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Simply put, no car—let alone truck or sport utility vehicle—from the 2010s has had or will have both the cultural and vehicular impact of the big Tesla sedan. The Model S turned the automotive industry on end when it made its 2013 debut.
A rolling manifesto, the Model S announced to the world that Tesla was more than a kit-car maker of electrified Lotus Elises. Serial production of ground-up electric vehicles meant Elon Musk’s enterprise was to be taken seriously.
Initially available with two battery sizes promising up to 265 miles of range and a rear-mounted AC-induction electric motor good for up to 416 hp, the Model S made the average American rethink what an EV is and what it could do. The Tesla was both shockingly quick, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, and efficient, netting an observed 74.5 mpg-e during Car of the Year testing. As an added bonus, with a center of gravity about as low as a 2005 Ford GT, the big Tesla could dance around a corner, too.
The Tesla Model S also made American luxury cool again. Outside, the Model S was beautifully proportioned and elegant in its stance, while inside its massive 17.0-inch dash-mounted tablet made the world realize luxury didn’t just mean leather and wood trim. Luxury is technology, too.
Holding it all together was Tesla’s burgeoning Supercharger network. Just six of these fast-charging stations existed in California back in 2013, but we could see the promise of long-distance EV travel even then. Today, Tesla has built more than 1,500 of its proprietary Supercharger stations worldwide, covering virtually every mile of the continental U.S., and copycat networks such as Electrify America are growing rapidly.
These stations have made long-distance transportation in an electric car a viable option, and have shown established automakers the path forward to the inevitable electric future.
The crazy thing about driving a Model S is how normal it all is. Our 2015 Tesla Model S 85D tester, owned by MotorTrend Group head of legal Diana Malhis, is fast and sporty, yet it’s also comfortable and quiet. So many qualities that were previously polar opposites coexist happily in the Model S.
Even more amazing is how much this particular Model S has evolved over the years. Thanks to Tesla’s continual over-the-air improvements to the Model S, this car is capable of driving semi-autonomously across the country should the mood strike. Because of the future-proofing updates delivered straight to your driveway, it’ll take far longer for a Tesla to become outdated than it will other electric or gas-powered cars.
Saying the Tesla Model S is a game-changer is cliché, but no vehicle can do what the Model S can do as well as it does it. This is the vehicle that almost singlehandedly made electric cars cool.
More telling: Even six years after the Model S went into production and won Car of the Year, there’s still not a single electric car from another automaker that can go as far as the Tesla Model S (now up to 370 miles on the latest software), go as quick as the Model S (down to a shocking 2.3-second 0–60 on the P100D Ludicrous+), or challenge the Tesla’s sense of California cool.
As it did in 2013, the Tesla Model S feels like the future.