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2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh

Tesla updated the Model S for the 2021 model year with significant upgrades for the first time in almost a decade

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The Model S has been around for a decade now, but Tesla didn’t bother refreshing it much over the years. It was a hit and there was no competition; so it didn’t really have to. But, that’s not the case now and the company has finally stepped up accordingly. The 2021 Model S doesn’t come with a whole lot of changes on the outside, but there is a lot of new stuff inside. Tesla will also be coming up with the Plaid model later this year and Plaid+ next year. But, otherwise, does the 2021 model get any better?

2021 Tesla Model S Exterior

How Different Is The 2021 Tesla Model S On The Outside?

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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On the outside, things aren’t a whole lot different. Tesla has given a little nip and tuck all around, but there are high chances a layman won’t catch them. The grille and the lip spoiler up front look a little more aggressive and sharper than before. The fog light area and the air damn design are also different when compared to the 2020 model. The rear air dam is also refreshed and seems to be more functional than before. The car also has a wider body and chassis this time, although the exact dimensions are still unknown.

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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The grille and the lip spoiler up front look a little more aggressive and sharper than before. The car also has a wider body and chassis this time

The 2021 Model S now comes with 21-inch Arachnid wheels instead of 21-inch carbon wheels. My favorite change on the 2021 model, however, is the chrome delete.

There are no chrome elements whatsoever anywhere on the exterior.

In my personal opinion, this model will age better than the model it replaces. Thanks to these tweaks, Tesla was able to bring down the drag coefficient from 0.23 to 0.208. In Tesla’s words, it is now the “lowest-drag car on earth”.

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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All specs of the Plaid+ are yet to be revealed, but it will have a 0-60 mph time of under 1.99 seconds and a range of 520+ miles

There are no new colors introduced for the 2021 model year as the Model S continues to be offered in the same five colors as before:

  • Pearl White (Multi-Coat)
  • Solid Black
  • Midnight Silver
  • Deep Blue Metallic
  • Red (Multi-Coat)

How Much Does The 2021 Tesla Model S Weigh?

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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Swipe up to learn about the Model S in detail; its competitors, improvement in terms of performance, etc.

The Tesla Model S Long Range weighs 4,561 whereas the tri-motor Plaid is 205 pounds heavier, weighing in at 4,766 pounds.

Tesla has made some highly impressive weight-saving measures. The 2021 Model S Long Range is 254 lighter than the 2020 Long Range model, whereas the 2021 Model S Plaid is 163 pounds lighter than the 2020 Model S Performance, which stood at 4,929 pounds.

2021 Tesla Model S Interior

How Different Is The 2021 Tesla Model S On The Inside?

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Interior
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This is where the Model S feels radically different. Tesla cars are known for their minimalism and it hasn’t changed this time around either. In fact, it still doesn’t feel plush. The updated Model S is redesigned to offer more headroom and legroom. Seating is said to be for three adults, but it has always been unwelcome to the fifth adult. The second row also comes with a stowable armrest with integrated storage space. But, the biggest changes come in terms of new tech features and, of course, that new steering wheel (not exactly a wheel, but you get the gist).

Other features include:

  • Front center console with sliding cup holders and storage
  • Tri-zone climate control
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Heated seats and steering yoke
  • HEPA filtration system
  • Wireless charging
  • Automatic opening and closing of the tailgate
  • Auto-dimming, folding, and heated side mirrors
  • Phone key
  • 22-speaker, 960W audio system

How Much Cargo Space Does The 2021 Tesla Model S Offer?

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Interior
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The Model S offers a cargo space of 28 cubic feet including the frunk’s space

As mentioned earlier, the interior dimensions aren’t revealed yet, but the Model S offers a cargo space of 28 cubic feet, including the frunk.

2021 Tesla Model S Comes With New Tech Features

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The car comes with three screens now
The landscape-oriented 17-inch touchscreen display boasts of a higher 2200x1300 resolution this time. There’s also a 12.3-inch digital driver display
The Model S now comes with three displays inside the cabin, with the biggest one being the 17-inch touchscreen infotainment system on the center console.

This landscape-oriented display boasts of a higher 2200x1300 resolution as opposed to 1900x1200 previously. There’s a 12.3-inch digital driver display behind the yoke as well.

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Interior
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The new addition is another screen for the rear passengers placed between the front seats. This can be used for gaming, and according to Tesla, it supports up to 10 teraflops of processing power. It is even compatible with wireless controllers. The system is said to be on par with the newest consoles you can get in the market.

