2021 Tesla Model S Gets More Power, Revamped Interior and Bizarre Steering Wheel

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick
Top Model S Plaid+ will hit 60 mph in under 2 seconds, top 200 mph, and cost $139,990.

Tesla has unveiled the latest revision to its long-running Model S sedan. The second facelift for the car in its 10 years of production, the 2021 model drops some truly shocking numbers on EV buyers—and a steering wheel that is sure to get people talking.

Visually, little separates the 2021 Model S from the ones that have come before. Tesla has tweaked the bumpers and gifted the sedan a new set of optional 21-inch wheels. All the subtle changes have lowered the Model S’ coefficient of drag to just 0.208, enough for the American company to call it the most aero-efficient car currently in production—or rather, will be, once it arrives in March. Tesla didn’t state which version of the Model S achieves this, though.

Inside is where the big changes are afoot. A big 17-inch touchscreen sits in the middle of the dash, but it’s gone for landscape instead of portrait orientation. Tesla calls it, essentially, a gaming computer; to wit, the press shots show it running popular RPG The Witcher 3. Showing off Cyberpunk 2077, by the same developers as The Witcher series, might not have sent the right message…

The more shocking change comes directly in front of the driver. Tesla has fitted a yoke-style steering “wheel”, with the upper half of the traditional shape completely absent. It makes it easier to see the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, sure, but that’s going to be an awkward steer for those in, say, underground car parks. In addition, as first noted by our friends at Roadshow, Tesla has ditched the old Mercedes-sourced stalks behind the yoke-style setup. That suggests all controls, from lights, to turn signals, to even shifting, will have to migrate to wheel-mounted controls or the central screen.

Beyond the controversial tiller, the interior refresh is generally quite good. Tesla has redesigned the door cards, with a cleaner look and what appears to be more storage space. The center console is taller, with deeper storage space and wireless charging standard. In the back, passengers will appreciate a fold-down center armrest with cupholders, and an 8.0-inch screen offering the same entertainment options as the front unit.

Other standard features on every Model S include heated seats for the whole house (plus ventilated perches up front), a 22-speaker sound system, three-zone climate control and a glass roof. Buyers have the choice of either wood or carbon fiber trim, with white, black, or beige seating.

The Model X gets the same interior revisions as the Model S, including the redesigned dash, landscape central screen, and weird wheel. The lone option on both remains Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” Autopilot driver-assist system, priced at an even $10,000.

The 2021 model range kicks off with the $79,990 Long Range. Tesla quotes an estimated range of 412 miles (663 km) with this dual-motor setup, along with a 3.1-second dash to 60 mph. Graduating to the triple-motor Plaid ($119,990) shaves a little off the outright range (390 miles / 627 km), but you’ll get to your destination quicker, with 1,020 horsepower, torque vectoring, and a quoted 0–60 mph time of 1.99 seconds.

At the top of the list sits the Plaid+, at a going rate of $139,990. This one boasts “over 1,100 horsepower,” and Tesla calls it the quickest-accelerating production car ever. With a 0–60 mph time under the regular Plaid, and a quarter-mile time under 9 seconds, that checks out. Tesla also quotes a monster 520-mile (837-km) range on a single charge.

Pricing starts at $79,990 for the Long Range, jumping to $119,990 for the Plaid. Plaid+ requires an additional $20,000, and isn’t expected to arrive until late this year.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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