The Tesla Model S is the first bespoke creation from the electric car stable of PayPal creator Elon Musk.

Its body structure is chiefly aluminium, with steel used only to add strength in key areas. Tesla says the resultant stiffness has allowed it to bestow the car with good dynamics despite its size and weight (more than two tonnes), even on 21-inch wheels.

Had you asked us 10 years ago for our bet on which manufacturer would be the first to introduce a viable, fast, practical and competitively priced all-electric luxury saloon to the UK, we would have looked to Germany or Japan, or even South Korea, for a credible tip.

The fledgling upstart from Palo Alto in the US, only incorporated in 2003, would not even have been a blip on the radar. But within a decade, Tesla has gone from CEO Elon Musk’s brainchild to deadly serious player in the unpredictable business of building – and selling – zero-emission cars.

Following the now-defunct Roadster, the Model S is the first prong in a plug-in trident of a plan that includes a smaller saloon and a crossover SUV in the not too distant future. On paper, the Model S is ideally placed to take sizeable bites out of the market share of Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.

The Model S is unlike anything we’ve seen before wearing a tax disc, and it has the size, pace and, yes, range to compete with a conventionally powered rival. Does it have the finish, panache, quality and character, too?

Read on to see if Tesla's Model S qualifies as current landmark or future landfill.

Top 5 Luxury

  • Mercedes-Benz S-class
    'Sporty' Mercedes have a three-pointed badge in the grille. Luxury Benzes get a three-pointed star atop the grille

    Mercedes-Benz S-class

    1
  • Range Rover has a maximum wading depth of 900mm

    Range Rover

    2
  • Tesla Model S
    The Tesla Model S is an upmarket rear-wheel-drive electric saloon

    Tesla Model S

    3
  • The latest XJ is a big departure from its predecessor, stylistically

    Jaguar XJ

    4
  • Audi A8
    The third generation Audi A8 is the best yet - and by some margin

    Audi A8

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Lavishly-equipped, rugged-looking Peugeot 508 estate is a pleasant drive, but there are many more recommendable alternatives
  • 308 GT 1.6-litre petrol is priced from £24,095
    First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Peugeot's given the 308 the engine from the 208 GTi 30th and some chassis upgrades; we find out if the changes bring a bit of old-school Peugeot hot-hatch magic to this likeable family hatch.
  • Car review
    26 March 2015
    Does Suzuki's new city runabout have what it takes to succeed?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    Collins Performance has given the Fiesta ST 270bhp and 265lb ft, but has our favourite fast Ford been ruined in the process?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    The Seat Leon X-Perience is the closest thing to an SUV that you can buy with a Seat badge for now, blending estate practicality with off-road ability