What is it?
Probably the most significant car of the 21st Century so far. And a shop.
So what's new?
Basically everything, unless you've spent any time in the United States recently. Tesla Motors is the least new part of the deal, since a handful of its Elise-based Roadster sports cars were imported to the UK several years back. But the Model S and the Tesla Store concept are both new arrivals.
The former is a large premium saloon not dissimilar from the Audi A7 Sportback in silhouette and size, but it's an all-electric vehicle. Don't think that means Nissan Leaf "adequacy" either - performance, comfort and range are all from the top drawer.
The latter is an example of Tesla's new sales system - no dealerships, just stores where experts can help you decide on your car's specification but aren't pushy and commission-based. Think of it like the car version of an Apple store - the concept was developed by the same person.
What powers it?
An electric motor, but performance depends on whether you select the 60 kWh or 85 kWh battery pack - the latter offering longer range and uprated performance. Ticking a 'Performance' box gets you even more shove.
In order, 60 kWh models get a 302 horsepower motor, 5.9-second 0-60 time and 120 mph top speed. 85 kWh models bump that up to 362 horses, drop the sprint to 5.4 seconds and top speed edges up by 5 mph. Performance models get a full 416 hp, a 4.2-second 0-60 and 130 mph top end.
Range-wise you'll get 233 miles from the 60 kWh and 310 miles on the larger pack, on the European driving cycle - but many owners in the U.S. are finding the Environmental Protection Agency's 208 miles and 265 miles for each pack pretty accurate.
Anything else I should know?
Yep - the critics are raving about the Model S all around the world. Tesla's CEO Elon Musk - who made his fortune creating Paypal and also runs independent space tourism company SpaceX - said he wanted to create the best car in the world. It's a lofty claim, but reading the reviews it doesn't seem too wide of the mark either.
Forsee problems charging? Tesla also plans to set up a 'Supercharger' network of fast-charge stations all around the UK - an 80% fill will take only 20-30 minutes. Usage will be free to Tesla owners.
How much will it cost me?
The 60 kWh car will start at 54,900, but you can immediately subtract 5,000 from that due to the UK government's plug-in car grant. Deliveries start in Spring next year.
Prices for the 85 kWh and Performance cars aren't forthcoming, but $10,000 separates each car in the U.S. so expect a six or seven grand jump between each in the UK, pre-grant.
Running costs should be low though. Zero showroom tax, zero car tax, London Congestion Charge exemption, and low company car tax (0% now, only 5% from April 2015). And even if all the energy companies are bumping up their prices, charging the Model S will still be cheaper than filling your existing luxury saloon...
Do I have any alternatives?
Nothing at all if you're into electric cars, but the fifty-grand entry point lines it up against several exec saloons. That sort of dosh would get you an Audi A7 in 3.0 TDI S-Line spec, for example, or maybe a BMW 535d M Sport. Portfolio-spec Jaguar XFs are within reach too.
As you move up the Tesla line the higher prices will bring it into Porsche Panamera territory - though it's worth mentioning that similarly-priced Panameras would get demolished in a straight line by the Tesla...
In a line?
Groundbreaking electric saloon finally hits UK shores.