By on June 18, 2021


Continuing a theme from earlier today, we need to remind you to read beyond the headline.

Especially when someone like Tesla boss Elon Musk makes a claim that seems too good to be true.

You’ve probably heard by now that the Tesla Model S Plaid can hit a 0-60 mph time of 1.99 seconds. But the gang at Motor Trend found that there are a lot of strings attached to that time.

The whole thing’s worth a read, but the short version is this — Tesla wanted MT to test on a surface specifically prepped for drag racing (meaning stickier than regular roads). Furthermore, the car needs to be placed into a drag-strip mode and a launch-control mode needs to be engaged. And you need some time to make this all happen — the drag-strip mode needs eight to 15 minutes to precondition the powertrain and brakes.

So, in order to reach the time Tesla and CEO Elon Musk claimed, you need to accommodate for the special setup.

Tesla tried to claim that any Plaid owners seeking speed will actually use that setup at the drag strip, but MT points the car doesn’t have the safety gear necessary to run at those kinds of speeds, and the launch-control’s timing requirements would leave any driver in the lurch anyway.

To be fair to Tesla, Motor Trend did point out that car still hits 0-60 in close to 2 seconds on a less-sticky surface and that it was consistent in terms of returning fast times. And the previous 0-60 record holder at the magazine was also a Tesla.

So the Plaid is not, in any way, slow. It’s one of the fastest-accelerating cars on the market. Yet Elon Musk overstated the claim because … well, we can only guess why. Probably because under 2 seconds sounds better than “slightly above 2 seconds” and Musk likes to boast.

Still, it’s an unnecessary distortion of the truth. Zero to sixty in almost two seconds is still goddamn fast. Those numbers are almost unfathomable.

Musk needn’t have stretched the truth. Thank God Motor Trend — yes, Motor Trend, of all places — had the resources to poke holes in his claim while keeping perspective. Musk may have misled, but the fact remains the car is ludicrously fast.

[Image: Tesla]

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42 Comments on “That Tesla Model S Plaid 0-60 Time is Bunk...”

  • avatar

    It’s sort of like how people claim Elon Musk was the inspiration for Tony Stark in Iron Man. It’s still really impressive that he’s a gazillionaire entrepreneur who made most of his money by making cool stuff, but “Egomaniacal billionaire douchebag” doesn’t sound quite as good as “superhero.”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “That Tesla Model S Plaid 0-60 Time is Bunk”

    So are EPA fuel economy ratings, because CEO (*name here*) likes to boast.

    Really, almost 400 words – for this?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Big difference in how EPA-testing doesn’t reflect the real world and how OEMs cherry-pick numbers and how Musk stretched the truth. Musk has a huge following, many of them who believe his claims uncritically and/or don’t know a lot about cars, and will take this claim at face value when it isn’t 100 percent accurate.

      • 0 avatar

        When I worked the Concourse Amelia Island about a month ago I ran into several Tesla owners in front of the Lucid Motors stand. Nearly all of them freely spoke with me about how your mileage varies a great deal in Tesla’s and if Tesla is saying something gets 500 miles its really only about 350-375. Most of them had the long range version of their respective cars and all of them said they get less than 280.

        • 0 avatar

          “how your mileage varies a great deal in Tesla’s”

          I’ve had the same issue in every car I’ve ever owned. The difference with the EVs is that it’s less of an issue on a day-to-day basis than the ICE cars. An ICE car with 230 mile range gets annoying really fast since you have to take it someplace to have it fueled. With an EV that charges in the garage over night, it’s not a problem and most of the time you don’t even pay attention to the charge level.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Unless I am 230 miles from that garage when I need to replenish that range

            It doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen often enough that it isn’t just something I could ignore either.

  • avatar

    It’s like the guy with the 10 inch wang saying it’s 10.5 inches.
    Or something like that. I don’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX


    • 0 avatar

      @ajila: I exaggerate about my height. Because of my work in medical research, I have an exact number on my height down to the tenth of an inch. I exaggerate my height by 2/10’s of an inch to round it up to an even number. I lie. Expect an article soon about my height being bunk. Arguably my horrible lie is much worse than Musks since I’m never going to grow that extra 2/10’s of an inch, but the plaid can actually make up that 90 milliseconds by running at a track that uses vht, which does happen. Tracks use VHT. It’s a fact. MotorTrend even confirmed with their own timing that under the right conditions, the plaid can in fact pull a sub 2 second time. It’s not bunk. Yes, MotorTrend and other publications did the right thing in reporting there were certain conditions that were required, and that was good information. But, going as far as calling the time bunk is not something they did and not a true statement.

