speed, the driving range and even displays navigation data from the infotainment system. It’s great to see its inclusion as it’s omitted altogether in the cheaper Model 3 and Model Y.

There’s also the Tesla app, which is extremely responsive, can be used to check on your vehicle from afar via Sentry Mode, and serves as a wireless key. You can also use the key card to access the vehicle or purchase a key fob.

While that’s all very impressive, it’s a shame that a Head-Up Display (HUD) doesn’t come fitted as standard nor is it available as an option; rather surprising given the amount of tech that’s within the Model S’ cabin.

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This brings us to the most controversial topic of the vehicle, its steering wheel or should we say, the yoke. The latter is fitted as standard, while the former is a £780 option. Our tested model had a full-sized steering wheel, which made manoeuvrability more manageable.

While there is still a choice with the steering wheel, there is none with the omission of physical stalks. Indeed, the manufacturer has eradicated them in favour of controls via the steering wheel and display. No issues with the onscreen gear selector but the haptic buttons which are used to indicate, honk the horn, operate the windscreen wiper and flash your lights, are a step too far.

Granted, this isn’t much of an issue for those in the US who will generally drive in a straight line or indicate when at a standstill, but try finding the indicator button when you’ve got a lock and you’re exiting a roundabout – a complete and utter disaster. We’d go as far as saying that it’s unsafe and could even lead to accidents occurring as you’re not looking at the road, but rather at the steering wheel. There’s also a question surrounding longevity, as with multiple uses, these buttons will get worn and might even fail; it’s already been documented by owners.

On that note, we noticed the scroll wheels were hard to actuate, especially when changing the audio track. You have to press the scroll wheel to the left or right to instigate an input, and the angle at which you have to press is quite awkward.

Unfortunately, it gets worse, at least for those of us who live in the UK, the Model S Plaid is solely available as a left-hand drive (LHD) vehicle. That’s right, this £100k+ vehicle’s steering wheel is on the wrong side of the cabin. This means you’ll have to exit the vehicle every time you come to a ticket barrier and have to get used to sitting on the opposite side. It’s completely preposterous as every manufacturer, including Tesla with its cheaper models, sells a right-hand drive (RHD) vehicle. Yet, the American automaker’s flagship product is not sold with the correct configuration, which is baffling.

Read next: Audi e-tron GT review: Better than the Porsche Taycan?

Tesla Model S Plaid storage review

If the above hasn’t put you off, then you will be pleased to learn that storage within the cabin is excellent and arguably class-leading. At the front of the centre console, there are two wireless chargers, which are also lined in fabric.

Further down, there are a few storage compartments: two cupholders reside next to a small fabric-lined bay, while underneath these two areas, you’ll find an even larger place to store your valuables. Here reside two high-speed 36-Watt USB Type-C ports that are used to charge your phone at a rapid rate; two more Type-C ports can be found at the rear of the centre console. There’s yet another area within the centre armrest compartment for additional storage.

There is also the glove box, which is unlocked through the infotainment system. This means you can set a PIN code to secure any valuables. Within the glove box resides the USB Type-A port, which is used for dashcam footage or high-res audio playback.

As for the door bins, the front two are large enough to accommodate a 500ml bottle alongside small-sized valuables, while the rear two are a little more limited. With that said, there is the rear armrest compartment, which reveals two cupholders, a small storage bay for earphones or glasses and two wireless smartphone charger pads, which are quite a novelty.

Of course, when it comes to storage there is its boot. Here, you have a whopping 709 litres of capacity and with the seats down this extends up to 1,739 litres. Class-leading storage, especially when you look at some of the alternatives: BMW i4 (470/1,290 litres); Tesla Model 3 (425/1,235 litres); Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo (446/1,212 litres); Hyundai Ioniq 6 (401/~1,100 litres); VW ID.3/Cupra Born (385/1,267 litres); Polestar 2 (405/1,095 litres); Audi e-tron GT (405/~1,150 litres); Porsche Taycan (366/~1,100 litres).

Better still, there’s a sizable 81-litre frunk (area under the bonnet). This can be handy for taking certain goods or storing your charging cables. However, unlike the tailgate, the frunk isn’t electronically operated. Rather, it can be released electronically but will need to be opened and closed manually.

