The Model S, Tesla's premium all-electric sedan, may be set for a design refresh.
Last week, YouTube channel The Kilowatts shared footage of a tweaked version of Tesla's car, as spotted on the roads of Palo Alto. The California city is home to the company's headquarters, and Tesla has been known to test out upcoming vehicles on nearby roads.
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What's new — The footage shows a number of tweaks versus the current Model S. Gone is the chrome finish in many areas, known as "chrome delete," and in are a set of new headlights. The body, on the whole, is slightly wider. The car also sports a new rear diffuser.
It's perhaps the clearest sign yet that Tesla is set to give its $67,920 sedan a big upgrade. While a high-performance "Plaid" version of the car is due for launch later this year, little has been said about any potential cosmetic tweaks. The news comes as Tesla faces competition from the likes of Rivian and Lucid in the electric vehicle market, the latter of which is set to launch the $69,900 Air sedan this spring.
Watch the new Model S in action here:
Tesla first rolled out the Model S in 2012, the company's second-ever vehicle, with a goal of reaching a broader market than the 2008 Roadster. The firm moved even further into the mainstream with the Model 3, with an advertised starting price of $35,000, which started hitting roads in 2017. A tweaked version of the Model 3 with new wood trims in the interior started rolling out last week, following a similar rollout for the Model Y compact SUV.
Although it played a big role in the company's growth, public comments suggested the car may not stick around for too long. In an October 2019 earnings call, CEO Elon Musk claimed the Model S and Model X SUV were still being produced for "sentimental reasons than anything else."
Performance boosts coming — In October 2019 a prototype high-performance "Plaid" version of the Model S was spotted at Germany's Nürburgring. That variant featured cosmetic tweaks like a giant rear diffuser and spoiler.
At the company's September 2020 Battery Day, Tesla detailed the "Plaid" Model S. It's set to feature over 520 miles of battery range, a top speed of 200 mph, and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of under two seconds. Tesla claims that the $138,490 car, set for launch in late 2021, has the "quickest 0 to 60 mph and quarter-mile acceleration of any production car ever." On the company's configurator website, however, the "Plaid" variant uses exactly the same image as other models.
What's inside -- Another question mark remains around the interior. A 2018 report claimed the Model S and X were due for an internal refresh. Current models use a giant central touchscreen paired with a smaller screen that acts as an instrument cluster. Tesla's refresh was expected to bring a design closer to that of the Model 3, with a single central screen that also shows information like current speed. A 2019 report claimed the upgrade would form part of an even bigger change.
The Inverse analysis — The new Model S variant looks fantastic, but it's hard to say for sure when or if this version will hit roads.
Tesla makes a habit of avoiding annual model variants, instead preferring to introduce tweaks onto production line vehicles as they become available. In July 2019, Musk wrote that there is "no 'refreshed' Model X or Model S coming, only a series of minor ongoing changes."
Tesla has already confirmed that a higher-performance version of the Model S will launch this year. Whether the car will also feature internal and external changes is unclear, but one thing's for sure: 2021 is set to be a bumper year for the Model S.