Hagerty put the Tesla Model S Plaid up against two of the quickest gasoline sedans on the market, the BMW M5 CS and Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, at Willow Springs International Raceway in California.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Tesla Model S is the world’s quickest car, and how electric vehicles have dominated at the drag strip for ten years. Bench racers have always maintained that “electric cars are only fast in a straight line,” and that battery weight and overheating keep them from reaching other performance levels.
Electric vehicles were still less efficient at the time, but they have gradually eroded these misconceptions. Tesla recently achieved a 7:35.579 lap around the Nürburgring, establishing a new record and approaching the gas four-door sedan performance record. However, Tesla is yet looking for more, if it can be obtained, and appears to want to beat all four-door car competitors.
However, in a more level test, Hagerty discovered that the quickest gas sedans are not even comparable to the fastest electric cars on a full lap, not just in a straight line. Take a look:
Pobst broke the Willow Springs lap record for four-door sedans three times in a row, with the M5 shattering the previous record first, followed by the Blackwing and then the Model S, making them the three quickest sedans to ever visit this course.
The previous record was held by the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, which claims to be the fastest sedan ever, however it’s a largely modified, limited-edition race-focused package that doesn’t belong in the same class as other driveable sedans. Around Willow Springs, all three of these machines outperform it.
The lead fluctuates a few times during the lap. The Model S begins with a lead due to its greater straight-line speed, however it loses ground throughout the first twisty sections owing to its heavier weight.
Pobst was highly critical of the Model S’s brakes, which he said didn’t inspire much confidence. He’d just gotten out of the previous two cars, both of which weighed 600 pounds less, so the Model S’s brakes must feel heavy and in corners to him. But when he has a chance to floor it, Pobst giggles with delight, and the Plaid rockets ahead of its rivals on each straight.
It’s also worth noting that the Model S isn’t a race car. It doesn’t have the “track mode” of the Model 3 Performance (yet?) and lacks many of the track-specific modifications seen in more “racey” cars. There’s no quick way to turn off the stability control system in the Model S, which hinders skilled drivers.
After all this, it’s no surprise that Cadillac will be the last new gas-powered vehicle on the market. For all their efforts, their fastest automobile to date has yet to overcome an electric California startup’s first track-ish sedan.