Green Car Reports’ Car of the Decade: Tesla Model S

Ten years ago, the Volt Dance was still fresh in our minds; Ford CEO Alan Mullaly invested more in its electric programs and said that by 2020 EVs would become more important than hybrids (and more dominant in the company’s lineup); the Leaf was on its way to be something very, very big; and we really had our bets on at least one of Chrysler’s ENVI electric vehicles making it through to production. 

In October of 2009, Vice President Joe Biden accidentally revealed what was widely pointed to as the best hope for a successful new automaker—in Fisker Automotive’s three-model plug-in hybrid product plans, as Fisker took over a Wilmington, Delaware, GM plant.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s project earlier known as WhiteStar was still a long shot for making it through to production.

Tesla Model S unveiling

Three years later the Model S had actually made it to production, and Green Car Reports named it our Best Car To Buy 2013. GCR called it “a car that takes the all-electric vehicle to a new and far more elevated level.” 

More importantly, we outlined then, was that it was impressive on its own as a luxury sport sedan—”for its performance, its looks, its capabilities, and its digital infotainment and control system.”

Usually at this time of year, before we choose a new Best Car To Buy for the year, we look back at our prior choices. While we suggest you glance back at that list, we already did, and it’s the Model S that stands out as the most important green car of the decade. 

tesla model s prototype 010

tesla model s prototype 010

The Model S forever changed how the world sees electric cars, and set Tesla on its path today to be more than what it had been up until that point—a geeky boutique EV upfitter with some big ideas. 

Many years since the Model S introduction, and more than a decade since its original development, other automakers still haven’t caught up. They haven’t been able to rival the 2012 Tesla Model S 85’s 265 EPA-rated miles from 85 kwh; they’re just starting to rival its huge 17-inch touchscreen system; and no other company has matched the breadth of its over-the-air updates. 

2012 Tesla Model S prototype

2012 Tesla Model S prototype

The Model S has received countless changes and new features—many via OTA updates—as well as new versions, each of which have made it an even better car. Yes, there were Insane and Ludicrous and Performance editions, and the 2016 refresh, plus this year’s powertrain upgrade—and a Plaid three-motor blast to look forward to.

It’s hard to say we told you so, because prior to the Model S arrival it was just a pretty face. In 2009 we were allowed a ride in the world’s only Model S prototype, which was then said to be 2-3 years from production, and found it to be very intriguing. While we saw the design as beautiful and the car quick, there was just too much yet to be proven about the car, the batteries, assembly, and the viability of the company. 

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

And then, for me, driving the Model S for our roundup of finalists later in 2012, the Model S was a revelation. I can’t even remember what the other contenders were. The Model S simply blew them all away. 

As we head into a new decade, with Model Y and Cybertruck and a handful of companies (like Rivian) that are better-funded than Tesla ever was at the start, tapping into a supplier ecosystem that didn’t exist at the start of the decade, look forward to more of those game-changing moments.