In terms of convenience, the electric tailgate has a hatchback design, which makes it easy to load in and out goods. Similarly, there’s a flat loading bay, 60:40 rear-split folding seats that can be dropped with the press of a button, and there’s an enormous underfloor compartment too. It is a shame, however, that the removable boot load cover cannot be stored in this area.

Read next: Tesla Model 3 review: Should you buy into the hype?

Tesla Model S Plaid comfort review

Storage space is certainly one of the Model S Plaid’s fortes, and it’s also comfortable within the cabin. At the front, headroom and legroom for 6-foot 2-inches (188cm) individuals is a non-issue. Similarly, at the rear, it’s been optimised with a completely flat footwell.

With that said, those with longer legs might feel a little uncomfortable on longer journeys due to the seats being diagonally wedged; the same could be said about most EVs out there on the market, so we can’t be overly critical. As for the rear middle seat, it’s unsurprisingly a little more limited, with headroom a little bit of a squeeze for adults.

All five seats are accommodating and soft, with all of them heated as standard too; indeed, that includes the rear middle seat, which is a novelty outside of Tesla’s fleet of vehicles. Equally, it’s great to see that the front seats are electronically adjustable, heated and ventilated. The steering wheel is heated too and there’s a panoramic glass roof. All these features would usually cost an additional extra in rival offerings, so it’s refreshing to see them all fitted as standard on the Model S Plaid.

On that note, there’s a high-resolution 9.4″ touchscreen display at the rear of the cabin. This not only serves as a means of adjusting the climate but can also be used for entertainment purposes – your rear occupants can watch YouTube or Netflix among a few other services, which is excellent for longer road trips.

Very much like a lot of EVs and other Teslas, the Model S Plaid has a pressure sensor within the driver’s seat. This makes it intuitive when you’re a singular occupant going in and out of the vehicle, as it powers on and off the vehicle respectively. Should others be sitting inside while the driver is out running errands, it is still easy to turn on the infotainment system or climate controls with a singular tap on one of the displays; good optimisation by the American automaker, as other manufacturers require you to press a Start/Stop button located by the steering wheel column or by physically pressing down on the driver’s seat.

Another positive trait of the Tesla is its intuitive door mechanism. A simple press of the button within the cabin releases the door, which makes exiting the vehicle a breeze. In the case of an emergency, the doors can be manually opened by pulling on a release lever. From the exterior, concealed door handles pop out when the vehicle is unlocked and retract when in motion; giving it a sleeker look and helping to reduce drag.

As for cabin noise, it’s kept down to a minimum – the Model S Plaid is among one of the most serene interiors we’ve tested. Active Noise Cancellation technology further helps reduce road noise when travelling at higher speeds. You can hear it in action, by watching our dedicated audio review on YouTube.

What isn’t as impressive, however, is the overall interior finish. Granted, the Model S looks and feels better than its cheaper siblings, the Model 3 and Model Y but in comparison to the likes of the BMW i4, Hyundai Ioniq 6, Polestar 2, and Audi e-tron GT it isn’t as lavish – let alone the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo and Porsche Taycan, which take things one step further.

Read next: BMW i4 review: Is the i4 eDrive40 better than the i4 M50?

Tesla Model S Plaid performance review

This brings us to its adaptive suspension system, which is far superior to the ones found in the Model 3 and Model Y but yet again, is no match with the adaptive setups found in the BMW i4Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo and Porsche Taycan. Despite all the real-time telemetry that’s shared through the infotainment system, the Model S Plaid lacks refinement. When traversing tricker terrain we often found that there were sudden rebounds, which wasn’t the case in the aforementioned vehicles. Make no mistake, the Model S Plaid is far from terrible in this department but for a car of its stature and price, one might have expected better, especially when pitted against its rivals.

The same could be said about the overall driver’s feel. While it’s not as twitchy as the cheaper Teslas, as one feels a bit more connected with the front axle, it’s still incomparable to its German counterparts that give you that heightened input.

An area of real concern, however, is its brakes. As standard, the Model S Plaid is fitted with measly 4-piston calipers with 395mm front discs and single-piston calipers with 365mm discs at the rear. For a car of its magnitude, the brakes are truly underpowered. In fact, of all the vehicles we’ve tested to date, it’s the first that failed to perform adequately on country roads; ABS was often kicking in when decelerating from just 60mph, let alone on the track where we suspect it’ll be borderline dangerous to drive more than a lap around a tight circuit.

