New Tesla Model S 2021 facelift brings new-look cabin and power boost

Tesla Model S range gets a shake-up, revamping the saloon’s interior and adding its new 1,006bhp tri-motor “Plaid” powertrain

Tesla has overhauled the Model S for 2021. The EV’s interior has been given a thorough redesign and the company has finally added its much-touted, flagship “Plaid” powertrain to the line-up, in an effort to keep the car ahead of the Porsche Taycan. First deliveries for the updated saloon are not expected to arrive until next year, however.

As part of the update, Tesla has rejigged the Model S’s specifications, giving buyers just two trim lines. The entry-level Long Range variant is priced from £83,980 and has a claimed range of 412 miles. Above that, there’s the new Plaid model, which has a starting price of £110,980 and a maximum range of 390 miles.

Finally, there’s the flagship Plaid+ model. It costs £130,980, but it has a maximum claimed range of 520 miles, which is around 220 miles more than the most efficient Porsche Taycan. So in theory, the Model S Plaid+ can store enough electricity to drive from London to Manchester and back – and still have more than 100 miles of range left over.

The revised Model S Long Range features a 661bhp version of Tesla’s old dual-motor electric powertrain. However, the new Model S Plaid features the brand’s newly designed, three-motor electric powertrain, which delivers claimed output of 1,006bhp, a 0–60mph time of 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 200mph.

Tesla hasn’t yet released any information on the revised Model S’s battery capacity, but the firm recently announced that it would update its battery technology with more energy-dense, load-bearing packs. Whether these new cells are used on the updated Model S has yet to be confirmed.

The upgrade will swap Tesla’s traditional cylindrical cell design for a new shingle-lattice design – the upshot of which means that its batteries will be more efficient and, more importantly, cheaper to build. Tesla cells will also move to a new type of silicon anode, which is cheap and stores nine times more lithium than a traditional graphite anode.

New Tesla Model S: design and technology

Cosmetic tweaks for the entry-level Model S are restrained, stretching to a new front bumper and some new alloy wheels. Tesla’s updates for the new Plaid variant are more involved, though – and the firm has adopted a fastidious approach to efficiency and aerodynamics.

Tweaks include a lower front splitter, wider side skirts and a fresh rear diffuser. The car’s wider wheels and tyres also sit under a set of flared wheel arches – and in an effort to control the extra power, Tesla has fitted a new ducktail spoiler for the boot. 

All of this means the Model S Plaid has a drag coefficient of just 0.208Cd, which Tesla says is the lowest value of any road car on sale today. The aerodynamic update is backed up by a few chassis tweaks, including larger brakes and new dampers.

Inside, the updated Tesla Model features a brace of new technology. There’s a new digital gauge cluster, an enormous 17-inch infotainment system and fresh smartphone charging pads, with space for two devices up front and two at the rear. Back-seat passengers also get their own screen, which can be used to watch films or play video games.

The car’s stereo has also been overhauled, with buyers getting a new 22-speaker, 960-watt system with active noise cancelling. Tesla even boasts that the new Model S can supply enough power to charge a laptop, while keeping every occupant’s phone topped up.

However, Tesla has done more than simply throw technology at the Model S. The rear bench has been redesigned, to give passengers more legroom and headroom. There’s also a new cut-away steering wheel, which looks more like a flight yoke than a traditional car controller – and all of the car’s trim, from the dashboard to the door cards, now features wooden panelling. The firm also appears to have done away with indicator stalks.

Tesla has also stepped up the Model S’s autonomous technology as part of this update. Now the company says the saloon can drive itself on the motorway, from on-ramp to off-ramp – and it can automatically change lanes to overtake or avoid other road users.

Tesla’s “Summon” system has also returned, allowing the driver to order the car to their location over short distances using the firm’s smartphone app. Finally, the company has improved its auto-parking system; now the car can park in parallel and end-on spaces without a single input from the driver.

What do you make of the updated Tesla Model S? Let us know in the comments section below…

Recommended

Electric cars in the UK: are we ready for the EV revolution?
Electric cars in the UK: are we ready for the EV revolution?
Features

Electric cars in the UK: are we ready for the EV revolution?

We take an in-depth look at how the UK is getting ready for the switch to electric
14 May 2021
'Judging by 2020's stats, demand for EVs is growing'
Opinion - electric cars
Opinion

'Judging by 2020's stats, demand for EVs is growing'

Steve Fowler finds some positive all-electric figures from a year of sales doom and gloom
13 Jan 2021
‘Your car may not be the most efficient tool for your new, lower-mileage life’
Opinion

‘Your car may not be the most efficient tool for your new, lower-mileage life’

Mike Rutherford thinks now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your modes of transport
20 Dec 2020
Pester power from kids pushes parents towards electric cars
News

Pester power from kids pushes parents towards electric cars

More than half of UK children want their parents to make the switch to an electrified car
27 Oct 2020

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021