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Tesla's new Model S has over 1,000 horsepower and a bizarre half-steering wheel

With a radically-new interior design and a 200 MPH top speed, an 1,100 horsepower version supposedly arriving later this year, Tesla's long-awaited redesign is sure to be a controversial one

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After reporting less-than-stellar fourth-quarter earnings late Wednesday afternoon, Tesla unveiled its long-rumored Model S and X refresh. With exterior changes limited to largely insignificant bulges on the bumpers, it's the massive interior changes that will be dividing opinions here.

The Model S' interior has stayed largely unchanged since its 2012 debut, and it's long been one of the biggest qualms reviewers have had with the car.

But that's unlikely to change with Tesla's latest interior rendition:

Tesla

Tesla

Now, don't get me wrong. The Model S and X interiors have been long overdue for an overhaul. Nevertheless, the relative restraint and simplicity we've grown used to over the past nine years has been replaced by an interior that is the embodiment of Tesla's irreverence for tradition.

In place of the rather spartan-looking interior of the old Model S sits a design that will soon be known as one of the biggest automotive gaffes of all times.

First off - that steering wheel.

Tesla

Tesla

There's a reason circles have been the status quo for over a century, and Tesla's insistence upon uprooting common sense bodes well for the aftermarket.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH A WHEEL?!?!?

There is no situation in which an airplane yoke works well in a road-car. Nobody buying a Model S is a 747 pilot, and basic maneuvers such as parallel parking, lane changes, and casual driving are now a near-impossibility.

This new "wheel" design will doubtlessly become a point of contention for customers. Luxury car buyers are notorious for being sticklers when it comes to small things such as cupholders, door handles, and even the positioning of volume knobs.

Mercedes S-Class customers will not forgive a poorly-built airplane yoke without indicator or wiper stalks if they can't forgive poorly-placed cupholders. Likewise, I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla quickly walks back this design in favor of a more traditional wheel.

Other interior changes bring the Model S much closer to the entry-level Model 3. With similar climate control, center console, and screen orientation, I wouldn't be surprised if this new design is saving Tesla significant money in the production overhead department.

However, features unique to the far-more-expensive Model S are a new display for the rear-seat passengers, as well as a redesigned second row with a more-premium-looking rear-seating split.

Lastly, the performance options have been somewhat upended for this 2021.5 model year.

Tesla

Tesla

The base $80,000 "Long Range" Model S remains relatively unchanged, touting a 412-mile range and a stout 0-60 time of just 3.1 seconds.

In place of the old "Performance" variant stands an all-new tri-motor "Plaid" variant. Starting at just under $120,000, the "mid-priced" Model S is reported to have just over 1,000 horsepower, a 1.99 second 0-60 time, and a range of 390 miles.

The absolute king of the hill is the "Plaid +." Coming in at just under $140,000, this Model S is the most impressive yet. A claimed range of over 520 miles, a 200 mph top speed, and a sub-two-second 0-60 makes for quite the package. Yet, there's a caveat. This is quite clearly the same "Plaid" Model S that we've seen testing at the NΓΌrburgring, and Elon Musk previously said that we could expect to see it in showrooms by "Fall 2020." Yet, the delivery date on Tesla's website says "Estimated Delivery: Late 2021."

Combine this with the nearly 150-mile range jump from the mid-level "Plaid," it's quite probable that Tesla is banking on having some radically new battery/cooling tech ready by the end of this year. Technology which is likely holding the "2020 Roadster" back from being released.

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