Thankfully, there is a solution: Track Package, which costs an additional £20,000. This might seem like a steep asking price, but given the Model S Plaid is cheaper than its nearest competitors, it’s very reasonable. While we’ve yet to test the Track Package, the addition of Carbon Ceramics, much beefier calipers and pads, track-ready brake fluid and tyres make it a must-have. Given the sheer power of the vehicle, we suspect those buying it will often be putting their foot down to the metal, and for that reason, we’d actively recommend it even if you don’t intend to drive on a track.

Speaking of which, there’s a dedicated track mode that can be selected via the infotainment system. This allows you to alter the weight distribution, stability assist and regenerative braking levels on the fly. Outside of this, you’ve got three steering and acceleration modes to choose from, with a separate setting called ‘Drag Strip Mode’. The latter ramps up the cooling fans and preps the vehicle to be launched at peak performance.

After a few minutes of prep work, the vehicle is primed. Putting your foot down on the brake pedal and then the accelerator pedal enables Cheetah Stance; raising the front of the vehicle and lowering the rear. By lifting off the brake pedal, you’ll be sent flying forward in a way that you’ve probably never experienced. It’s a head-crushing, mind-boggling phenomenon. In this domain, it’s unlike any other vehicle we’ve tested – the Model S Plaid is ludicrous and unmatched, at least at its price point.

Using Racelogic’s Performance Box Touch we recorded a 0-20mph time of 0.86 seconds, 0-30mph in 1.23 seconds, 0-60mph in 2.4 seconds and 50-70mph in 0.89 seconds. We’re sure we could get closer to the manufacturer’s 1.99-second claim (albeit quoted with a 1ft rollout, which we don’t use in our tests) if we had prepped tyres and perfect tarmac. Nonetheless, getting up to speed is ridiculously fun and with 1.25g of acceleration, it’s going to pin your head back to the headrest every single time.

Its performance is due to the vehicle having a tri-motor setup and a supposed 99.3 kWh battery pack. There are two motors on the rear axle which each provide 309 kW (414 hp) of power, while the front motor itself outputs 314 kW (421 hp). The combination outputs a staggering 760 kW or 1,020 hp and 1,420 Nm of torque. Incredible figures and ones that are felt every time you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal, especially when you’re in the appropriate driving modes.

Better still, power delivery is smooth and linear, with its all-wheel drive (AWD) configuration also working a treat by keeping the vehicle planted to the ground and not suffering from any loss of traction. An incredible feat of engineering considering the amount of power that’s on tap and further, to think that it’s a family-sized saloon is utterly absurd. What the manufacturer has achieved with the Model S Plaid’s straight-line performance is truly remarkable.

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Now you might be quick to think that all that performance comes at a cost, and by that we mean in terms of its electric range. But, yet again, the Tesla is class-leading with its large 99.3 kWh battery pack and integrated heat pump. We had it tested at 250-270 miles with various launches and 290-310 miles without driving like a boy racer. While it is quite a bit off its 373-mile claim, it’s still excellent considering its performance and competitors.

To put it into context, in our mixed diving tests we netted: 310 miles in the AWD Tesla Model 3 Long Range; 250-270 miles in the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and FWD Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor; 240-260 miles in the RWD BMW i4 eDrive40; 240-250 miles in the AWD Polestar 2 (with the optional heat pump, 200-220 without); 230-250 miles in the Audi e-tron GT, entry-level RWD Tesla Model 3 and MG4 EV; 230 miles in the VW ID.3 58kWh; 220-230 miles in the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo 4S; 210-220 miles in the Cupra Born; 200-210 miles in the AWD BMW i4 M50; and a measly 190 miles in the Porsche Taycan Turbo.

To be as efficient as possible, you’ll want to recoup energy back into the battery pack using regenerative braking. Unfortunately, unlike other Teslas we’ve tested, it’s surprising and baffling not to see a means of quickly adjusting the regenerative braking level, which is set to its harshest mode at all times. This means that you can lift off the accelerator pedal to recoup energy and come to a complete standstill too – in other words, a one-pedal drive. Of course, there is the Track Mode preset, which gives you a near-infinite level of adjustment but we suspect most won’t want to be using it and will have preferred a simple toggle; potentially something for the manufacturer to include in a future firmware update.

