The 2013 Tesla Model S is visually unchanged from the introductory year, with a sleek fastback five-door body that competes across the board with the top tier of stylish luxury sedans, most notably the Jaguar XJ and Maserati Quattroporte.
In form, the Model S is sometimes mistaken for a Jaguar XF or XJ. Its nose has the elegance of the Maserati's grille. But most important, chief designer Franz von Holzhausen has fulfilled his goal for a car that not only embodies “classic modernity” but gives essentially no hint that it's electrically powered.
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.) Onlookers who know the Model S was a stylish and expensive car--but had never heard of a "Tesla"--were stunned to find out that the Model S was an electric car.
The interior of the Model S 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. There are also analog facsimile gauges in the cluster behind the steering wheel; they're crisp and clear, even when bright light filters through the glass roof panels.
But once the wow factor of the central touchscreen has worn off, the 2013 Tesla Model S offers an unadorned, relatively plain interior. The colors are quiet, almost muted, with available leather seats and adequately high-quality soft-touch plastics where occupants 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. The roof of the Model S can be ordered as two large sunroofs back to back, made almost entirely of smoke-tinted glass.