Automotive

Tesla takes on Porsche with superfast 'Plaid Mode'

Elon Musk wants to top all automakers

PALO ALTO, Calif. - When Porsche said it set a speed record with its new Taycan electric car, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, wasn't about to just sit there and take it. He quickly tweeted that Tesla has something in the works that would enable its cars to outdo even Porsche. It's called Plaid Mode.

Many Tesla cars already offer Ludicrous Mode, which is quicker than the previously available Insane Mode. Using Ludicrous Mode, a Tesla Model S can scurry from a dead stop to 60 miles an hour in less than 2.5 seconds.

Plaid Mode will be faster than Ludicrous Mode and is expected to be available in about a year. It will use three electric motors rather than the two currently in vehicles equipped with Ludicrous, and will be available on Tesla's Model S, X and, later, in the Roadster, Musk has Tweeted.

The names Ludicrous Mode and Plaid Mode are taken from the movie Spaceballs, a 1987 parody of Star Wars directed by Mel Brooks. In Star Wars, when spaceships entered "hyperspace" and were traveling faster than the speed of light, the movie screen filled with streaks of smeared starlight. In Spaceballs, a spaceship could go so fast that the streaks of lights became plaid.

Porsche set off Musk's recent spate of Plaid-related tweets by claiming the fastest lap ever by a four-door electric car on Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife. It's a famously challenging 13-mile racetrack on which automakers often test their cars and compare lap times for bragging rights. The Taycan covered it in seven minutes and 42 seconds.

Porsche's point in recording a fast lap time was to show that its car had performance capabilities beyond just zero to 60 acceleration. Quick acceleration over short distances is relatively easy to achieve in an electric car, but there's much more to being a performance car. That includes being able to corner fast with ease and to withstand aggressive driving for many miles. This last factor is important because electric car batteries and motors can overheat and give out under prolonged aggressive driving.

"For us, actually having a decent time on the Nürburgring is important because that's a way to measure where we are for us, internally, but also for the world outside us," Klaus Zellmer, CEO of Porsche North America, said in a recent interview.

On September 5, the same day Porsche revealed the Taycan and boasted of its lap time, Musk tweeted that Tesla would bring a Model S to the Nürburgring. A few days later, Tesla tweeted that a Model S equipped with new Plaid Mode had set an unofficial record on California's Laguna Seca track.

Another milestone seemed to have occurred in Germany, too. On Tuesday, Road & Track, citing an unnamed eyewitness with a timer, reported that a highly modified Tesla Model S had lapped the Nordschleife, or North loop, in just seven minutes and 23 seconds, nearly 20 seconds faster than the Taycan. Other publications, including the German magazine, Auto Motor Und Sport, also wrote about the lap.

The lap times aren't entirely comparable, though, because Porsche's record lap was in a final production version of the Taycan Turbo, while the Tesla was apparently a test car, not a street-legal production car. Much of its interior had been removed, making the car lighter, for instance, according to media reports.

Porsche declined to comment on the reports about Tesla's lap. Tesla also declined to comment.

The same day the reports came out, Musk tweeted that the upcoming Tesla Roadster will beat the overall record for any car, electric or gas, on the Nürburgring Nordshschleife. So now, it seems, Tesla is going after everyone.


Editor Notes

This Just In