Tesla Roadster Sports Car: Drives Like A Charm
I'm zipping to over 60 mph in what feels like an instant. The Roadster Sport I am guiding doesn't feel phased by its rapid acceleration as many combustion engines do. The quick little car does 0 to 60 in under four seconds (3.7 seconds for the Roadster sport), but getting there is made more pleasurable by what it has under all the carbon fiber. Electric motors have some interesting benefits, it seems. Press down on the "Go" pedal (no gas here), and you'll get 100% of the horsepower and torque right away. There is no lag or waiting to gain RPMs. Going forward fast is only a matter of waiting for the actual mass of the car to gain speed. I suddenly feel like I am driving a life size electric toy car. In a sense, that is exactly what it is. And this toy is fun.
The future of cars is here, even if you didn't know it. Hybrid cars are a "feel good" way of moving away from combustion engines, but getting away from gas altogether is a place we all know in our hearts will occur sooner than later. Our current future is one where gas engines are feasibly a thing of the past, and we can envision a "green" era of clean cars. Tesla however isn't per se a company dedicated to making a message about environmental friendliness. I like that they dispose of all the eco-marketing talk – which has become quite commercial over the last few years. Rather, they are about building now-alternative, next-standard, electric cars that offer a lot of what we've been missing in the excitement department. And they want to lead the pack in the "gee-whiz" R&D department.
The concept of gas stations comes to mind when I look at the battery level indicator. There is something strange about trusting your "point A to point B" tool on a giant battery versus a tank of good ol' petrol. I probably just feel that way because it is a new experience. In the future people might think relying on a tank full of combustible liquid was weird. Just to be silly I stop the Roadster Sport at a gas station. It has no reason to be there. Well, maybe if you want to buy a soda, some chewing gum, and put air in your tires. I wonder how much longer gas stations will be around – they are such a pivotal element of our daily commute and city landscapes. Will they disappear altogether? Or perhaps turn into quick charging joints for electric cars. Who knows?
Maturing into their role now being a few years old, Tesla is doing a great job offering high-end buyers a fun weekend ride or daily commute vehicle. The electric car concept isn't yet primed to haul you across country. To the lay public, these vehicles offer a necessary PR message that electric vehicles won't take away the tickle in their pants they might feel when thinking about driving a 500hp V-10 beast. There is a feel good image about the Roadster, rather than a "don't you feel good you don't feel guilty?" image with other electric cars.
Building the Roadster was a clever way for Tesla to get this message across. Always best to begin with fun sports car, even if most people won't or can't buy one. Their follow up vehicle will be about half the cost, and be a sexy looking sedan (the Tesla S), and be more practical, necessary, and still won't ever require a trip to the pumps. Behind the wheel of the Roadster Sport I need to remind myself just what this car actually is. The Roadster is an electric sports car, not just an electric car that looks like a sports car. Tesla modeled it for high performance, complete with it being light weight and having cramped living quarters. While it has more amenities and gadgetry than most automobiles of its size and class, you still are sitting near to the ground and don't have power steering. It is an interesting way for me, and perhaps many other people, to get their first taste of a volts-versus-gallons filled future.
The Roadster, now a few generations old, started as a more or less electric version of the Lotus Elise. According to Tesla, the Roadster (aside from some cosmetic looks), now shares very little with the Lotus. The current generation Roadster has a more distinctive look, and just keeps getting better in most departments. Stroll around the Roadster, and it isn't obvious anything is different about it (aside from it being a small super car). There are no tell-tale electric vehicle signs like a silly green leaf badge or a plug sticking out of the back. Good looking by most standards, the carbon fiber body helps the car weight just over 2,700 pounds. About 900 of those pounds are in the battery.
In fact, from a technological standpoint, the battery is the weakest link in the car. What the electric car industry needs (as most every other modern electric industry also needs) is brand new, better battery technology. Tesla is no doubt working on it – and likely have made long strides – but in a sense they are banking on battery technology getting progressively better each year via the R&D of other parties. This will allow the car not only to have a father range, but also a lighter weight as the tech gets more advanced.
So what is difficult about owning a Tesla? Well first you have to afford one, but aside from that really the only thing is the time it takes to charge the car. There are no other hidden sacrifices or crazy quirks. Your migration from gas to electric won't be that rough.