2021 Tesla Model S Autopilot and Sentry Mode

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The car comes with heating seats in both the rows, and also heated steering yoke and windshield

Tesla Autopilot is a suite of an advanced driver-assistance system that features stuff like lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, etc., and basically helps reduce your workload as a driver. You can purchase a full self-driving capability package as well for $10,000, but the technology is still under development and will be updated to your car over the air once it’s launched.

For those of you unaware, the Sentry mode is essentially a safety system wherein the car’s external cameras monitor the environment around the car when it’s left unattended. You can find a lot of videos on YouTube when this function came in handy in catching folks trying to mess with the car.

2021 Tesla Model S Yoke Steering

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There are some significant changes inside the cabin, but that doesn’t mean it feels any plusher or more luxurious

The Yoke steering is just as controversial as Elon Musk. When the company announced the refreshed Model S earlier this year, the F1-inspired yoke steering caught everyone’s attention. The Yoke steering doesn’t even come with stalks or shifters. If you look very carefully, there are turn signal feather-touch buttons on the left spoke along with the headlights. The right spoke has the touch-sensitive buttons for the horn, the cruise control/autopilot, and the windshield wipers. Or perhaps, these aren’t touch-sensitive buttons after all and the scroll buttons could be used to operate them.

There’s still no word on its status.

It looks like the Model S will come with the regular steering wheel as standard and this could be offered as optional.

Will it pass the safety regulations and actually offered? We’ll have to wait and see how that chapter unfolds.

2021 Tesla Model S Powertrain and Performance

How Much Power Does The 2021 Tesla Model S Make?

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The 2021 Model S is priced as follows: Long Range – $79,990; Plaid – $119,990; Plaid+ – $149,990

The Long Range model comes with a dual-motor setup that is capable of making 670 horses combined at peak. The Plaid trim will feature a tri-motor setup that will be capable of making 1,020 horses.

2021 Tesla Model S 0-60 mph and Top Speed

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The Long Range is the ‘slowest’ trim in the lineup, but despite that, it takes just 3.1 seconds to sprint to 60 mph from a standstill. The top speed is limited to 155 mph.

In the Plaid trim, things change dramatically.

The addition of the additional motor helps the car sprint to 60 mph in 1.99 seconds!

The company has mentioned that this is with the rollout subtracted. This disclaimer is mentioned prominently because the Plaid+ version is said to have a 0-60 mph of lower than 1.99 seconds, so it shouldn’t be confused with the standard Plaid model’s time. Also, the Plaid+ could become a sub-nine-second car, making it the world’s quickest stock production car.

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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If you take the Tesla Model S out of the equation, the quickest production car to a quarter-mile is the Porsche 918 Spyder, clocking it in 9.7 seconds, followed by the 992 911 Turbo S doing it in 10.1 seconds.

The top speed can be raised to 200 mph when equipped with proper wheels and tires. Tesla has also mentioned that the Model S Plaid takes just 9.23 seconds to quarter-mile with a trap speed of 155 mph.

The 2021 Tesla Model S Has More Stamina Now

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If you plan to take it to the tracks often or like doing quick sprints, this bit will make you happy. Tesla has also mentioned that the new Model S will allow for five times more quarter-mile runs than before.

For the initial models, the car used to slip into reduced power mode within no time. Car and Driver had tested it almost five years back and it couldn’t survive even one full hot lap. Porsche kind of capitalized on this and targeted the Taycan as a hot track performer. Tesla improved this big time when it introduced the Cheetah Mode last year. The car could now kind of keep up with Porsche Taycan even after 15 consecutive runs. We’ll wait for Car and Driver to conduct the test for the third time to see how much of an improvement it is now in terms of consistency.

2021 Tesla Model S Battery, Charging, and Range

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior
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The grille and the lip spoiler up front look a little more aggressive and sharper than before. The car also has a wider body and chassis this time
The 2021 Model S, in the Long Range trim, comes with an estimated range of 412 miles, an increase of 10 miles over the 2020 model.

In the upcoming Plaid trim, the range is estimated to be 390 miles. This is three miles more than the now-discontinued Performance trim’s 387-mile range. Both the models support supercharging up to 250 kW which can help add up to 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes. This makes it the fastest charging tesla to date, beating the 2020 Model S Long Range that could add up to 163 miles of range in 15 minutes. The Plaid+ is said to come with an estimated range of 520 miles. On paper, it is three miles more than the Lucid Air’s best range rating.

