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2021 Tesla Model S Plaid, Beyond Ludicrous

Updated: May 10, 2022

Picture this: it’s 1971 in Sant’Agata, Italy, and you’re sitting in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini Countach with, the man himself, Ferruccio Lamborghini at the wheel. Taped lightly to the dash sits your prize, a $100 bill (or 166,906 Italian Lire if this legend is true). Seems easy enough right? You look over at Mr. Lamborghini, his eyes shaded by a pair of stylish 60's era aviators, and give him the nod. He pops the clutch, nails the gas, and you shoot off down the runway at what feels like the speed of light. Your back is thrust into the seat bolsters and your head into the headrest, and as soon as your brain reboots from the initial shock, you make a feeble attempt to scramble for the "Benjamin" on the dash, but you just...can’t...reach it.

Flash forward almost 50 years to today, 2021. Elon Musk has just unveiled the newest thing from Tesla Motors, the Model S Plaid. It claimed lofty numbers: 1,020 horsepower, 0-60mph in 1.99 seconds, and a top speed of 200+mph. I can imagine why everyone was quite skeptical of the Plaid leading up to the date of its release, with Tesla's questionable delivery track record.

Over time we received some signals that the myths might be true when we watched Brooks from DragTimes (who you can check out here) set a low 9-second quarter-mile run and a 2.01 second 0-60 time on a hot day in Florida. And just a few nights ago, I watched (and felt) all these seemingly impossible claims come to life through my own experience with this monster.

But before I tell you about my experience, let’s do the numbers. 1,020 horsepower from 3 electric motors put to all 4 wheels, almost 400 miles of range, and an all-out focus on, well, being the ultimate daily driver. I could go on and on about the batteries or the kilowatt rate the car charges at, but I know you are all here to read how I felt about the Plaid from a firsthand experience.

I met with Roger, the owner of the first (and at the moment of this writing) the only Tesla Plaid in Buffalo, at Lancaster Speedway to see what the hype was all about. Roger shared some of his experience ordering and picking up the car.

“The ordering process was terrible, Tesla treats even their highest customers like they were buying a Civic. I could buy 20 of these things and they still wouldn’t care."

Roger went on to share that picking the car up was pretty interesting too. "I had to fly out near NYC and Uber up to the dealer where the car was waiting. I was able to check out the car myself before a salesman finally walked over with a folder of papers, I signed a few times, got the keys, and took it back here (to Buffalo).” - all useful feedback for Elon on the customer service experience...

Back to the car and another conversation topic of the Plaid, other than the acceleration, the steering wheel, or what’s left of it. They call it the yoke, and it looks like it came out of a race car or maybe a design re-used from one of the SpaceX spaceships, I’ll let you decide. Roger tells us: “It’s certainly a bit of a learning curve, but because I’m daily driving this (yup, you read that right) I’ll get the hang of it very quickly. The only drawback I’ve noticed so far is that it’s a bit jerky when you make three-point turns because you have to reach so far from end to end on each turn.” Other interesting quirks of the yoke are the fact that the horn has been moved from the airbag area to a ‘button’ (all of the very few buttons are haptic touch screens) on the top right of the yoke, and the turn signals are stacked on top of each other on the left side. A bit unconventional, but convention is completely redefined by this company.

The rest of the interior is exceptionally nice, in this case, all black leather with every single carbon fiber option available, giving a stealthy, clean look to the Plaid. A 17-inch center screen dominates the front row, on which you can do everything from shift gears to watch Netflix and play games in unbelievable quality and responsiveness.

Tesla has gone to great lengths to make the interior of the Plaid as simple as possible, and that means the removal of everything from any sort of gear lever to visible air vents. On the side of the screen closest to the driver, a section sits open with the option to simply swipe up for drive and down for reverse, and that’s your gear shift! But wait, it gets even simpler if you can imagine, Tesla has developed a groundbreaking technology they’ve deemed AutoShift, and it does exactly what it says it will. Using cameras and sensors around the car, and the history of what gear the car was last in, the Plaid will automatically decide what gear you should be in if you allow it. Turn on the car, and a message will show up on the gauge cluster prompting you to press the brake and let the car get into the gear it chooses, crazy right? The future is now folks.