Open the (admittedly) tiny trunk and you'll find a cloth top for the roof as well as a set of cables. These are for charging the car, and you have two options. You can either use a standard 110 volt socket, or one of those higher 240 volt sockets that you can get installed in your garage. Charge times are as low as 3.5 hours from "empty" with the 240 volt connector, but are still not as quick as a fast "gas & go." For that reason a Tesla might not be ideal as your only car right now – but should likely suffice for a daily commute for the majority of people. Just don't forget to plug your car in when getting home. For people whose mobile phones frequently die – this might be a problem.
Tesla quotes the Roadster at having a range of 245 miles. That is of course based on your driving style. Like a mobile phone estimating the amount of talk time you have left, Tesla tries to anticipate the range along a graphical bar that is one of the many gadgety elements of this auto. Tesla tries to extend the range as much as possible by building in a regenerative charging function in the brakes. This concept isn't new, but makes a lot of sense here. The idea is simply that the friction caused by the car stopping can help recharge the battery – a bit. When asked how much the regenerative brakes extend the car's range, Tesla doesn't really know. Testing that is tough – but it is silly not to include this function. This does however alter the driving dynamics of the car quite a bit.
When removing your foot from the pedal, the car immediately starts to slow down due to the regenerative feature. Basically, you don't even need to brake for it to kick in – just not have the Roadster accelerate. While theoretically more efficient, it does cause the car to slow down much faster than you expect. While the car you are used to driving more than likely smoothly coasts to an eventual stop, the Tesla Roadster has the invisible hand of the thirsty battery to slow it down when you aren't punching the go pedal. At first this fact makes driving the car feel awkward, but you get used to it.
In conjunction with the regenerative charging feature is a section of the RPM gauge that visually shows you charging is taking place. This is the purpose of the left section of gauge that is in green. When the slowing down, the needle moves into the "green zone" to show you how much are regenerating. It isn't necessarily useful information, but it is fun. Speaking of fun and questionably useful information, Tesla offers the driver no lack of details about their driving experience. The Alpine Entertainment/Navigation system has driving information details, while a lower, smaller touchscreen has changeable screens to tell you all sorts of information you won't be able to pay attention to. These details include items such as temperatures in various parts of the car, real-time g-forces, and other specs related to performance and motor health. It is all part of the "living in the future" experience where data is plentiful, and having to pay attention to it is optional.
Tesla did a really good job making the Roadster, and even higher-end Roadster Sport, look and drive beautifully. I had a damn good time weaving through traffic and teasing construction workers with it (who even though they had no idea that it was electric, readily pulled out their phones to snap photos, called their friends to tell them about it, and cat-called it offering a literal "drive around the block"). It is inherently a purist's sports car that just happens to also have a highly advanced electric engine – and barely apologies for that fact. As I said right when we started, this is the fastest car I've driven that didn't want to make me go deaf. The Tesla chimes when you turn the key to let you know that the car is even "on." Pushing the pedal has the motor make a pleasant turbine-like noise, but it is mostly silent. While most similar driving experience makes you feel as though you are wrestling with a beast, the Roadster Sport behaves like the performance car version of the Brave Little Toaster. You can drive with an open top at 100mph and still hear the birds singing. Tesla limits the car's speed to 125mph. That is a bit slow given what the car could likely do, but you aren't allowed to go that fast anyway, right?
If you give the Roadster Sport a shot, I think you'll be impressed with the driving dynamics, amenities, and the feeling you get when driving it. Never once did my inner tree-hugger thank me for the experience, because this isn't that kind of car... even though it is that kind car. I think the reason for that is because this car doesn't force you to sacrifice fun or coolness. The idea that most people get when thinking about driving an electric car is "no fumes, no fun." Nothing seems to be missing with this little showboating battery on wheels.
How much will a Tesla Roadster cost you? The prices start at about $110,000 - $120,000, and go up to a fully optioned-out price of about $170,000. Aside from the basic maintenance any car needs, the Roadster needs no special attention or service. These cars just keep getting better, and I am highly enthusiastic about our gasless future with a company like Tesla around helping to remind us that our necessary need for a cleaner future doesn't need to be lame.
Learn more about the Tesla Roadster here.
Ariel Adams publishes the luxury watch reviews site aBlogtoRead.com.
Gallery: Tesla Roadster Sport Car