Tesla Interiors, Battery Updated for Model S, Model X

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Tesla interiors are new for '21 Model S and Model X.
High-tech minimalist” might best describe the new interior scheme for the Tesla Model S and Model X./Tesla

Save for the new all gloss black door handles and window surrounds in place of chrome, the refreshed Tesla Model S and Model X haven’t changed much – but inside, with the Tesla interiors, it’s a far different story.

The new Model S and Model X get all-new interiors designed around the idea that if less is more, even less has got to be better.

[A 3-min. read]

Take a good look, especially at the dash and controls. Given the mainstream auto industry’s penchant for copying from the trendsetters, this may be what most car and crossover interiors will be looking like by the end of the decade.

Outside First

But before we go inside, a quick look at what’s changed outtside.

Tesla doesn’t do complete redesigns, chosing instead to go with a gentle refresh of the fairly timeless body style it introduced with the first Model S in 2012 and adapted to the Model X when it decided an electric crossover was just what the market needed.

So toss out the chrome and replace it with gloss black, add new tires and wheels and a make the panoramic glass roof standard.

Then go for parts that can’t been seen but that affect the overall user experience:

Underneath the floor of the refreshed models is a redesigned battery pack – reportedly still using the original Model S’ cylindrical 18650 format cells instead of the new 4680 format cells unveiled last year. While the cells are the same, Tesla said the improved design provides for better thermal management, which translates to quicker charging times and the ability to mash the pedal to the floor for repeated speed runs without overheating the battery.

Pricing and Availability

Tesla showed the updated Model S earlier this month, unveiling the triple motor, all-wheel drive Model S Plaid with range of up to 520 miles, a 200-mph top speed and “beyond Ludicrous” 0-60 acceleration of 1.99 seconds.

(“Plaid” and “Ludicrous” are both speed-referencing terms taken from a chase scene in Mel Brooks’ 1987 sci-fi comedy “Spaceballs.”)

Performance comes with a price, though. While the dual-motor, AWD Model S Long Range with up to 412 miles of range starts at $79,990 before any incentives, the super-quick, ultra long distance Model S Plaid + trim will set you back a cool $139,000 to start. The regular Model S Plaid, with the same performance as the Plaid + but only 390 miles of range, starts at $119,000.

The refreshed Model X crossover come in the same two trim levels – Long Range and Plaid (there’s not word on a Plaid + variant) – with the dual motor AWD Long Range delivering up to 360 miles of range and starting at $89,990 before incentives. The Model X Plaid, with three motors, all-wheel drive, 2.5-second 0-60 acceleration, 163 mph top speed and up to 340 miles of range,starts at $119,990.

Those New Tesla Interiors

Tesla interiors.
The new center screen is showing heating, ventilation and air conditioning information while the driver info screen displays car’s on-road position./TNew interior scheme for Tesla Model S and Model Yesla

Now for the insides.

The centerpiece of the new Tesla interiors might be the steering wheel, which is no longer a standard, round wheel but a squat rectangular device that resembles the pilot’s control yolk in an aircraft. There are no turn signal or windshield wiper stalks, and while there are lots of controls embedded in the wheel, not much is visible.

Instead of a myriad little buttons and tiny toggle switches to control things like the audio system and voice recognition,Tesla is using hidden haptic touch pads – Apple users will know them as Force Touch buttons. Functions assigned to the haptic touch pads appear to be – form the icons in the photos Apple has posted – left and right turn signals, horn, high beams, Autopilot, windshield wipers and and voice commands.

The new wheel also has two small rotary thumbwheels that control HVAC and driver information and infotainment systems.

The flat bottom seems designed to let the driver’s hands rest easily om the wheel – maintaining that necessary physical touch – while Tesla’s unfortunately named AutoPilot automated driving system does much of the work. There is a report that the system has even been upgraded to take over shifting chores – not like a traditional automatic but to place the car in reverse when it is time to back up, back into drive when its time to go forward and even into park when that’s required.

Tesla also has taken the massive vertical infotainment touchscreen that debuted with the Model S and remounted it as a horizontal screen in the center of the dash. It can tilt left or right, to favor driver or front seat passenger as needed.

Tesla interiors, rear view.

The driver still has a vehicle information screen to look at – unlike the Model 3 and Model Y, which have put everything on the central infotainment screen. And now rear seat passengers have their own screen, mounted on the back of the center console, for gaming and video watching.

Speaking of gaming, Tesla said the refreshed S and X have 10-teraflop gaming computers that can be used with wireless controllers.

In the rear, the fold-down centerboard has cup holders, a padded armrest and inductive chargers for smartphones.

The rear seat backs have more recline, and Tesla said there’s more rear legroom.

The updated Model S and Model X also have the interior cabin camera introduced with the Model 3, and also have interior radar for occupant and theft detection.