Next up in the new Tesla tech area is something novel, the air vents, of which you think there are none until you look closer of course. Look across the dash of the Plaid and you’ll notice a small shelf-looking area inset into the panel in front of you, run your fingers along the bottom of this shelf and you’ll feel the grates for the climate control system! Controlled in 3 zones (Two from the front screen and one from the rear screen) You select your desired temperature and use the screens to drag where you want the air to go. Simple and innovative, a very common theme in the Plaid.

Have you gotten bored of my tech talk yet? Don’t worry, it’s about to get interesting. After a few runs down the 1/8th mile drag strip, I was able to experience the Plaid out on the streets of WNY.

Fun fact: The name, Plaid, is quite an interesting one. Who in their right mind names a car after a clothing pattern? If you remember, the fastest Tesla until the Plaid was titled "Ludicrous", the light-speed travel term in the Mel Brooks movie, ‘Spaceballs’. What most don’t know is the only speed faster than Ludicrous in the Spaceballs universe is simply "Plaid", the only thing beyond Ludicrous. Pretty cheesy, but much cooler if you understand the reference (see the clip here).

The first thing we did in the Plaid was launch it (of course) from a stop with no launch control or brake-boosting to give me just a taste of the mind-bending acceleration the Tesla can generate. The forces felt on my body and the number of expletives I muttered in less than two seconds (sorry Roger, please pardon my language) was extremely impressive.

After that taste of raw power we cruised for a bit. Tesla needs an award for the way they’ve silenced the Plaid in all ways, tire noise, motor noise, and suspension reflexes on larger bumps. Everything was nearly mute except for the slightest whir of the motors and light breeze from the A/C. Aside from the performance, the Plaid is a very comfortable daily driver. After silently creeping around town to get a feel for the car, we found an empty, straight backroad and began the countdown to be ready for our next launch.

More launchpad references here, Roger (the pilot) starts by putting all the modes into their sportiest settings. Suspension into Sport, and the same with steering and throttle response. Furthermore, a "Plaid Mode" dials in even more elements of the car. Finally, (almost done) the car is put into "drag strip" mode, which preps the batteries and cools the motors to their proper temperatures to provide the most gut-wrenching launch possible.

We pull out, come to a stop, and prepare to have our insides rearranged by a 4,800lb sedan. Left foot on the brake, right on the gas, and the Plaid enables Cheetah Stance, dropping the front end down by two inches to improve launch. From there a graphic of a Plaid starts to appear on the screen, with an actual glowing ‘plaid’ design starting to fly by the car as you get ready to unleash the Plaid on the asphalt.

3...2...1...Lift your foot off the brake and the car catapults forward with vigor like no other car I’ve ever seen before. I clench my teeth and legs as I feel my weight doubled on top of me as we continue to exponentially gain speed down the road. I don’t recall ever screaming on a review before, but I definitely let out a shriek on this one.

The best way I can describe Plaid-level acceleration is the feeling as if we were trying to outrun a super-massive black hole sitting just behind our seats, feeling space and time bending around us. The Tesla literally left me breathless after that launch, and I really wish I was exaggerating when I say that. After a few more rolling accelerations and stoplight pulls, my eyes are beginning to water from the pressure and my head has begun throbbing from transitioning from "ludicrous" to "plaid" speeds.

Just imagine what Mr. Lamborghini would think of the Plaid and its infinite acceleration abilities. Reaching that "$100 bill" on the dash, an impossible challenge! This ladies and gentlemen is a Super Fast Car, and it deserves nothing more than to be put in its rightful place on our site as the quickest and most absurd car I’ve experienced to date. I have no better way to wrap this article up other than saying "thank you" to Roger for making a dream become my reality and giving me the full Plaid experience. Until next time everyone.

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