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Recent Rumors Suggest That 2021 Tesla Model S/X Refresh Could Come As Early As March

There has been a lot of talk about Tesla Model S and X getting a design refresh. Both these vehicles are at the higher-end of the spectrum of Tesla’s vehicular lineup. The flagship sedan and SUV last received a major design update back in 2016, and are overdue for a refresh now.

2021 Model S Refresh
Credit – loic3ldrawing

Tesla Model S and X Disappear From Showrooms; Hints Towards Upcoming New Design

According to the latest rumors in the EV community, Tesla Model S and X are now nowhere to be seen in showrooms. The showrooms currently only consist of Model 3 and Y. This might hint towards the possibility of the expected “refreshed” design coming soon.

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The news came to light after ‘Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley’ posted an image on Twitter of the Stanford shopping mall. The picture only shows Model 3 and Model Y in the showroom. A Twitter user named Ryan Zohoury also tweeted that the two premium models are unavailable for test drive either.

Another interesting thing is that the skateboard design of the Model S, which is a known feature in many a showroom, is also missing. This iconic skateboard design was the design bed for the battery pack and transmission. However, Tesla had announced in October last year that they will be retiring this skateboard design. Instead, the new vehicles will feature a structural battery pack, with a robust design keeping in mind the efficiency of the entire unit.

The Tesla Model S/X Update Story

On New Year’s Eve, we reported possibly the biggest hint that Tesla is giving a design update to these two models. Known Tesla hacker “Green” found a reference to ‘S/X P2’ in Tesla’s software documentation. This was related to cabin-facing cameras that the Model 3 and Y have. Model S and X, however, do not have this camera. This hints towards a new piece of hardware that Tesla is bringing to the design refresh.

Earlier in December, Tesla had called for an extended shutdown for the production lines of the Model S and X. This shutdown was in addition to the usual Christmas-time leave that workers get. This extended shutdown suggested a possible upcoming design.

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Finally, a couple of weeks ago, a Tesla Model S was spotted near the intersection of Arastradero Road and Purissima Road in Palo Alto, California. There were some notable changes in the design of this vehicle as compared to the predecessors. It had a wider body, an updated rear diffuser and a new set of wheels. It also had a chrome-deleted trim, something Tesla is making standard in all vehicles starting from Model Y last year.

2021 Tesla Model S Refresh

The Tri-Motor Plaid Version: A Possible Reason Behind The Upgrade

One of the major reasons that Tesla is thinking of an update the Model S design is the launch of the tri-motor Plaid version. The Plaid version of the Model S was introduced last year on Battery Day. This variant will consist of a tri-motor powertrain, and possibly a new structural design for the battery pack. This would mean that the design bed of the tri-motor will have to be changed.

Tesla To Retire Iconic "Skateboard" Design
Tesla Skateboard Design

With Tesla already looking to retire the skateboard design, and the Model S Plaid requiring a new one, it won’t be a surprise if Tesla starts off with the new battery structure on an updated skateboard for the Plaid version. And Tesla is known not to have any hardware differences across variants of a single model. So, most probably, all the variants might receive this updated skateboard design. That is probably why the new Model S spotted in California a couple of weeks ago had a wider stance.

Why The Model S and X Need a Design Update – Our Opinion

The Model S and X are the two oldest designs on a Tesla in the market currently. Model S (launched in 2012) and Model X (2015) last received a significant design update more than fours ago. That is quite a bit of time between hardware changes for any model. In comparison, the Model Y, which Tesla launched last year, has been getting small design updates over the last few months. The Model 3, arguably Tesla’s hottest seller currently, received a design update in October. It was launched just three years ago, which already tells you Tesla’s plans on keeping their cars relevant to the market.

On the contrary, the Model S and X have the same design for quite some time now. With the Model X based on the design of the S, a refresh for the sedan might mean a subsequent update for the SUV too.

Currently, the Model S is one of the hottest electric premium sedans on the market. But the rise of the Porsche Taycan and the Lucid Air might have started bothering Tesla. The Plaid version, of course, is Tesla’s answer to the topmost variants of these two rivals, with record-breaking stats and starting at a lower price too. Surely, a hardware update will also give the Model S an aesthetic appeal, as the premium sedan contest starts getting intense.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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