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New Tesla Models Kill the Gear Shift in Major Overhaul

The interior of a Tesla Model S, with 'The Witcher 3' playing on the infotainment system.


Tesla wants to fix its inferior interiors on both the Model S and Model X, a welcome change for expensive cars. But while the new design is mostly a step up, the jury’s out on the Knight Rider style steering wheel and the lack of turn signals or gear shift.

The new “Plaid” redesign is the first for the Model S since it launched in 2012. The name is likely a reference to Spaceballs and a follow up to Ludicrous speed. That’s in part because a properly configured Model S can now achieve 0 to 60 mph in less than two seconds. Tesla says it earned that new stat thanks to a lower drag coefficient from the newly redesigned exterior and a new powertrain.

A red Tesla Model S car.

Side by side, you’ll find yourself playing “spot the difference” when it comes to the new Model S exterior design, and the Model X sees no changes at all. The new standard glass roof is likely a welcome change. The interior is a different story, however, and the differences are immediately noticeable.

A butterfly-shaped steering wheel.

The steering wheel is among the most notable changes. Gone is the usual circle-style steering wheel you’ll find in most cars, and in its place is a new “butterfly steering wheel.” It looks like something out of a Formula One car or Knight Rider. The thumbwheels are likely a welcome addition, but what you won’t find are any stalks, not even a turn signal or a shifter.

Instead, according to Elon Musk’s tweet, the car will guess drive direction based on obstacles it can see, context, and the navigation map. You can override with the touchscreen. When you’re parked in a space and can only reverse, the Tesla should notice and shift for you when you tap the gas. “Should” being the keyword.

Another noticeable change is the touchscreen. Tesla ditched the Portrait view screen and went horizontal, much like the Model 3. You’ll still get a second screen in place of Odometers, however. Thanks to updated internals, it can play more games than before, like Witcher 3. You can even pair up a wireless controller. And now the rear-seat passengers get a touchscreen for entertainment too.

The rear seats of a Tesla Model S, featuring a new touch screen option.

The Model S comes in three pre-configured levels now, standard, “Plaid,” and “Plaid+.” It starts at $79,990 and naturally goes up. But paying for more gets you faster speeds and longer drive times. While the standard model 412 mile range, the Plaid+ can achieve 520 miles. Similarly, the standard version has a top speed of 155 mph, while the Plaid and Plaid+ can reach 200 mph, albeit with “the right tires.”

The Model X starts at $84,690 and steps up to $114,690 for the Plaid version. You can order the newly updated vehicles today, though the Model S won’t deliver till March, and you’ll wait till April for the Model X.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »