At VIR, a modified Tesla Model S Plaid outperforms a Porsche Taycan Turbo S.

A Model S Plaid equipped with aftermarket brakes lapped VIR's Grand Course in 2:50.7 seconds–4.5 ticks faster than the production Taycan Turbo S we tested.

  • A modified 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid lapped Virginia International Raceway's Grand Course in 2:50.7 seconds.
  • That's 4.5 seconds faster than our 2021 Lightning Lap time with a production Porsche Taycan Turbo S.
  • Although the Model S Plaid was equipped with aftermarket carbon-ceramic front brakes and was driven by a professional, it was equipped with standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.

Teslas have long been known to be absurdly quick in a straight line, but they have never truly shone when forced to turn a hot lap. Until now, Porsche's all-electric phenom, the four-door Taycan, has been reserved for this level of performance. The tables have flipped, as a Tesla Model S Plaid recently set a faster unofficial lap time around a major racetrack than a Porsche Taycan Turbo S.

Carmine Cupani's privately owned '22 Model S Plaid on stock Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber lapped VIR's Grand Course in 2:50.7, according to a video posted on Cupani's YouTube channel. While this is an incredible achievement, it is not directly comparable to our Lightning Lap results, as we only run stock production vehicles, whereas the Tesla is obviously modified.

Nonetheless, the Plaid's time is faster than the 2:55.2 lap time we set last year with a production 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S during the Lightning Lap. The 4.5 ticks that separate the Tesla from the Porsche are particularly impressive in light of the fact that a 2016 Model S P85D we attempted to run at VIR several years ago was unable to complete a single lap at full power, let alone set a record. Cupani told Car and Driver in a phone interview that the Plaid's Track mode was instrumental in breaking the record because it effectively cooled the battery and electric motors during each 20-minute session. In Track mode, he stated that the Plaid's enormous power felt more manageable and the accelerator's responses felt more linear.

It all happened at Car and Driver's track-day event at VIR on March 15, which allowed regular people to put their driving skills to the test on the same Grand Course configuration used for our annual Lightning Lap. Cupani had his friend and professional driver Johan Schwartz set the record lap in the Model S Plaid. Between track sessions, the two would drive to the nearest Tesla Supercharger, approximately 25 minutes from VIR, spend another 40 minutes charging, and then return, all the while discussing various strategies for defeating the Taycan.

Schwartz, as demonstrated in the video, drives the Model S Plaid expertly around the Grand Course, including one sphincter-clenching moment when disaster nearly struck. Schwartz can be seen climbing the esses at approximately 120 mph at the 1:03-minute mark of the video, when he nearly loses control. Schwartz frantically saws at the Tesla's much-maligned yoke for a split second before miraculously saving the car and the lap. "I was shitting my pants while watching that video," Cupani nervously admitted over the phone.

Cupani's modifications to the Tesla are also detailed in the three-minute video posted on YouTube today. The Model S Plaid appears to be equipped with Unplugged Performance's carbon-ceramic front brake kit, which Cupani claims features smaller rotors and calipers than Tesla's rumored $20,000 carbon-ceramic brake package. Additionally, the video claims that the rear calipers and rotors are stock. As previously stated, the wheel and tire combination is said to be stock, consisting of 21-inch Arachnid wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, which are currently available as part of a $4500 Model S package.

The price of the '22 Model S Plaid starts at $131,440. It is the first Tesla to feature three electric motors (one up front and two in the rear), which together generate 1020 horsepower and 1050 pound-feet of torque. The version we drove reached 60 mph in 2.1 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 9.4 seconds at a top speed of 151 miles per hour. By comparison, a 2022 Taycan Turbo S starts at $186,350 and features a 750-horsepower dual-electric motor configuration with a unique two-speed transmission. Our most recent Taycan Turbo S reached 60 mph in 2.4 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 10.5 ticks at 130 mph.

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