Skip to main content

Even without rocket thrusters, many EVs can blitz past their ICE counterparts. At least, as the Mustang Cobra Jet showed, when they don’t accelerate fast enough to pull wheelies. And the latest news from Tesla provides further proof of EV speed. With Jay Leno behind the wheel, the Tesla Model S Plaid just became a production car world record-holder.

On paper, the Tesla Model S Plaid is certainly fast

A red Tesla Model S Plaid drives down a road
Tesla Model S Plaid | Tesla

With the Plaid+ officially canceled, the Plaid is now the range-topping Tesla Model S trim. And while it’s not quite as extreme as the Plaid+ would’ve been, on paper, it’s still a quick car. Not to mention cheaper.

The Tesla Model S Plaid has three electric motors: two at the rear and one in the front. They give the EV all-wheel drive, and the rear-mounted ones have torque-vectoring capabilities, Autoweek explains. And together, they put out a claimed 1,020 hp.

That much power, combined with a claimed 0.208 drag coefficient, means the Tesla Model S Plaid delivers speed and acceleration. Tesla claims the Plaid tops out at 200 mph and goes 0-60 mph in 1.99 seconds. Achieving the former, though, requires equipping some forthcoming special wheels and tires. Furthermore, Tesla claims the EV can run the ¼-mile in 9.23 seconds.

That last claim is where Jay Leno comes in. Because recently, he got a chance to see if the Model S Plaid could actually do the deed.

Speed confirmed: the Tesla Model S Plaid set a production car record with Jay Leno at the wheel

A red-and-black 2019 Bugatti Chiron Sport
2019 Bugatti Chiron Sport | Bugatti

Up until now, the ¼-mile production car record-holder was the Bugatti Chiron Sport. With a 1,479-hp quad-turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 engine, it runs the ¼-mile in 9.4 seconds, Car and Driver reports. The Plaid, though, is even faster.

On a prepped dragstrip, Jay Leno got behind the wheel—er, yoke—of a Tesla Model S Plaid to test its acceleration claims. With NHRA officials on hand to verify the numbers, he ran the ¼-mile in 9.247 seconds with a 152-mph trap speed. And as he notes in the video below, despite the speed, the car was quiet enough that it didn’t disturb the nearby birds.

Technically, Jay Leno didn’t achieve the ideal numbers Tesla quotes for the Model S Plaid. Besides the 9.23-second claim, Tesla also says the Plaid’s hypothetical ¼-mile trap speed is 155 mph. But even so, the EV now holds the production car record for the ¼-mile.

It likely can’t go that fast on a regular road, though

A red 2018 Dodge SRT Demon driving down a prepped dragstrip
2018 Dodge SRT Demon | Dodge

However, that record, and Tesla’s other claims, come with some asterisks.

For one, Jay Leno set the record on a specially-prepped dragstrip, which is grippier than normal pavement. It’s worth noting that, although the Dodge SRT Demon could lay down a 9.65-second ¼-mile time, that was only possible on an NHRA dragstrip. On a regular street, the Plaid will likely need more than 9.247 seconds to run the ¼-mile.

Secondly, the 1.99-second 0-60 mph time Tesla quotes for the Plaid doesn’t include rollout. ‘Rollout’ describes the distance a car travels between the two sets of timing lights on a dragstrip, Road & Track explains. It’s meant to eliminate variation in driver reaction times and make acceleration tests truly comparable.

But while a 1-ft rollout is an industry standard in acceleration tests, it’s not real-world accurate. On the street, a Model S Plaid will need more than two seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start, even with launch control.

Nevertheless, given identical conditions, the Tesla Model S Plaid laid down a better ¼-mile time than a Bugatti or Demon.

Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.


Tesla Killed the Model S Plaid+, Increased the Plaid by $10k