As a newcomer in the auto industry, there’s no doubt that Tesla designers took the time to analyze the current design trends and had a firm grasp of the big picture by the time they designed the Model S. This resulted in the Model S being not the best looking car, but the car with the best design; in fact, being not the best looking car is one of the strengths of the Model S.
The Model S can be said to have the best design because it was the perfect combination of mundane, low profile and sporty, aggressiveness. The overall goal of the design was to not go the way of other electric vehicles, which have very unusual designs that drew attention to themselves, but instead, the Model S was intended to be a normal car that blends in with other cars on the street. With this goal in mind, the Tesla designers ensured that there are no outrageous design cues around the car and that it did not have laughable (and at this point, iconic) proportions. The result is that the Model S, without detailed observation, is very mundane and boring, it is the amorphous blob that is used for educational purposes to represent the category of sedans. Strictly speaking, the old design lacked any memorable design cues and there are no radical angles on the surface and no special indicators of the cars propulsion system. This very mission statement also attracts a lot of older potential buyers who do not want flashiness on their cars; it was two birds with one stone by the Tesla designers.
However, upon close examination, the Model S is actually very sporty in design. Starting at the front, the headlights are pulled back far enough that they are practically on the hood, rather than the front fascia while the front fascia is short in height and pointy. The same cues can be found on cars produced by the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari, with less subtly of course. Moving to the rear, the Model S exhibits something that is rarely found: coupe fastback styling on a four door sedan. The distinguishing characteristic of a coupe fastback is the integration of the trunk lid into the roof line, where four door fastbacks still have a clear flat surface for the trunk, coupe fastbacks have a continuous roofline that forces the trunk opening into becoming a hatch. The Model S walks a fine line, the trunk lid is just ambiguous enough so that when it’s closed, the car is an optical illusion, sometimes it’s a fastback and sometimes it’s a sedan. Finally, the thin taillights are a sporty cue as well given that they are widespread on performance vehicles such as the Challenger and the F-type. Therefore due to a combination of subtle cues around the car, the Tesla Model S is inherently a very sporty car. The car will appear mundane and boring to those that do not look for these cues.
There’s not a whole lot that can be said about the interior except the fact that it is futuristic and sterile, though the designers cannot be blamed because Tesla pioneered the massive vertical screen and that the car is going for a futuristic tone. A little bit of more design (as my own drawings and Volvo have shown) wouldn’t hurt.
The most interesting thing about Tesla Model S that happened recently is the refresh. The front end has been changed from mundane and inoffensive to a very futuristic look. This is probably one of the greatest switch and baits in recent years because just as the older crowd is settling down with the inoffensive Model S, Tesla suddenly alters their brand to something slightly more radical that could potentially turn away buyers. At the same time, the change is so simple that hardly anything has been changed: all they did was remove some black paint and chrome stripes and then redid the lower intake. The angle got slightly updated and the headlights and lower area stayed the same. This tiny change gives the Model S a very futuristic look because they’ve removed the fake grill. Without this fakery, one can easily spot a Tesla and deduce that something is not right because there is no air intake in the front. This is risky because it might alienate some older buyers but at the same time it will attract younger buyers. It also advances the original intention, which is to make this car futuristic.
So in summary, the Tesla Model S P100D, on top of outrageous performance and advanced green technologies, is a carefully designed masterpiece that perfectly blends the boring with the sporty, or rather, the subtlest sports car ever, despite the updates.