The 2012 Tesla Model S is a sleek, fastback five-door hatchback with what chief designer Franz Holzhausen terms “classic modernity” in its lines. We agree; the electric sedan gives up nothing in style to the most elegant luxury sedans with which it competes.
Combining the elegance of a Maserati Quattroporte’s front end with wheels pushed to the corners and the muscular fastback of the Jaguar XF, this is finally an electric vehicle that doesn’t shout with a droll, utilitarian voice. The black oval "grille" at the front is actually almost entirely a blanking plate, to improve airflow around a car that doesn't need a radiator sized to cool an entire engine. (The Model S has a handful of smaller radiators to cool the battery and other electric components.)
In fact, "Jaguar" was the name most often suggested by onlookers who know the Model S was a stylish and expensive car, but have no idea what a "Tesla" actually was. That's a compliment, too, given the well-received new styling direction pioneered by the mid-size XF sedan and followed by the full-size XJ sedan.
The roof of the Model S is comprised of two large sunroofs back to back, made almost entirely of smoke-tinted glass. The analog facsimile gauges in the cluster behind the steering wheel are bright and clear, even in bright light filtering through those glass roof panels.
The interior is dominated by a 17-inch vertical touchscreen display that sits atop the center console, which operates most of the secondary functions: climate control, audio, navigation, and some vehicle settings like suspension tuning and charging behavior.
But once you're past the wow factor of the central touchscreen, the 2012 Tesla Model S offers a relatively plain and unadorned interior. The interior is muted, with available leather seats and adequately high-quality soft-touch plastics where occupants are likely to come into contact with them.
Tesla offers a handful of color choices, including black, white, brown, and our favorite, the striking deep red offered only on the first 1,000 Signature Series cars.