Over the course of the last decade, the cars from Tesla have established themselves as serious performance machines. They’ve been tearing up drag strips from coast to coast for years and, more recently, have been setting some pretty competitive times at road courses during the TeslaCorsa events. As such, a number of companies have been trying to come up with aftermarket add-ons and baubles that promise to enhance the cars’ already stunning performance, thereby getting a piece of Tesla’s motorsporting glory (and, yes, “motorsporting” is a word now).
With all these great products coming to market almost as fast as Teslas are making it to the track, we felt like it was high time to put together a definitive list of the best Tesla mods available in 2019. Keep in mind, this post is focusing on Performance Upgrades— and, yes, we’re planning a convenience-focused list of Tesla mods in the coming days, too. For now, however, this is the stuff you need to make your already fast Tesla Model S or 3 or X go even faster. Enjoy!
Lowering Kit | Unplugged Sports Dynamic Air Suspension Upgrade
One of the simplest, most effective ways to change the look and feel of a car is by lowering it. Done correctly, lowering a car can give it a tastefully aggressive and sporty look while, at the same time, dropping the car’s center of gravity for more stable and confident handling. There’s a fine balance there, though, because too much of a drop can degrade ride quality or mess up a car’s camber, which is the angle at which the wheels meet the road. When that happens, comfort suffers, performance suffers, and tire life suffers. That’s why you want to get it right, and that’s why you turn to Ben Schaffer at Unplugged Performance.
Full disclosure, Ben and I have been loosely acquainted for years, and I like to think he’d call me a friend if anyone ever asked him. That said, Ben’s Tesla tuner shop, Unplugged Performance, has unquestionably set the bar when it comes to the Tesla tuning market. Take the somewhat clumsily named Sports Dynamic Air Suspension Upgrade shown, here. It’s made of 5000-series aluminum and anodized for high strength, low weight, and superior corrosion-resistance. It’s a fully engineered piece, not a “hack”, so it installs in about 30 minutes and fully retains all 4 of the original Tesla suspension settings: Very High, High, Standard, and Low.
As someone who was involved in the development of more than a few of the digital lowering modules that are hovering around out there, let me lay some hard-won truth on you: that’s not easy to do! Kudos to Ben and his team, then. Nice job, guys!
Aero Wheels | Fast Wheels EV01 (+)
The optional “Aero Wheels” that are available from Tesla are definitely the way to go for buyers who are looking to get maximum efficiency from their Model 3. They’re stylistically efficient, too– if you get tired of the look and decide that ultimate aerodynamic slipperiness is getting a bit tired, visually, you can simply unbolt the Aero covers and expose a sharp-looking alloy road wheel. The EV01 (+) aero wheels from Fast Wheels were inspired by the same concept, but take it to the next level.
The company promises that their EV01 wheels offer superior handling and acceleration by virtue of their lighter weight, which contributes to a lower unsprung weight total than you’d find in a standard Tesla while also reducing mass overall. Fast Wheels also claims that their EV01 is slipperier than the standard Aero wheel option, which should boost both range and ungoverned top speeds (more on that in a bit). Check out the pictures and video, above, and let us know what you think of these!
ECU Tuning | ECU Upgrade by Jason Hughes
As the mainstream population of purely electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model 3 grows, the grumblings of the tuning community have gotten louder and louder. “Electric cars can’t be tuned,” they said– and, for a while, it seemed like they might have been right. That all ended back in 2017, however, when garage tinker/super-genius Jason Hughes cobbled together a piggyback ECU module, wired it into his Model S, and boosted the car’s power output by a full 30%. (!)
That module you see, above, essentially tricks the car’s computer into believing it was a dual-motor model, which signals the battery to push out “Ludicrous” levels of power. The end result is that Hughes’ Tesla achieves 508 HP– significantly more than the 416 HP it made from the factory. You can see some of the evidence of those gains (later proven on a dyno) in this Tweet from Hughes, below.
My Model S P85 is now the most powerful RWD Tesla in existence. Maxes at ~570HP. RWD P85 Ludicrous 😎 Need wider tires🤔 Pic w/only ~50% SoC. pic.twitter.com/ZyuDaH3qNc
— Jason Hughes (@wk057) January 12, 2017
Big Brake Kit | Unplugged Superlight Carbon Ceramic Brake Kit
Unplugged Performance makes its second appearance on the list here with a number of serious brake upgrades that start off with a top-shelf, Brembo 6-piston caliper hardware solution. That package was developed specifically for Tesla Corsa drivers who had experienced the limitations of the Tesla’s factory brake hardware firsthand. It’s a fantastic package– but the jewel of the Tesla braking crown is undoubtedly the Superlight Carbon Ceramic Brake Kit you see here.
It’s important to note that carbon brake rotors– common practice on cars like Porsche GT2s, high-end Ferrari GTs, and Formula 1 cars– don’t work really well on street cars. They need to be brought up to temperature, and they need to stay at temperature to maintain their eyeball popping stopping power. When they’re on boil, though, there is nothing else like them. As great as they are at stopping the car, that’s not their only benefit. “An additional benefit of carbon ceramic rotors is their considerably lower unsprung weight as opposed to traditional iron units,” explains UP’s sales copy. “Unsprung weight refers to the weight of any component not on the receiving end of the vehicles suspension system. Lower unsprung weight translates to a reduction in the the amount of inertia for the components managed by the suspension, which in turn leads to a more responsive ride and more agile handling feel … reductions to the overall weight of the vehicle help to improve range and efficiency.”
All those benefits come at a price. Unplugged is asking almost $9000 US for its ultimate track day upgrade. Whether or not that’s money well spent probably depends on you, though– so, you tell us. How important is setting the best time of the day at the next Tesla Corsa to you? 😉
Snow Tires | Tesla Aero Wheel and Winter Tire Package
Most people typically think of a car’s performance in terms of cornering, acceleration, and braking– and those sound, to me, a lot like summertime activities. The fact remains, however, that these are mainstream cars now, and they’ll be trying to corner, accelerate, and brake year-round. That’s why Tesla’s own Aero Wheel and Winter Tire Package is an absolute must for any Tesla driver who’s serious about real-world performance.
Tesla’s winter wheel package is, at $2000 US, a pretty pricey pick. As you’d expect from a product Tesla is putting its name on, though, it’s worth every penny. Photographer Sergei Belski took this Model 3 out to Banff National Park, in Canada, to do some pretty spirited winter driving as part of a photo shoot. While his car is wearing Nokian tires, the Pirelli Winter SOTTOZERO tires Tesla offers/recommends are sure to do an equally good job maintaining traction and throwing up rooster tails. Click here to check out his “chilling” Banff photo shoot, and definitely have a foul-weather tire plan ready for your Tesla. Especially if, you know, you actually intend to drive it!
Multiple source links throughout article.