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Tesla reveals faster powertrain for 2021 Model S, Model X and Roadster

Tesla is getting ready to unleash its most potent models yet. 

A new three-motor powertrain, sitting above the current ‘Ludicrous’ and ‘Insane’ dual-motor powertrains in the current 100D models, will be introduced on selected models approximately a year from now. It’s underneath the Model S under-going testing at Germany’s Nurburgring circuit, effectively serving as part of the development of the new powertrain - something the American company hasn’t previously done.

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Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted out that the Plaid powertrain will be available in the Model S, Model X and new Roadster and is “about a year” away from being production ready. He also confirmed that the three-motor set-up won’t be available in the Model 3 sedan nor the upcoming Model Y compact SUV.

Tesla is notoriously cagey with performance figures, but the current 100D produces 568kW of power and 931Nm of torque. Given the new Porsche Taycan Turbo S produces 1050Nm of torque it’s a likely bet that Tesla will try and trump that figure with its new model to reclaim electric car bragging rights.

Musk has promised that the new Plaid powered models, while sitting at the top of the Tesla range, will still be cheaper than the competition.

The name is a reference to the 1987 Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs, where a spaceship faster the “ludicrous speed” and instead “goes to plaid.” 

Musk announced plans for the new Roadster in 2017, claiming it will be on sale by 2020 and will be able to do the 0-97km/h (0-60mph) sprint in just 2.1 seconds.

As for the Model S and Model X, those models are likely to simply add the new powertrain as part of the brand’s preference for rolling updates, instead of traditional model year upgrades preferred by conventional car companies. 

Musk’s comments that it is a year away from production points to a mid-2021 launch in the US market but it’s likely Australian customers will need to wait a little longer before the Plaid powertrain reaches local roads.

Another Twitter revelation from Musk was the news the Model S at the Nurburgring is fitted with seven-seats, an optional layout in the US where a pair of small, rearward-facing seats are mounted in the boot. This suggests Tesla could be aiming for the fastest seven-seater record at the Nurburgring instead of beating the 7m42sec lap time set by the Taycan.

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and Matchbox collection as a kid he moved into the world of real cars with an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Despite that questionable history he carved a successful career for himself, firstly covering motorsport for Auto Action magazine before eventually moving into the automotive publishing world with CarsGuide in 2008. Since then he's worked for every major outlet, having work published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,, Street Machine, V8X and F1 Racing. These days he still loves cars as much as he did as a kid and has an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in the garage (but not the same one as before... that's a long story).
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