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Best of 2023

What’s the most Tesla car in the back catalogue?

Of everything Tesla's done, the Model S is perhaps its defining car

Published: 28 Dec 2023

The Roadster was Tesla’s first car on sale, but that one was sort of cheating because Lotus did all the hard work, building Elises without the engines in and sending them over to America. The Model S came out in 2012 (it wasn’t available in the UK until 2014 mind) and immediately set about upsetting the establishment as it challenged some of the perceived industry norms.

Some of them, like interior design and packaging, were entirely due a bit of a challenge, but others, such as build quality and customer service, could have been left as they were. Tesla under Elon Musk’s careful guidance has always been a disrupter, though, even if what it was disrupting was its own customers’ commutes.

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What set the Model S apart from previous efforts at electric vehicles was that it didn’t ask for too many compromises from drivers to run the car – performance was the sort of thing you’d show off to your friends, range was impressive, the car was a reasonably fancy five-seat saloon and Tesla immediately set about addressing the issue of charging infrastructure by creating its own network of rapid charging stations that buyers could – gasp – use for free.

The Model S has also been the car that’s showed the evolution of Tesla over time. It’s been available on the market for 10 years or so, with constant changes made during that time. A visual refresh in 2021 sharpened things up, but Tesla has pioneered the sort of ‘over the air’ updates that most new cars now seem to offer as a matter of course. It was all a bit new and terrifying not very long ago.

In Tesla’s case these over the air changes have been able to be more far reaching thanks to the way that almost every feature of its cars has been shifted to the gigantic central touchscreen or delegated to the multi-use buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a subtle change in the automotive industry, moving from hardware maker to software provider, and not a change that many have been able to make either quickly or successfully.

Indeed, most electric cars seem to date quite quickly once they’re on sale as others arrive on the market with bigger batteries and better range. It’s not just the remote updates that Tesla can do, it’s a mark of the technological advantage that the firm managed to gain over its opposition that even now the Model S looks like a solid proposition. Mainly because a central part of the strategy has always been wanging in as much battery as the engineers could fit in – 60kWh on the first versions has expanded to 100kWh on the latest cars that are on sale. Remember that back in the day a Nissan Leaf came with a 24kWh battery.

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Of course you do hear the odd mention of small fit and finish issues with a new Tesla, but surely that means with the early cars getting on for a decade old that other drivers will have taken the hit on sorting out those things? An 8-year-old Model S could be the best Model S.

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