Aside from recouping energy while on the move, you can also plug in the vehicle. The Model S Plaid can take up to 250 kW via a V3 Supercharger, which allows it to go from 10-80% charge in roughly 29 minutes. Its charging curve is pretty impressive, where unlike its rivals it doesn’t tail off dramatically after the first few minutes. Through a V2 Supercharger that’s capped at 150 kW, you’ll attain the same level of charge in around 35 minutes. Opt for a more commonly found 50 kW input and it’ll take 1 hour 24 minutes, instead.

For home or workplace chargers, the Model S Plaid has an 11.5 kW onboard charger and a Type 2 port, which means using a three-phase charger it’ll take 10 hours and 15 minutes from empty to full, while a single-phase 7 kW charger will take 15 hours and 15 minutes. A 3-pin input will take you 48 hours and 45 minutes, instead.

Despite all of its charging competencies, it is a shame that the vehicle doesn’t integrate Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) technology, which is present in rival alternatives. This would have allowed you to discharge its battery pack to power another EV or a household appliance, which is handy if you go camping.

Read next: Hyundai Ioniq 6 review: Better Than Tesla, BMW & Polestar?

Tesla Model S Plaid safety review

When it comes to safety, the Model S Plaid scored 5/5 stars in Euro NCAP’s rigorous crash tests; it managed an impressive 94% and 91% in the Adult and Child Occupancy tests, respectively and a class-leading 98% in the Safety Assist category.

Indeed, the Tesla is among one of the safest vehicles on sale and also includes a flurry of driver assistance systems. There’s Tesla Autopilot, which keeps you at a safe distance from the leading vehicle on the motorway and provides steering support, lane departure warning and mitigation, a blind spot monitoring system and there’s emergency brake assistance with forward and rear collision warning.

Should you want to take things one step further, you can opt for the £3,400 Enhanced Autopilot option, which allows the vehicle to navigate on Autopilot and provides automatic lane-changing capabilities. Full Self Driving (FSD) is also an option at £6,800. This adds traffic light and stop sign control recognition and autosteer on city streets. Given the already-capable standard systems and UK or European road structures, we’d say that these extra options are a bit redundant.

In terms of visibility around the cabin, it’s excellent, although there is no rear wiper or a washer for the rear camera. Still, you have sensors and 360-degree cameras fitted as standard, which combined with a 12.3-meter turning circle make the vehicle a breeze to park. On that note, there’s Autopark, which automatically and intelligently parks the vehicle for you; it’s not as intuitive as doing it yourself, but it’s still a worthy addition.

Tesla Model S Plaid award

Read next: Polestar 2 review: The all-electric muscle car

TotallyEV’s verdict on the Tesla Model S Plaid

The Tesla Model S Plaid is a unique EV that offers hypercar-like performance on a ‘budget’. Considering the overall performance one has, the electric driving range, the practicality of a four-door hatchback, and the fact that it undercuts its rivals is rather impressive. As such, it receives TotallyEV’s Performance award.

However, it’s hard to ignore its flaws: its standard braking performance is poor, its handling characteristics and suspension system don’t live up to the billing, the omission of a HUD and support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is baffling, the lack of physical stalks for indicators is a real safety hazard and with it being sold as a left-hand drive (LHD) in the UK is truly shocking. Should Tesla address these points in the future, we could see ourselves wholeheartedly recommending the Model S Plaid, as it offers straight-line speed unlike any other in its price category.

We’d be curious to know what you make of the Tesla Model S Plaid; let us know in the comments section below or via social media. We’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
9
Features
4
Storage space
10
Driving comfort
9
Performance
9
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Christopher Minasians
Christopher is an avid car enthusiast and techie. In his spare time, he reviews the latest consumer electronic products on his YouTube channel, TotallydubbedHD. Elsewhere, he practices Taekwondo, in which he has held a black belt for several years and coaches at a national level. He also speaks fluent English, French, Armenian, and loves to practice freestyle street dance.
tesla-model-s-plaid-review-the-budget-electric-hypercarThe Tesla Model S offers ridiculous straight-line speed performance that rivals hypercars. It's practical, extremely safe, offers excellent electric driving range and is competitively priced. As such, it receives TotallyEV's Performance award. However, it doesn't provide class-leading driving comfort nor driving dynamics, has lacklustre brakes for a vehicle with 1,020 hp, lacks a few key features such as stalks, and is only available as a left-hand drive making it cumbersome to use on a day-to-day basis for those who live in the UK.

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