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

The first photos of the Tesla Model S “Refresh” arrived online after a person in Toledo, Ohio, spotted the newly built sedan at the Toledo Service Center. It has been verified that this is a test vehicle after speaking with Service Center employees. Images reveal, however, that the interior of the new Model S is here, and preliminary designs are in the works.

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

Although exterior images showed some modifications, many were interested in the interior design changes. It did, after verifying some new features in photographs that were included in the Shareholder Deck of Q4 2020. In addition to changes to the vehicle’s HVAC architecture, center console, and others, a new Yoke steering wheel, horizontal touchscreen, and rear passenger screen were all included.

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

Credit: Tesla Owners Club of Michigan | Facebook

Tesla’s Yoke Steering Wheel appears to be optional and can be fitted with a new design for the steering column. The new steering wheel varies markedly from the previous 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 for the Yoke concept, on several occasions, the NHTSA has told Teslarati that it will work with the automaker on steering wheel form regulations. In many other nations, the Yoke has been authorized, but the NHTSA has still not stated whether or not it will be permitted.

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 variety of different conditions, including snow. In difficult, snowy conditions, several previous vehicle designs have run spirited drives ahead of their launches. Of these, Model Y and Semi are only two.

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 manufacturing at the Fremont Factory the refreshed Model S and Model X, and has contacted customers about their future delivery dates. Earlier this month, one Model X reservation holder told Teslarati that its expected delivery date is between February 15 and March 15, meaning that any day now the new vehicles might be rolling into customer driveways.

Although 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, Tesla sent approximately 100 Model 3s to Central Ohio for crash testing before the Model 3 was officially launched and deliveries began.

Tesla sent the Model 3s to an independent crash protection test facility operated by the “Smart Mobility Advanced Research Test Center” of the Transportation Research Center, a $45 million facility that sits on 540 acres, according to @Model3Owners. Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Transportation have contributed at least $20 million to the facility that checks automakers for a wide range of crash scenarios.

With the Model S having a new design, it is likely that Tesla will send the new car to the Transportation Testing Center facility to test its accident performance, along with several others. Although the Model S already has a five-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA, to preserve its excellent reputation for making safe vehicles, the slightly refined body design will require some additional testing from Tesla.

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