How will Tesla's Plaid Model S stack up against its closest EV competitors?
We're all are hoping for cheaper electric cars. Tesla's even got a $25,000 EV in the works. But it's still good to have a few "halo" cars with sky-high prices. It's always fun to drool over their gorgeous design, impressive tech, and outrageous performance. For years, the Tesla Model S was at the forefront when it came to electric "halo" cars. But there are some new contenders on the horizon.
Most recently, competition bubbled up from the Porsche Taycan and recently-announced Lucid Air. Porsche's Taycan, so far, can't beat the Model S. And, while it looked like Lucid's Air might be capable of taking down the Model S, Tesla Battery Day ended that discussion. With the updated specs for Plaid Model S, once again, it looks like Tesla's got the top spot.
But specs aren't everything. So if you're in the market for a high-end, premium performance EV, which one of these three should you get?
Let's start with looks. Design of course all comes down to personal taste. All three of these electric cars are rather long, handsome 4-door sedans with sweeping roofs.
It's important to note: for the Model S Plaid, we're still unsure about what Tesla's final design will look like. While it will likely maintain the same design aesthetic as the current Model S, the widely-seen prototype showcased a few aerodynamic mods such as a large spoiler as well as wider fenders to accommodate wider tires. So at this stage, it's hard to judge the Plaid Model S since its looks could change.
That said, the Taycan provides the most sporty look while the Air has a more futuristic vibe about it. Meanwhile, the Model S design has remained virtually the same for the past eight years with only a small facelift along the way. While some are still in love with this timeless modern classic, others are hoping that the Plaid variant can spice things up a bit.
If factory customization is a big thing for you, the Porsche Taycan definitely delivers. The current Taycan has about ten different exterior colors to choose from with the number increasing to 16 for the next model year. These colors feature an electric lime green and “frozenberry” — these are colors that can help individualize the look. On the flipside, both the Air Grand Touring and Model S feature only five different colors. Regardless, a rumored vinyl wrap service from Tesla could change everything.
Inside, these cars all have (taking Tesla's lead) a large number of screens. Just like the original 2012 Model S, physical buttons, switches, and dials have been kept to a bare minimum in every one of these cars. However, fit and finish tends to be a strong point for Porsche while the newcomer, Lucid, is likely to suffer some early production glitches at the outset.
Performance metrics are really where things start to heat up between Tesla and Lucid. Unfortunately, the Taycan Turbo S gets left behind.
Looking back, the Porsche Taycan proved to be one of the first serious competitors to the Model S (if you overlook the range) and can be said to be at least partially responsible for bringing the Plaid version of the Model S into existence. This can be traced back to Tesla’s and Porsche’s little back-and-forth at the Nurburgring.
While the regular Performance Model S already beats the Taycan Turbo S in virtually every metric, the planned specs for the Plaid Model S only widen the gap. The Plaid Model S more than doubles up on the range, has an almost 40 mph top speed advantage, and gets to 60 mph in at least 0.6 seconds faster. All of that while coming in at a price tag that's about $45,000 less.
There are, of course, many things that are hard to quantify. Porsche boasts strong brand appeal based its large catalog of legendary sports cars spanning over many decades. Porsche demands high standards when it comes to driving dynamics and handling. Granted, some of these nuances are subjective. To its credit, Porsche happens to be out-selling its own gas-powered Porsches with the Taycan.
The Lucid Air provides a bit more of an evenly-matched performance battle. For a few weeks (pre-Battery Day), the Lucid Air was temporarily considered the next leader in the premium electric space. And upon its planned release in mid-2021, it will be hard to beat. But it can only keep its crown for a few months before the Plaid Model S is launched.
Tesla's Plaid Model S comes out on top in all but the price (just couldn’t shave off that last $990). The Plaid Model S holds a comfortable lead over the Air Grand Touring in both top speed and 0-60 mph time. And the Plaid Model S does have higher range than the 517 miles provided by the Air Grand Touring. While the Air won’t be the longest-range electric car, Lucid should be applauded for squeezing out that much range with their first EV.
What about the tech? Tesla's Autopilot system and the company's future ambitions for full-self driving provide a distinct advantage. Lucid does have a competing system called DreamDrive which includes LIDAR, but Lucid claims that their system is limited to Level 3 autonomy. It's doubtful the newcomer, or Porsche, could catch up to the treasure trove of real-world driving data that Tesla's Autopilot has been able to stockpile over the years.
In addition, if you've been keeping track of Tesla's constant software updates, you already know how much of an advantage Tesla has in terms of software over both cars and, for that matter, basically anything else on the road.
So when are these cars hitting the streets? Well... Porsche Taycan is the only car mentioned here that is actually in production. While the Lucid and the Tesla are scheduled for mid-2021 and late-2021 respectively, anything can happen in that timespan that might set back the date.
Lucid is currently building up their factory and production hiccups could set back the release date of the Air Grand Touring. The same goes for the Plaid Model S but Tesla seems to be getting better at meeting their targeted launch dates.
So who's the winner? It depends on your criteria. That said, all three cars are something that EV enthusiasts should be incredibly proud of. These are all stunning, stellar-performing, long-range EVs which serve as "halo" cars for the whole industry. In the end, the winner will be the air we all breathe.
An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.