Is Tesla playing dirty to win the ’Ring?
Let’s face it: there’s something deeply bizarre, if not pathetic, about the upcoming Clash Of The Electric Titan sedans happening at the Nürburgring. The Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S are both downright obese by the standards of normal passenger vehicles; the Model S flirts with the 5000-pound line while the Taycan smashes right through it with a listed weight of 5200 pounds. (The infamous Cadillac Escalade, for comparison, hits the scales at 5578, while the sixth-generation Corvette Z06 was 3130.) And when it comes to timed laps, the old track-coach mantra of “Fat Don’t Fly” applies in spades.
The good news is that the Nordschleife closely resembles a dyno test; much of it is effectively straight, so it’s possible to overcome a weight disadvantage with massive power. The bad news is that you still have to stop and turn that mass, all of which wants to remain in motion. That’s why fun-sized Radicals and whatnot continue to set outstanding ’Ring times despite possessing a relative paucity of power; they don’t murder their tires and brakes.
It’s safe to assume that Tesla’s engineers, many of whom are just plain brilliant, have considered the implications of this for the much-discussed attempt by the Model S to smoke the local-hero Taycan around the Nürburgring. Recent photos provided to Hagerty seem to suggest that they are placing a thumb—maybe even a whole hand—on the scale.
Everybody’s talking about the crude-looking rear spoiler on the Model S. Don’t be fooled by the handmade appearance; that’s likely an indicator that they are fabricating, and re-fabricating, the aero in real time with feedback from the data. Perhaps more important is the fact that the massive HRE wheels have enough space between the spokes to see the characteristic dull sheen of carbon-ceramic brakes.
Carbon-ceramics are a track rat’s nightmare because they are hideously expensive to replace and they have to be weighed, rather than measured, to determine how much life is left in them. But they’re a dream come true for any manufacturer who needs to manage steel-melting temperatures in a brake system—like the kind of temperatures you get when you repeatedly slow a 5000-pound vehicle down from 170 mph or more.
You can get carbon-ceramics on everything from a Ferrari to a sport-utility-vehicle nowadays, but you can’t get them on a Tesla. Will Elon Musk make them a COPO-style secret option just in time for the ’Ring run? The tires, too, are a little unusual—Goodyear F1s. That’s a far cry from the Michelin Primacy low-rolling-resistance “stones” found on most street-going Teslas.
Who will win this battle? It’s impossible to say. In the end, it’s the customers who will win. An increased focus on fun-to-drive electric cars will make a better world for everyone—and if we can somehow get past 0–60 as the be-all and end-all of electric performance that would make some of us very, very happy.