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.

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    22 December 2014
    Entry-level diesel MPV shares its three-cylinder engine with Mini but, due to long gearing, lacks the authoritative punch of a convincing premium product
  • Car review
    17 December 2014
    The replacement for the CL grand tourer has some big boots to fill
  • Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 AMG Line Shooting Brake review
    First Drive
    16 December 2014
    Elegant, alluring and with some welcome improvements, but not good enough to lead the class
  • First Drive
    15 December 2014
    Hushed, flexible and remarkable value for money. Arguably more fit-for-purpose than any other ‘S’.
  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 review
    First Drive
    12 December 2014
    The Mazda CX-3 has style and substance, and deserves consideration for anyone wanting a compact urban SUV. Here’s hoping Mazda gets the price and equipment right