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Brabus Unveils Customization Program for Tesla Model S. We Explain Why There’s No Performance Boost

For as long as we can remember, German tuning house Brabus has been synonymous for its high-performance tuning packages. Founded in 1977 by Bodo Buschmann, Brabus has become the go-to place for high-end engine tuning, suspension upgrades and body kits for everything from luxury Mercedes-Benz sedans through to the tiny Smart ForTwo city car and even the go-anywhere Mercedes-Benz Unimog.

Behold Brabus' new interior upgrade for the Tesla Model S.

Behold Brabus’ new interior upgrade for the Tesla Model S.

Regardless of the vehicle, the upgrade package offered by Brabus invariably includes at least a small performance boost, higher-top speed or slashed 0-60 mph time alongside the prerequisite styling changes. But today at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Brabus unveiled a brand-new styling package for the Tesla Model S electric car, complete with custom wheels, interior and carbon-effect body parts.

But there’s one essential ingredient missing which we’ve come to expect from Brabus: a performance upgrade. In other words, this Brabus kit is purely for aesthetic reasons alone. Your Model S  will look faster and perhaps more sporty — but it won’t go any faster.

And that’s got us wondering. Is the upgrade devoid of performance enhancements because the Tesla Model S is already an incredible car, or is it because Brabus doesn’t have the expertise needed to enhance the Model S further?

Fans of the Tesla Model S, specifically the Tesla Model S 90D, will undoubtedly argue the first is true. After all, with the recently-announced Tesla Model S90D and its ‘Ludicrous’ mode acceleration reaching 60 mph from standstill in just 2.8 seconds, we have to agree that Tesla’s own in-house engineering takes some beating. What’s more, with the Tesla Model S P90D officially the world’s fastest production sedan, there’s very little need for Brabus or any other tuning house to tweak its performance further.

There is perhaps a more down-to-earth reason for the Tesla Model S not getting any kind of performance boost at the hands of Brabus, at least for now: making an electric car go faster is completely different to making an internal combustion engine car go faster.

It looks great -- but it won't make your car go faster.

It looks great — but it won’t make your car go faster.

For a start, there’s no gearbox to tweak, with only the final gear reduction ratio available to modify. Then there’s the matter of putting more power through the powerplant itself — in this case the electric motor.

In an internal combustion engine, there are lots of tweaks which can be made to an engine to make it more powerful. Camshafts, piston rings and even intake and exhaust manifolds can be tweaked to improve combustion ratios or reduce inertia within the engine. Injection systems can be modified to more evenly distribute vaporized fuel within the engine to promote a more thorough burn.

Spark plugs can be changed to introduce a higher-temperature or cleaner spark into the combustion chamber for more thorough combustion of the air-fuel mix, air filters can be changed for better air flow, and turbochargers can be used to force more air (and fuel) into the combustion chamber. Meanwhile, engine timing can be tweaked for either power or efficiency.

An alternating current electric motor as found in the Tesla Model S,  is simple by comparison. There’s only one moving part — and any tweaks to the motor itself in order to improve power would require either a costly rewinding of the motor or forcing a higher current through the motor itself.

And as Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year when unveiling the new Tesla Model S 90D with a ‘Ludicrous’ 0-60 mph acceleration of 2.8 seconds, the motor in an electric car isn’t usually the limit.

Custom wheels -- one of the few things you can easily replace on the Tesla Model S.

Custom 21-inch wheels — one of the few things you can easily replace on the Tesla Model S.

The battery pack, power controller, and safety fuses are.

As Musk explained at the time, the conventional fuses on the original Model S battery pack reached their current limit long before the motor or power inverter did, prompting Tesla to design its own new fuse system and more higher-current contactors. Doing so gave rise to the Tesla Model S 90D and its now famous Ludicrous acceleration mode.

Even as the manufacturer of the Model S, redesigning the power contactors and new fuses represented a lot of work for Tesla. For a company like Brabus to do the same thing would require it to set up a whole new engineering devision focused on electric vehicle performance rather than getting more power out of an electric car

The initial outlay to offer such an upgrade would be pointless, especially given the lightning-fast evolution of the Model S caused by Tesla’s philosphy of releasing ever-better products as and when they’re ready for prime time. Even if Brabus or another tuning house managed to offer a performance enhancement to the Model S, it would be likely be superseded by Tesla’s own in-house engineers in a matter of months.

Thanks to its software-driven design and all-electric powertrain, the Tesla Model S is in some ways more like an iPad on wheels than it is any other car on the market. While its motor and powertrain may be simpler in principal than an internal combustion engine, its complex software systems and proprietary hardware make it a tough vehicle to offer tweaks for. Even upgrading the suspension — another one of Brabus’ usual packages — would require the company to deal with Tesla’s proprietary air suspension system and control systems.

Carbon-fiber adds to a sporty look.

Carbon-fiber adds to a sporty look.

Thankfully, Tesla has already done a pretty decent job, which brings us to why Brabus is offering a customization package in the first place.

With a completely new interior to choose, as well as specially-designed skirts and spoilers, the Brabus customization package for the Tesla Model S certainly lets Brabus stamp its name on the legendary electric car.

And we can’t blame the German tuning house for wanting to associate with Silicon Valley’s finest, now can we?


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  • D. Harrower

    The problem with these sport-packs and appearance packages is that they often replicate the design philosophy used on gasoline vehicles (lots of fins, scoops, and wings) which, when applied to electric cars like Model S only serve to increase drag. This is fine for ICE vehicles since they have tons of energy to spare (and most is given off as waste heat/sound anyway) but EVs are on a much tighter energy budget. Sure, there will be some city-cruisers who merely want to stand out from the crowd, but most owners won’t be thrilled to see their range figures plummet.

    Also, did you see the interior of this Brabus pack?! It’s a cheap-looking brown you wouldn’t want to find on a car worth half this much. Tesla takes a lot of flack for the quality of their interior materials (undeserved, IMO) but on this car it would be justified.

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