Tesla Model S ‘Refresh’ test vehicle interior: New Steering Wheel, Touchscreen, HVAC system

Credit: Tesla Owners Club of Michigan | Facebook

The first images of the Tesla Model S “Refresh” have landed online, after a person in Toledo, Ohio, spotted the newly-designed sedan at the Toledo Service Center. After speaking with Service Center employees, it has been confirmed that this is a test vehicle. However, images show that the Model S interior is here, and preliminary designs are in the works.

Upon the release of the Q4 2020 Earnings Call Update Letter, Tesla released new photographs of the Model S interior. Rumors that Tesla’s flagship sedan was going to be subjected to a “refresh” were spinning through the rumor mill since December 2020, after the company shut down production lines of the Model S and Model X at the Fremont factory. The vehicle was then spotted at the Fremont Test Track by Teslarati and the Kilowatts, further confirming that Tesla was revamping its flagship vehicle.

While exterior photos showed some changes, many were interested in whether Tesla would modify the interior design. It did, after confirming some new features in photographs that were included in the Q4 2020 Shareholder Deck. A new Yoke Steering wheel, horizontal touchscreen, and rear passenger screen were all included, along with modifications to the vehicle’s HVAC design, center console, and others.

Tesla teases Model S Plaid with refreshed interior: New touchscreen, Roadster steering wheel, and more

Now, new images have surfaced of the Model S interior, thanks to Tom of the Tesla Owners Club of Michigan Facebook group. These photographs were then shared to the r/TeslaMotors Subreddit.

Credit: Tesla Owners Club of Michigan | Facebook

It appears that Tesla’s Yoke Steering Wheel will be optional and can be equipped with a new steering column design. The new steering wheel is noticeably different than past Model S steering wheels. The center of the wheel seems to have a cap for the horn instead of the past one-piece design that has been used.

As far as the Yoke design, the NHTSA has told Teslarati on several occasions that it will work with the automaker on the regulations regarding steering wheel shape. The Yoke has been approved in several other countries, but the NHTSA still hasn’t confirmed whether it will be allowed or not.

The NHTSA told Teslarati:

“At this time, NHTSA cannot determine if the steering wheel meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. We will be reaching out to the automaker for more information.”

It also appears that this vehicle is undergoing some kind of testing as there are plenty of exposed wires and labels on the interior. Tesla has been known to test upcoming vehicles in a number of different conditions, including snow. Several past vehicle prototypes have run spirited drives in challenging, snowy conditions ahead of their releases. The Model Y and Semi are just two of them.

Tom, the original poster in the Facebook Group, stated that:

“Model S refresh test vehicle spotted at the Toledo service center!! Sorry for the crummy photos. Best I could do at the time. Also, yoke steering wheel confirmed as option, by service staff!!”

Credit: Tesla Owners Club of Michigan | Facebook

Tesla is currently producing the refreshed Model S and Model X at the Fremont Factory, and has contacted orderers about their possible delivery dates. One Model X reservation holder told Teslarati earlier this month that his planned delivery date is between February 15th and March 15th, meaning that the new vehicles could be rolling into customer driveways any day now.

Tesla’s Crash Testing History in Ohio

While unclear for the exact reasoning that Tesla sent a Model S Refresh to Ohio, there is some history with Tesla’s soon-to-be-released cars in the state. In 2017 before the Model 3 was officially released and began deliveries, Tesla sent almost 100 Model 3s to Central Ohio for crash testing.

According to @Model3Owners, Tesla was sending the Model 3s to an independent crash safety testing facility, run by the Transportation Research Center‘s “Smart Mobility Advanced Research Test Center,” a $45 million facility that sits on 540 acres. Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Transportation both donated at least $20 million to the facility that tests a wide variety of crash scenarios for automakers.

With the Model S having a new design, it is possible that Tesla could be sending the new car, along with several others, to the Transportation Research Center facility to test its performance in accidents. While the Model S already holds a five-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA, the slightly refined body design could need some additional research from Tesla to keep its great reputation for making safe vehicles.

Tesla Model S ‘Refresh’ test vehicle interior: New Steering Wheel, Touchscreen, HVAC system
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