Tesla doesn’t reveal the battery capacity, but it looks like it comes with a 100 kWh battery pack. The Plaid+ could have a slightly bigger pack, perhaps matching the Air’s 113 kWh pack. Anything much larger will affect the performance.

The battery pack and the battery modules have been completely redesigned. It is powered by an improved version of the 18650 cells. These cells are manufactured by Panasonic and are being used in the Model S and the Model X since 2013. Just like the Model 3 and the Model Y, the Model S also now comes with a heat pump.

How Much Does The 2021 Tesla Model S Cost?

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  • Long Range – $79,990
  • Plaid – $119,990
  • Plaid+ – $149,990

These are the prices before any state incentives.

Tesla has exhausted the 200,000 vehicle cap to enjoy the federal tax benefits of up to $7,500. However, the Biden administration has proposed a GREEN Act wherein 400,000 more vehicles could benefit from a maximum federal tax credit of $7,000. There’s no word on when it will be passed, but it will be a huge boost to Tesla and GM, both of whom have exhausted the cap and face a big challenge from other automakers who are yet to cross the 200,000-threshold and are still eligible for the credits.

2021 Tesla Model S Competition

Porsche Taycan

2020 Porsche Taycan
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Porsche came up with the Taycan and tried to steer away from the Tesla Model S. Instead of focusing on battery, range, and overall practicality, the Taycan was targeted as a performance EV. The company offers it in various trims. The cheapest is the standard Taycan, which has the same starting price as the Model S, and makes a maximum of 402 horses. It comes with an EPA-estimated range of 200 miles and takes 5.1 seconds to 60 mph from rest, which makes it two seconds slower than the slowest Model S.

The best that Porsche has to offer is the Taycan Turbo S. This model makes up to 750 horses and 774 pound-feet of torque. The maximum range is rated at just 201 miles. It takes 2.6 seconds from 0-60 mph and has a top speed of 161 mph. All these specs on paper are far below the Model S Plaid. The Taycan Turbo S starts at $185,000, which is $65,000 more than the Model S Plaid and $35,000 more than the Plaid+!

Read our full review on the Porsche Taycan

Lucid Air

2018 Lucid Motors Air High Resolution Exterior
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The Lucid Air is arguably the only car in the market that has the potential to take down the Tesla Model S. The biggest reason why the Air is a threat to the Model S is because Lucid didn’t go after the Model S’ weaknesses; it went after its strength. The Tesla Model S was the first EV to officially boast of a range of 400 miles. Lucid, instead of trying to match up this figure or try to get a few miles more, shocked everyone when it announced that the Air will have a maximum range of 517 miles. Then, it attacked Tesla’s performance number by announcing that the Air will be able to run the sub-10-second time and will be the quickest production car.

Now, coming to its specs and features, the Lucid Air comes with stuff like Canopy Glass Roof, 34-inch Glass cockpit floating curved screen on the dash, and Autopilot-rivalling ‘Lucid DreamDrive’ drive-assistance system. It boasts a drag coefficient rating of 0.21. In the top Dream Edition Spec, the Air features a dual setup motor that churns out 1,080 horses. It takes just 2.5 seconds to hit the 60 mph mark from a standstill and sprints all the way up to 168 mph to hit its top speed.

After Lucid announced all these specs, Tesla upped the ante in almost every single aspect and that is why the Model S in either the Plaid and Plaid+ trims will have a top speed of 200 mph, 0-60 mph time of under 1.99 seconds, range of 520+ miles, drag coefficient rating drop from 0.23 to 0.208, etc. The Lucid Air will be offered in four trims, starting at $80,000 and going all the way up to $169,000. The first deliveries will begin in Spring 2021.

Read our full review on the Lucid Air

Fun fact: The Lucid Air is designed by the same gentleman who is behind the Model S as well – Peter Rawlinson.

When Are The Model S Plaid And Plaid+ Models Coming?

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Exterior High Resolution
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Tesla is taking orders for the Long Range and the Plaid, but has withheld for the Plaid+. The delivery event for the Plaid is on June 3, while the Plaid+ will come in 2022

The Model S Plaid was originally scheduled to arrive in August 2021, but the website now says it will be ready next month. In fact, Elon Musk even tweeted that there will be a launch party at the factory on June 3 to celebrate the first production cars.

The Plaid+ will arrive mid-2022, but the automaker has stopped taking booking for it at the time of writing this article. It is still visible on the website, but you can’t place an order. It started at some point on the fourth weekend of May 2021, Tesla stopped taking orders for it. Perhaps it will be open again soon.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
About the author

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