Tesla has never had any trouble garnering attention during its assault on the automotive world's status quo, and with all of the praise and disdain from both sides of the fence, one thing most will agree on is that the Model S Plaid is an EV monster. Armed with over 1,000 hp wrung from its trio of electric motors, it possesses the sort of power and acceleration to change the minds of even the most die-hard anti-EV protagonists.
You've probably seen the Plaid's ability in a straight line and you know that it set an EV record on the Nürburgring last year. It's an electric speed demon, through and through—but one thing that always felt a bit "off" about the model was its lack of an actual track-focused drive mode setting. As of Thursday, that finally changed for North American Model S Plaid drivers who received an over-the-air software update packed with track-oriented nuggets to take advantage of.
Tesla says that its Lateral Torque Vectoring system, the same one used in the Model 3 Track Mode, offers on command vehicle rotation on track by pushing extra torque to the rear tires to help scoot the front end to where you'd like it, while split-second switching to engage the front drive motor helps the car's acceleration in a straight line.
The Plaid's dual rear motors can divvy up torque to each rear wheel independently with a torque-bias that will help encourage the Model S through turns. As Tesla states, that improvement can be experienced in "faster turn-in, increased cornering speeds, and harder acceleration on corner exit," all huge gains for the track-savvy.
In its standard driving mode, the Model S Plaid relies on a stability control system to avoid tire slippage and apply that hefty horsepower to the pavement for those crucial Tik Tok and YouTube reaction videos. However, with the new Plaid Track Mode engaged, the driver is granted control of the car's lateral movement via Tesla's Vehicle Dynamics Controller.
The system permits some tire slippage and adjusts the torque split based on measurements it calculates from a given steering angle, accelerator percentage, and brake pedal input. The additional freedom gives the pilot the chance to shine through high-speed cornering. And it's not an "all or nothing" affair in that the system is customizable with this software update
As you might expect, suspension changes were addressed with the update. Once activated, track mode eliminates the car's automatic ride height adjustment that rises to improve comfort at higher speeds; instead, the ride height is fixed to its "Low" setting. The adaptive damping takes on a track-focused setting to reduce pitch under extreme acceleration and hard braking. The improved response and a shorter wait for the vehicle to settle over uneven surfaces should increase feel and confidence at speed.
Unlike quick stop light dashes to scare the hell out of passengers who've never had their torsos pushed into seatbacks from unforgiving acceleration, multiple on-track laps run aggressively can take their toll on an EV. Cooling is a huge factor, and a previous impediment to Model S's on-track performance, which would fall off rapidly as the computers worked to stabilize battery temps by cutting power.
Tesla addressed this with its heat management protocol. With Track Mode activated, the battery pack's temps are brought down and what Tesla refers to as a "significant amount of chilled thermal mass" is created. A series of shared coolant loops that bridge the battery and motors come into play to help maintain temps and regenerative braking power is increased to reduce load on the friction brakes for heat management and to pick up more energy when slowing down, all of which is said to offer the pilot greater modulation and control with the brake pedal.
Keeping an eye on temps is possible via the Performance User Interface that includes monitors for vehicle vitals, a lap timer and G-meter, dashcam video capture and a slew of others that are user selected.
With all of the go-fast goodies baked into the Track Mode update, it's a fitting time for Tesla to offer some sort of braking upgrade, and that is exactly what's on the horizon, expected mid-year. The upcoming Model S Plaid Carbon Ceramic Brake Kit is based on 410 x 40 mm front and 410 x 32 mm rear carbon-silicon carbide rotors with six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears. The one-piece, forged, bright red calipers will only fit beneath 21-inch Tesla Arachnid wheels, though we're sure some aftermarket options will certainly come about.
If you're familiar with big brake kits, you know they're not cheap, but you probably weren't expecting a $20,000 price tag. Here that includes Tesla Service installation, integrated parking brakes, high performance brake pads, and fluid. Start saving now.