Tesla Inc. launched a high-performance version of its Model S, aiming to reignite interest in the nearly decade-old sedan and fend off rivals such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Lucid Motors in the luxury EV market.
Tesla redefined electric cars in 2012 when it launched its high-end Model S with a sleek design and long driving range, and CEO Elon Musk said the new version, the Model S Plaid, was designed for a future where cars drove themselves.
"This car crushes," Musk said at an evening delivery event held at Tesla's U.S. factory in Fremont, Calif., on Thursday. "Sustainable energy cars can be the fastest cars, be the safest cars, gonna be the most kick-ass cars in every way," he said.
The model is "faster than any Porsche, safer than any Volvo," said Musk, wearing a black leather jacket, after he drove the Model S Plaid down a test track onto the stage.
The launch of the Model S Plaid, which has already been showcased online, has faced delay and some controversy over an expected airplane-style yoke steering wheel.
Musk canceled another variant, Model S Plaid+, which would have had a 33 percent higher driving range than the Model S Plaid and used advanced battery technology, known as 4680 cells.
The Model S Plaid accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in 1.99 seconds and has an estimated driving range of 390 miles (628 km).
While it offers little change in body style, the Plaid charges faster at Tesla supercharger stations, has a roomier back seat and an improved entertainment system.