      • 0 avatar

        It is bunk, because VHT wasn’t the only issue with the claimed time. They also used one foot of rollout. So the sub 2 second time isn’t measuring 0-60, it’s more like 6-60, because the car got the first foot of acceleration “for free.”

        The rollout timing convention is just an artifact of the fact that drag strips use optical timing equipment, but no one pretends that it’s measuring a true 0-60 time. No one except for Tesla, I guess.

  • avatar

    Old Musk knows how to push those old American buttons. Yes sir. All that matters is the zeo to 60 time. Brings out the plonkers every time, nattering away. The fact that the rest of the car is no raving hell matters not a whit.

  • avatar

    Yep, just like how my TV that measures 64.3″ inches from one corner to another is “65” Class.”

    Elon Musk is pretty much the same as every other amoral salesman ever.

  • avatar

    Dodge did the same with the Demon.Tesla does have an asterisk about the rollout, but it’s just about rollout. To be perfectly honest, I was assuming special track prep or perfect conditions. That’s what you’d expect. Just like with dodge and the Demon. There are also special wheels and tires needed for the top speed and Tesla notes that on their website. From what I understand, the tires are a custom design for tesla.

    The Rimac will probably take the quickest accelerating production (although, calling it production is a bit of a stretch_)_car crown from Tesla any day now. That car will be probably run on a specially prepped surface too.

    That’s why it’s a good thing there are sites that do actual testing rather than regurgitate press releases or articles from other sites. Other sources will be youtube channels that will provide actual numbers.

    This write-up is pretty good. Something actually in-depth rather than just repeating what’s reported on other sites:

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s a direct link to the MotorTrend article on the Demon for those that forget. Hey, battery conditioning on the Plaid sounds easier than unbolting seats on the Demon.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      If memory serves, Dodge was much more clear about the Demon needing special prep.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t remember them being any different. Marketing people are marketing people. But why would you think that even for a moment, that they wouldn’t use VHT? Of course they’re going to use it. If you’re trying to break a production car speed record, you’d be incompetent at your job if you didn’t use VHT. Is it massive consumer fraud? No, because it’s a standardized surface used by previous attempts. Besides, in Motortrend’s own testing, the difference was only 90 milliseconds. It’s also legit and not bunk because drag strips do in fact use VHT. As far as preconditioning the car goes, you should be able to do that at the strip ahead of time while you are in line. Then, engage launch mode at the line. At least that’s the way the old system works. Who knows for sure with the new system until we see it in action.

        As far as NHRA safety equipment goes, I always thought that was an aftermarket thing anyway. Tesla is supporting tuners now and Unplugged Performace does have a road course prepped Plaid (including getting rid of the yoke), but I haven’t seen an NHRA option on the order form. I sure they’d do it. Also, Unplugged’s track version should easily do sub-two-second times without VHT.

        Anyway, Rimac is going to take the crown away from Tesla soon, so it’s moot.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So all of the putting the car in certain modes and waiting is fine…that’s at least part of the car. I don’t even mind the cage…that holds true for the Hellcat too and you’d get one pass before the booted you.

    But requiring the road to be prepped is a a little silly. That’s no different than putting slicks on a Hellcat and proclaiming it to be the actual time (real slicks…not DOT approved stuff). Of course it will be faster.

    • 0 avatar

      “But requiring the road to be prepped is a little silly. ”

      Actually, I’ve been thinking about and now it sort of makes sense. If you’re going to have companies claiming 0-60 times, you really want to see a standardized surface. Asphalt itself can be very different from application to application. The surface prep they were using is effectively a standardized surface for comparison. Just like rollout seems to be a standard for comparison as well.

