Tesla Model S and X Refresh Coming in 2018?

Update: March 18, 2018 – Tesla has updated the Media Control Unit (MCU) hardware on new Model S and X vehicles to provide a faster and more responsive touchscreen using Intel hardware, bringing it up-to-par with the Model 3.

Will there be a Tesla Model S and X update coming in 2018? Now that the Telsa Model 3 has arrived and the Semi has been revealed, we have a solid grasp of the new Telsa design language and technology being deployed to future vehicles.  Read on as we break down the potential areas that may be updated and the latest information based on everything we know.

Should You Wait to Purchase a Model S or X?

The new design and technology refinements might just be enough to make prospective Model S or X owners wait for the inevitable refresh, particularly since the Model S hasn’t been significantly refreshed in over six years.  Will the refresh happen in 2018?  Given the Model 3 production challenges, we doubt it, but here are some hints of potential things to come in the future.

Here’s what Tesla stated in the Q4 2017 Earnings Announcement in February 2018:

“We expect Model S and Model X gross margins to increase in 2018 with improved trim mix and option content, lower cost of acquisition and lower manufacturing costs.”

At the very least, they will be tweaking the trim and options, what that means exactly is anyone’s guess.  However, Elon further said:

“I think we feel pretty good about the 100,000 a year [volume TARGETS] for S and X, and we want to focus on just improving the efficiency of production and gross margin.”

Which means the focus will be on improving efficiency, rather than significant new features. To help you decide whether you should buy now or wait, we break down each of the components so you can make your own decision and even include a couple pro/con videos below.

New Interior

The most obvious change on the Model 3 is the minimalist interior.  Key changes include:

  • Sweeping, minimalist dashboard with a single programmable vent
  • No instrument cluster by the steering wheel
  • A horizontally mounted screen, powered by faster Intel chips
Model 3 Interior
Model X Interior

This will be personal preference, of course.  Some may like the vertical (and less obtrusive) nature of the current S and X layout, including the instrument cluster.  Other may like the clean, minimalist design of the Model 3 and will feel the current S and X interiors look dated.  Our guess is that the S and X will likely get a layout similar to the 3 in future years (not anytime soon) but with a heads-up display to replace the instrument cluster.

Horizontal Screen

We also assume that Tesla will, over time, standardize on the horizontal screen design (it remains to be seen if the new Roadster will really keep a vertical screen, as shown in the prototype).  Also, the new Model 3 screen is powered faster Intel chips for the infotainment system, is more responsive, has a modern UI, and generally has a crisper-looking display than on the S and X.  Update: As of mid-March 2018, Tesla has begun rolling out the faster Intel hardware to Model S and X vehicles as well.

Internal Camera

There’s also an intriguing internally facing camera mounted on the rearview mirror of the Model 3.  It is not currently active and most people assume it will be either used to monitor the driver during Autopilot usage and/or allow users to see the interior of the car when it is used in the future autonomous ride-sharing network.

We’re just guessing here, but this is probably a feature most people will not waiting for!

Keyless Entry with Mobile App and Keycard

One of the more interesting features of the Model 3 is that they ditch they key and only use Tesla app and a backup RFID keycard to unlock the car. With the app, the car will automatically unlock and lock, depending on the proximity of your phone.  Personally, we’d love to ditch the bulky key, and have fewer things to carry around.  Update: As of mid-March 2018, rumors have it that Tesla is now including this functionality for new Model S and X vechiles as well (unconfirmed).

New Battery Technology – More Range and Faster Charging

Probably one of the biggest advances is the use of new battery technology in the Model 3.  The Model 3 uses the new 2170 format Lithium-ion batteries which replace the older 18650 batteries.  The new 2170s are larger, lighter and can deliver more power, allowing the Model 3 to have world-class range.

What does this mean for the Model S and X?  If the battery pack can be replaced with these newer cells, expect more range and faster charging at a cheaper price.  However, here’s what Jeffrey B. Straubel, CTO of Tesla said on the February 2018 call regarding the use of 2170s in the Model S and X:

“It’s something we’ve of course contemplated, but it’s quite a large change to the architecture of the module and the battery pack overall. And while the 18650 supply is somewhat of a cap at about 100,000 units per year, even just a few months ago we didn’t feel that expanding and making some long-term bets on expanding that supply with Panasonic in Japan was really the right risk.”

What that means is that replacing the current 18650s with 2170s is a big change and they have a contract with Panasonic for 18650 that they don’t want to expand at this point, so we probably won’t see 2170s in the Model S or X for quite some time.

Bottom Line

While the Model 3 has elements of the future, the current Model S and X are amazing vehicles and many prefer the more functional interior layout to the minimalist design of the Model 3. With the mid-March updates that bring a faster touchscreen to the Model S and X in addition to keyless entry, the only thing potentially holding anyone back would be interior design and battery technology (both of which we doubt will be updated in 2018). So if you’re in the market, we just say buy now!

Buy Now If …

  • You want free Superchanging for life (going away April 30th)
  • Want a shot at the Federal Tax credit (estimated to go away this year in Q3/Q4)
  • You don’t care about the ultra-minimalist Model 3 interior

Wait If …

  • The newly refreshed interior is EXTREMELY important to you and you’re willing to a year or two to get it.
  • You believe there may be a power/battery upgrade soon (we think unlikely).

Read more about Free Supercharging here.