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Future Shock. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Future Shock
Perception shifting, genre-smashing electric Roadster from Tesla demonstrates a bright future for motoring.

 



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| First Drive | London, England | Tesla Roadster |

Tesla introduces its Roadster, an electric sports car that mixes the unusual bedfellows of green motoring and enjoyment. More than just a great electric car, the Roadster is a great sports car in its own right.

In the Metal

The term 'in the metal' isn't strictly accurate here, as the only metal in the Roadster is found in the Lotus-derived underpinnings and its electric motor. The rest of the Roadster is constructed from carbon fibre. The exotic weave material is obvious on the roll bar over the rear window where it's shiny with lacquer; though opening the door shows it in its naked form alongside the beautifully constructed aluminium door hinge. Automotive material fetishism continues inside where there's the option of 'microfiber' material on the seats and familiar Lotus dashboard - leather is offered as an alternative.

Tesla has never tried to hide the Roadster's Lotus links and that's quite apparent in the styling. That it shares its proportions with the Elise is hardly surprising given it's based on the extruded aluminium chassis. That does also mean the Roadster comes with the same compromises getting in and out, doing so requiring a degree of flexibility. Being a sports car though that's forgivable. Tesla's stylists have followed the sports car design brief to the letter: low bonnet, wide haunches, large wheels and plenty of cooling air feeds puncturing the bodywork. Squint and it's a slightly more mature, toned down Lotus, but we're not complaining.

What you get for your Money

A landmark car. Seriously. You pay for the privilege of being among the first to sample the Tesla's ground-breaking technology, the first 'signature edition' cars arriving in the UK costing an eye-watering 92,000. That's a mountain of money for what is after all a small sports car with no pedigree. Putting it into perspective is the Roadster's phenomenal electric drivetrain: this is an electric car that promises 0-60mph in just 3.9 seconds and a range of around 227 miles. That simply blows any other electric car available away, the Roadster offering the sort of acceleration that humbles not just its electric brethren but most conventional internal combustion engined sports cars.

Specification on the Signature Edition 2009 Euro Roadster includes the choice of a full custom leather or microfibre interior, adjustable suspension, custom wheels, any colour on DuPont's palette, a carbon fibre hardtop, air conditioning and high-end audio with satnav and Bluetooth. It's not cheap then, but arguably worth every penny.

Driving it

Get in, turn the key and nothing happens except the dash lights up. Select the single forward gear and press the accelerator and the Tesla silently pulls away. It's not unlike the experience you have when pulling away in a hybrid that runs on battery power alone. Push the right pedal deeper though and the effect is quite extraordinary. The Tesla's batteries and motor produce 250bhp and 280lb.ft of torque, that peak torque output available from 0rpm. That ensures quite a staggering response to the accelerator, the Tesla silently flinging itself forward with prodigious force at any point in the rev counter needle's 14,000rpm sweep. The benchmark 0-60mph sprint takes just 3.9 seconds and a brief foray into naughty mph underlines that the acceleration barely lets up. A maximum of 125mph is possible, though for sustained periods Tesla claims 105-110mph. More than top speed numbers though, what's impressive about the Roadster is the forceful way it gets there.

Being based on Lotus's Elise, the steering is full of feel, but being unassisted it's heavy at manoeuvring speeds - that a price worth paying for its fluidity and crisp response when moving. The suspension is stiff too, but not compromisingly so; however, you feel the extra mass of the Roadster's battery pack and motor when pushing hard in tighter corners. Tesla has developed its own stability control system to assist here, it also preventing the regenerative effect of the motor resulting in locked wheels when lifting off mid-corner. That regenerative braking is so strong that the brake pedal itself can be largely left alone, the Tesla's accelerator pedal beautifully linear in response whether you're pressing it hard, or backing off. It's hugely enjoyable, the Tesla quite unlike anything we've driven before. If this is the future of motoring then the outlook looks very bright indeed.

Worth Noting

Charging takes anything from 4-16 hours depending on the amp rating of your outlet, a conventional 12-amp socket requiring the full 16-hour charge. Faster charges are possible and Tesla is constantly working on improvements. The battery pack is expected to last around 100,000 miles, after which it will need replacing at a cost of around 11,000. That might sound expensive, but when factored into the running costs it works out at around 12-13 pence per mile. We don't need to tell you that's significantly less than conventionally fuelled vehicles. To be truly green the energy charging the Tesla needs to be carbon neutral, many early adopters installing wind turbines and solar power at home to provide energy for their Roadsters.

Summary

Tesla has rocked the establishment with its combination of green battery technology, excellent performance and range. The Roadster is so impressive that almost every mainstream manufacturer has spoken to the Californian firm seeking its expertise in electric powertrains. Tesla is expected to announce an OEM relationship with a major manufacturer soon. What's amazing is that the little sports car has so comprehensively eclipsed every other electric vehicle currently available, underlining that electric cars represent a viable - and for the first time, desirable - alternative to conventionally powered cars. A landmark car, which is expected to spawn an entire model range, it's difficult to accept that a small Californian firm is the first manufacturer to develop and produce an electric car people actually want to drive - for more than just green reasons.

Kyle Fortune - 28 Aug 2008









  www.teslamotors.co.uk    - Tesla road tests
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- Roadster images

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Tesla.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Tesla Roadster. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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