      It’s also like back in the days when we had manual transmissions. The 0-60 times were recorded with professional drivers that knew how to shift. From my experience, most average drivers with manuals didn’t have a chance of coming close to those published speeds. Not getting the shift points right and being glacially slow between shifts. Yeah, you knew it was pro driver, but the other cars had pros too and that was fine for comparison purposes.

      Also, web sites were saying that Tesla doesn’t sell the equipment to make the Plaid NHRA legal, which is true. However, they have started to officially support tuners. While I haven’t seen a drag package, you can order a track modified plaid from a Tesla supported tuner. I’m sure at some point those companies will offer an NHRA package.

      Meanwhile, the one to watch for acceleration is Rimac. Not just because it’s going to take down the Plaid, but part of it’s ability is a feature that should trickle down to everyday vehicles at some point. It has motors driving each wheel independently. So, no brake modulated traction control. Traction control where the exact amount of torque can be metered out to each individual wheel. It’s the biggest electrification feature I’m looking for. Porsche/VW and Hyundai own part of Rimac, so it’s a cool feature that I hope makes it to more common production vehicles. I’d love to drive something like that in snow and ice.

  • avatar

    Musk a snake oil salesman? I’m absolutely shocked.

    What’s next, are you going to tell us that marijuana impairs peoples ability to drive??

    It would be awesome to dive into the other dishonest American car company and how they pencil whip capability numbers of the “best selling truck (despite not being a truck or even a vehicle) for 40+ years.

  • avatar

    Musk loves to his name in the paper.
    Lots of what he says is pure BS. Shut and go home you asshat BSer, level stuff.
    Some things he does are really impressive.

    The key is to have a highly tuned BS detector.
    Self landing rockets? WOW
    Cybertruck as shown. Highly doubtful.
    Steering wheel “YOKE”. Complete and utter garbage. You cannot find a grabbing place on the wheel when you rotate the wheel more than 180 degrees.
    PURE BS. And if you do, you have to look at the wheel to place your hands and take you eyes off the road. TOTAL INSANE BULL.

    So, i barely listen to him. Not worth it. 75% of what he says is BS and 2-4 years away.

  • avatar

    The preconditioning of the battery and motor isn’t really unexpected. The battery and motor work best in certain temp ranges, just like a good old ICE. Take any ICE powered car, start it from cold and do a 0-60 run and guess what it won’t perform at its best. Alternately run it hard and let it sit idling in the sun in high ambient temps and guess what it again won’t run as fast as it can. Then we can factor in altitude as that will also change performance of an ICE vehicle.

    The prep for Cheetah mode is lame though as that shouldn’t take that long to happen, should be done at the same time as the powertrain conditioning and should stay in that mode until turned off.

  • avatar

    I graduated from high school in 1984 and was a subscriber to Car and Driver at the time [print edition – online would not have had pretty pictures back then].

    Here are the quickest cars 0-60 from the 1980’s:

    Pretty stinking quick (and quicker than the 70’s, take that older brother-in-law who was in love with the Miura).

    The Corvette ZR-1 was devastatingly quick at 4.5 seconds 0-60. The flaky un-American Porsche 959 was unbelievably quick at 3.6 seconds using some kind of off-road truck-based sorcery (copying Audi without the interior room?). Anyway, 4.5 seconds was Very Quick for a Real Car.

    Here’s progress since then:

    Hook your peepers on that right-most column, and notice how many of today’s quickest production cars employ some form of electrical propulsion (at higher than 14.3 volts). [Now realize that it is still early days for modern electric and hybrid automobiles.]

    As long as we are listing petty snipes, the team at Motor Trend engage in some significant hand-waving (and lack of prior planning), to wit:

    “The next day at our usual Fontana stomping grounds, we performed our braking and skidpad testing and repeated all but one of the acceleration tests we ran at Famoso. We were unable to run the full quarter mile again, as Fontana requires us to hire EMTs and rescue personnel when our testing might reach high speeds. They also require two weeks’ notice to do so, which we didn’t have. Even so, using our Vbox data from both the prepped surface at Famoso and the unprepped asphalt at Fontana, we could stitch together a reasonable estimate of what the Model S Plaid is capable of in a non-VHT-aided quarter mile.” (Stitching-together, indeed)

    [Read on in the Motor Trend writeup – this vehicle generates higher peak g-forces during acceleration than during braking? That’s crazy.]

