Tesla Model S: Greatest car of the 2010s

2018 Tesla Model S rain red

As Classic Car Appreciation Day (July 13) approaches, we’ll be counting down each day with the greatest vehicle of each decade, from the earliest days of the automobile to the present. It’s by no means a final, definitive, for-all-time list, so please weigh in—respectfully—in the Forums with your comments, endorsements, and disagreements. Today: the 2010s.

While we’re technically not through with the 2010s, we think it’s already safe to pick the greatest car to come out of this decade.

There have been huge leaps forward in automotive technology over the past few years. Cars are faster, more efficient, and quieter, while the rapid advances in active safety technology continue to bring us closer to cars that can actually drive themselves. For the most part, however, cars still work pretty much the same way they always have, powered by a piston engine that’s fueled by the black goop that we pump out of the ground. Only one car of the 2010s has lit a different path. Only one has shown the world not only the efficiency and environmental advantages of electric power, but it has also shown the performance advantages of electric power and wrapped it all up in a sleek, appealing, and expensive-but-attainable package.

In other words, only one has made the electric car cool, and that’s the Tesla Model S.

2018 Tesla Model S Snow
2018 Tesla Model S Interior

While there have been plenty of missed deadlines and controversy surrounding Tesla, the company’s Model S’s influence on the world of electric-car innovation is undeniable. The first all-new major American carmaker in years, Tesla started out building a neat but low-volume all-electric roadster based on the Lotus Elise. Less than 2500 were built, but the Tesla Roadster got the brand’s name out there, increased public awareness of high-performance electrics, and raised some cash.

The Model S, meanwhile, was the company’s first real break into the public consciousness when production started in 2012, and it made the company a household name even without paid advertising. Here was a luxury sedan that looked handsome, but reassuringly conventional, and was priced like a luxury sedan. And it was also decidedly different underneath. The lack of a bulky combustion engine and transmission tunnel gave it tons of extra storage space, and the placement of the heavy batteries gave it a low center of gravity. Safety ratings for the Model S were top-notch, the Autopilot feature made semi-autonomous driving a reality, and the Tesla Supercharger network mitigated ever-nagging electric car issue of limited range by allowing owners to charge their cars much more quickly on long trips.

But besides all the boring practicality and safety stuff, the Model S is just a savagely quick car. The constant torque available from a standstill makes stomping on the accelerator pedal in a Model S both intoxicating and addictive, and properly equipped cars with their “Ludicrous” and “Insane” modes will scoot off the line more quickly than almost any other car you can buy today.

2018 Tesla Model S Desert curve
2018 Tesla Model S
Tesla

Sure, most dedicated car people prefer the sounds and smells and the rowing of their own gears associated with a good-old-fashioned gasoline-powered car. And the overwhelming majority of cars on the road are still powered by gasoline—and it’s going to be that way for a while. But the Tesla has gone in a more radically different direction than any other car in recent memory. More importantly, it has done so with great success, because instead of coming out with an all-electric car that people felt that they should drive or that they had to drive, Tesla came out with an electric car that people really want to drive. It will always be remembered as the one that made electric cars truly desirable, and that’s why it is one of the greats.

Honorable mention:

The Dodge Challenger/Charger Hellcat, along with its old-school muscle car ingredients and attitude, delivers 21st century performance and then some.

The Chevrolet Corvette (C7) is the sharpest ’Vette in recent memory, and the high-performance Z06 and ZR1 offer an unbelievable amount of speed and usability per dollar.