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Tesla Model S Plaid 2022 officially sets Nurburgring EV lap record

John Law

The Tesla Model S set a blistering lap time around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, becoming officially the fastest EV ever to lap the 20.8km racetrack.

The 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in a time of 7:35.9 minutes, making it the fastest electric vehicle ever to complete a timed lap.

This is a historic moment for Tesla who has proven its electric four-door sedan is among the very fastest out there, both in a straight line and against one of the industry’s most important yardsticks.

Tesla Model S PLaid 2022
Tesla has proven the Model S Plaid is more than a one-trick pony.

The Model S Plaid easily bested its closest EV rival, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S (unofficially timed at 7:42 minutes) and combustion-engined vehicles like the Porsche Panamera.

No doubt that’s down to the Plaid’s absurd 761kW power figure generated by three electric motors that allow all-wheel-drive with infinite torque vectoring. 

In fact not a single four-door vehicle on sale right now comes close to Tesla’s sub 2-second 0-100km/h time, but of course, a Nordschleife time is about more than just straight line speed. 

Tesla Model S PLaid 2022-4
The unconventional ‘yoke’ steering device didn’t seem to hinder its lap time.

The testing 20.8km lap sees drivers – in this case Andreas Simonsen – push production cars to the absolute limit for bragging rights. Despite the unconventional ‘yoke’ steering device, Simonsen did a fine job hustling the four-door EV around the circuit.

Why are there two lap times?

Before analysing the lap we need to demystify the two times Tesla posted to twitter. The slower of the two, 7:35.9 minutes, is the time officially recognised by the Nurburgring and takes in the whole 20.8km track.

The faster, 7:30.9 minute record is an old standard that begins at the normal start-finish line, but with the clock stopping just on the exit of ‘T13’, dropping the length to 20.6km

Tesla Model S Plaid 2022 Nurburgring times
Tesla posted this image to twitter showing a pair of times, but the Model S only completed one record lap.

This standard was used by German automotive magazine Sport Auto for testing until 2019 as it is more repeatable and cuts out some of the danger and inconsistency associated with braking for the first turn. 

Tesla did not complete two flying laps, instead the time was included to give pundits an accurate way to compare the Model S Plaid’s time to historical records as we have below.

How did the Model S Plaid manage its lap time? 

We benchmarked the lap of a super saloon against the Model S Plaid to see how the Tesla stacks up. Sport Auto achieved a 7:29.5 minute time in the 467kW/750Nm BMW M5 CS over the 20.6km circuit, putting it a breath ahead of the Plaid.

With the M5 CS clocking a 28km/h faster speed down the back straight – 297km/h vs. 269km/h – the Tesla’s lap time is put into perspective. The comparative speeds provide an insight into where the Tesla gained and lost time. If you haven’t done so yet, make sure to watch the full Tesla lap here.

Tesla Model S Plaid 2022 Nurburgring 3
You can see just how fast the Tesla accelerates to 200km/h – images from Tesla and Sport Auto.

Let’s jump right ahead to Döttinger Höhe (the really long straight). The Tesla hits the apex of the last corner at 142km/h to the M5’s 151km/h, but when the Simonsen hits the gas in the Tesla, the Plaid gets to 200km/h about 50m sooner than the M5.

Back at the start you can see that Simonsen is lifting off the throttle early in the straights. It isn’t clear if this is to keep the battery temp stable, or not overload the standard brakes. 

Tesla Model S plaid 2022 nurburgring
A speed comparison between the Model S and BMW M5 CS – images from Tesla and Sport Auto.

At the sweeping right hander down the hill after Nordkehre, the Plaid takes a conservative entry clocking 147km/h at the apex, 8km/h slower than the M5 CS.

Jumping to the most famous section of the Nurburgring, the Karussell, the M5 CS hits 171km/h on the short straight just before the braking point. The Tesla, meanwhile, hits 178km/h almost 100m sooner before coasting into the braking zone.

Tesla Model S Plaid 2022 Nurburgring 2
The Model S Plaid hits a higher speed before coasting to the braking zone to conserve its brakes – images from Tesla and Sport Auto.

The Model S Plaid is blisteringly fast in very different places to your average Nordschleife record holder. Where the M5 CS clearly has more front-end bite from the sticky tyres and negative camber added by the M division, the 2,500kg Model S vectors its torque on exit to devastating effect.

Was the Model S Plaid standard?

According to Tesla, yes. Unlike Porsche’s record-setting Cayenne Coupe Turbo GT, Tesla chose not to change any aspects of its Model S Plaid for the record attempt. The car completed the lap on relatively sticky, but ultimately road-focused Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres with no roll cage or aero modifications

Tesla Model S PLaid 2022-2
The Model S Plaid may not be an out-and-out track racer, but its speed is still impressive.

‘Technoking of Tesla’, Elon Musk, hinted that the time could fall further with carbon ceramic brakes, an aero package and some track-focused tyres.

The comparison to the BMW M5 CS – itself 5 seconds faster than the M5 Competition – echoes Musk’s thoughts, suggesting there’s time left on the table for future attempts.