  • avatar

    The youtube videos are starting to show up. Here’s a race at a dragstrip against a Doge Challenger. The Plaid driver gives the Doge a head start ad hits the brakes mid track to avoid getting booted, and still wins.

    There were people stripping out the interiors of P100SDs for drag racing. I’m sure these same people will be at it with the Plaid.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    The Plaid is typical Tesla: Some amazing drive train technology marred by poor ergonomics, like the Yoke and lack of stalks.

    They seem to be designing around the idea that most of the time you’ll let the car drive itself, so it’s OK to have to look away from the road to engage turn signals or windshield wipers. Sorry Tesla, but some of us actually enjoy the act of driving, even preferring to shift gears ourselves.

    As for the zero-to-60 time, yes there’s an asterisk after the 1.99 seconds, but who cares? The car is wicked fast, particularly for a sedan that can carry five people plus luggage.

    • 0 avatar

      “The car is wicked fast, particularly for a sedan that can carry five people plus luggage.”

      Problem is, it’s only wicked fast, in situations wickedly irrelevant. Even at 130mph, it’s lucky to go 100 miles before running dry. A little FiST (and that thing goes from econo-car to very much non-econo before 130) is faster beyond that range.

      The whole point of going fast, in a non-racecar, is to get somewhere quickly. Doubly so in a sedan, which noone (at least noone all there) buys simply for the pleasure of driving it. Lope along at 155, and almost wherever you are going, you are not getting there fast, considering all the time spent charging, scheduling around chargers, waiting for them etc.

      And if you are racing, there are plenty of dragsters faster than 2sec to 60….

      Just like previous BEVs, they make lots of sense in close-in driving. Which pretty much means cities, since people in Wyoming rarely limit themselves to only visit the two nearest neighbors who live within 100 miles. In cities, assuming you can charge at home, they are great. But city cars need 750hp about as much as Birds do….

      As a total package the whole thing is no more than a silly who-cares? Which is a large reason why no serious carmaker is all than interested in competing for the Darwin award handed out for “fastest” BEV. Like that similarly quick Croatian thing people are buzzing about, this thing is just an amusement park ride: Put in some money, get tossed around for a few minutes, then go do something else for awhile, while everything is being reset for the next ride. While perhaps feeling like the coolest kid on the block, for having the bucks required for a ride ticket.

      • 0 avatar

        @stuki: “And if you are racing, there are plenty of dragsters faster than 2sec to 60….”

        Yeah, but they have to be trailered and maintenance is a pain.

        “Lope along at 155, and almost wherever you are going, you are not getting there fast, considering all the time spent charging,”

        Where is that? Saudi Arabia? That doesn’t even happen on the autobahn.

        “since people in Wyoming rarely limit themselves to only visit the two nearest neighbors who live within 100 miles. ”

        Cheyenne to Laramie is 50 miles. You can do that in a Leaf. Casper to Cheyenne is 178. That’s easily doable in pretty much any modern EV without stopping to charge.

        “serious carmaker is all than interested in competing for the Darwin award handed out for “fastest” BEV. Like that similarly quick Croatian thing people are buzzing about, this thing is just an amusement park ride: ”

        The Rimac is about much more than speed. Rimac’s main business is selling components. The Nevera is a testbed for their systems. The independent wheel drive system could have huge benefits for improved traction in average vehicles. Hyundai and Porsche own parts of them and eventually we might see its technology trickle down to the masses.

        There is other technology that is developed and tested in extreme vehicles that will eventually benefit the masses. One feature that Tesla needed to develop to get to 200 mph was a lighter weight high rpm carbon wrapped motor. That technology not only has the potential of trickling down and benefitting low end vehicles, but plenty of other devices that could use a lighter weight higher RPM motor, Pushing the limits for speed may seem silly, but it helps advance the state of the art of technology.

        • 0 avatar

          In a car with 700hp, and with a decent chassis and tires, there are plenty of places out West with good enough roads and sightlines to hit 155. Even fairly sustained in spots, once reasonable distant from Donut shops. Which also means, you are 100 miles from fueling stations as well….. I’ve driven/ridden a bit in, and more often through, Germany. Never in a car with 750hp (Though I suppose a bike with 200 is similar). And never without having had the opportunity to hit 155 in spots, even with plenty less power than that. 186 is difficult, although perhaps not in a Rimac with something like 2000hp… But 155 really is not, on any sort of open straight, with 700+hp. If you’re not going to hit 150, why 750hp? In that case, 300 is plenty. I suppose “loping” may be overstating it a bit, but with 750hp, that’s due more to chassis and lack of driver (me) comfort at those speeds, not power.

          As for Wyoming, If you run a shuttle between Laramie and Cheyenne, a few times a day, and that is all you’ll every use your vehicle for, I suppose a BEV may make some sense if you can charge it overnight. Most Wyomingites tend to prefer vehicles which could make it a bit further on occasion, though. Even in their occasionally rather cold winters.

          Both Tesla and Rimac (thanks, I keep forgetting the name….) no doubt are pushing technological boundaries at the top end of their ranges. It takes some pretty clever battery management, cooling and temperature control to take that much power out of batteries, for one. And, as you say, electric drive lines do allow for extremely finely controlled traction control and slip regulation. The problem is that they’re throwing huge amounts of resources, and even brains, at solving problems which don’t exist for any meaningfully realistic use cases outside of “drag racing with weird povertrain restrictions.”

          More problematically, those resources are stolen from productive people (by way of money printing/”asset” appreciation, and special-favor legislation). And are resources which could otherwise have been put to more productive use. Productive as in cost/benefit. Not just benefit in a vacuum, which I have no doubt you are right about both Rimac and Tesla is deriving. But that sort of resources (mis)allocation; throwing other people’s money at childish vanity displays for yahoos on Fed welfare; is exactly why America, and the West, is no longer able to compete at anything more useful. Like building cars, or anything else, which can keep a decent speed for a decent distance, without weighing 9 tons and costing half a million.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    @stuki: So your critique is that range drops at 155 MPH, and dragsters are faster? Pretty weak cheese.

    And Porsche is not a serious auto maker? They all care about bragging rights, even when the performance is not accessible in most driving scenarios. If others are not matching Tesla’s performance, it’s not for lack of trying—they simply don’t yet have the drivetrain technology of Tesla.

  • avatar

    Once upon a time, I cared about speed. It wasn’t all that long ago actually.

    Several brushes with the law where the only thing between me and serious charges was a yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir, attitude coupled with white skin, and the fact that now that COVID is winding down, it is basically impossible to open up a car — anywhere outside of a track — meh.

    0 to 60 for “safe acceleration” is practically a non-issue today with even econoboxes and rollerskate subcompact CUVs able to find 60 from a standstill by 9 seconds.

    I think the only thrust that really matters for day-to-day driving is 30 to 60 and 45 to 70 for passing – that’s about it for 98% of drivers.

  • avatar

    Elon Musk has not invented anything! He has only taken technology that is already out there and marketed it. He is smart in that respect. He is very arrogant.

  • avatar

    Elon Musk has not invented anything! He has only taken technology that is already out there and marketed it. He is smart in that respect. He is very arrogant.

    • 0 avatar

      “Elon Musk has not invented anything! He has only taken technology that is already out there and marketed it. ”

      That’s definitely not true. Tesla has research labs that have produced advances in both batteries and motors. Maybe you could point me to a link where I could buy a carbon-wrapped Halbach effect motor from a company other than Tesla? How about the tabless technology in the 4680 batteries? Who else was using that? Show me some links.

  • avatar
    • 0 avatar

      Community Service Moment:

      To post a youtube link on TTAC, look down below the video [current youtube format; they’ll probably change it 20 minutes from now] and click on the “→ SHARE” text. Then hit the “COPY” button and you have a link which should survive the posting process.

      Bonus: To link to a specific start point in the video, select the “Start at…” check box; you can adjust the time here in minutes and seconds (or by changing the “t=” figure in the link, here listed in seconds only).

      [Someone (not me) should also post a “How To” on which specific “Reply” button to use in which circumstances (to reply to a specific post and to avoid posting to the wrong article, which is easy to do with the current setup).]

  • avatar

    Kinda surprised to see Motor Trend criticize anything new. Usually, they wait until the next model has come out and you’re 22 payments in before they confess as to how lousy it was!

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