In 2012, the Tesla Model S was named one of Time‘s “Best Inventions of the Year.” It somehow placed 19th out of 25 entries, well below indoor clouds, motion-activated screwdrivers, and an iOS app turning iPhones into virtual pets. After all, sustainable transportation is boring compared to miniature clouds. The Model S at least earned credit for being the first electric luxury sedan of its kind, not to mention the segment’s genesis.
In August 2020, the Tesla Model S boasted an EPA range of 402 miles on a single charge and the highest estimated mpg-e ratings on the market (121 in the city and 112 on the highway). It should be no surprise that it’s taken nearly a decade for Tesla’s competitors to catch up. EV luxury models such as the Lucid Air, Audi e-tron, and Porsche Taycan look like serious contenders in 2021 and 2022. And though the Taycan performs slightly better on the track than the Model S, its long-distance game remains roughly 112 miles shy of the finish line.
The 2021 Tesla Model S at a glance
Ask any number of people to name the first Tesla manufactured, and chances are many would say the Roadster. However, the Model S holds the title of the longest-running vehicle in the EV maker’s lineup. Significant mechanical and design updates have been few and far between. But it has undergone a fair share of tweaks over the years. For 2021, Tesla has added a Model S variant whose MSRP makes the 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S‘s starting price seem modest.
After two price cuts last year, the 2021 Model S Long Range version sells for $79,990, according to Tesla‘s product page. The recently released Model S Plaid starts at $119,990. It jumps to $132,990 for the Plaid+. Both Plaid models feature three high-performance motors with carbon-sleeved rotors coupled with torque-vectoring technology.
For an additional $10,000, you can add what Tesla calls full “self-driving capability.” The package includes Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, Summon, Full Self-Driving Computer, and Autosteer on city streets. Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control will arrive later this year.
Today’s Model S is exclusively a five-seater
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Earlier Tesla Model S vehicles offered available rear-facing jumpseats, allowing for seven passengers. But Tesla has done away with that in 2021. It’s 100 percent sedan with the standard five seats.
On average, midsize sedans offer 34 to 40 inches of legroom for drivers and front passengers. Tesla went above and slightly beyond by providing 42.7 inches up front and a decent 35.4 inches in the back. Beneath the rear hatchback, find 26.6 cubic feet of cargo space; folding down the rear bench allows for 58.1 cubic feet. The front trunk provides an additional 2.1 cubes just in case.
One of the Model S’s hottest features is the small-TV-sized touchscreen that comes standard with the infotainment system. As of this writing, the 17-inch screen is still the largest in the car segment. Only the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E comes close with a 15.5 touchscreen. Maybe Tesla figured a big screen makes up for the missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Generally speaking, the Model S’s interior hasn’t changed much.
The 2021 Porsche Taycan Turbo S barely competes
The base 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S costs $103,800 yet can barely compete with the Model S Long Range, priced at $23,000 less. For an additional $16,000 or so, the Model S Plaid gets you a 390-mile range, 1,020 hp, a top speed of 200 mph, and an astounding 1.99-second 0-to-60 split, according to Tesla. It can smash the quarter-mile in 9.23 seconds. For those who weigh their money instead of counting it, the Plaid+ increases horsepower to 1,100 and slaughters the quarter-mile in under 9 seconds. Take that, Dominic Toretto, with your 10-second gas-guzzler.
Those numbers should fill Porsche engineers with deep shame. The 2021 Taycan Turbo S costs $185,000 but underperforms by a lot. Despite its 0-to-60 time of 2.6 seconds, it can achieve only 750 hp and a top speed of 161 mph. May as well forget it, Toretto wannabes, because it ain’t even doing a quarter in 10. Porsche didn’t even bother mentioning quarter-mile times, but we’ll assume the omission is enough.
One would assume the Taycan Turbo S would make up for its less-than-satisfactory performance with better range. But rather than an increase, the Turbo S’s range drops from 227 miles to 201. Nevertheless, some reviewers believed the 2020 Porsche handled slightly better at high speeds than the 2020 Tesla. We’ve yet to see whether Tesla has upped its track game for 2021.
So when it comes to whether the 2021 Tesla S Long Range, Plaid, or Plaid+ are worth the MSRP, brand preference will likely play a key factor.