The Tesla test drive was organised at the occasion of the "Top Marques" show where a line up of super cars were put on display. The relatively small room (for a car show that is) was packed with Aston Martin's, Lambo's, concept cars and tuned models ranging from Bentleys to an old Mini. Among all of these wide-bodied dreamcars the Tesla roadster looked like a go-cart somebody had foregotten. It's a good looking little car but not impressive at all compared to e.g. the Koenigsegg. However, the Tesla was the only series build (20 pieces per day) full electric car on the show.
The Tesla roadster is based on the Lotus Elise, hence the similar look. Because the car has been redesigned completely to house the electric motor and batteries, the production model today only has about 10% Lotus blood left. Still, a 1,86m guy like me needs to demonstrate some flexibility to get in. Once seated however the two-seater is quite comfortable. Switching on the engine takes a small procedure with the brake pushed down (turn key, wait for car to wake up, twist key once, no sound), next shift into gear (one gear only) and you're ready to roll. And this is where an amazing experience started.
I let go of the brake and the car slowly rolled away without making a sound. Gliding into the city traffic passing a line-up of muscle cars we once again remained unnoticed. Everybody looked at the guy desperately trying to keep the engine of the Lamborgini running while he moved the thing off the parking and at the same time one of the many Ferraris in the traffic jam competed for even more noise. And the Tesla, the Tesla whisked by like a ghost. Appart from the tough steering at low speeds (no comfortable assistence) the roadster is child's play to drive. Push down the peddle and it rolls, take off your foot and it slows down quickly while using the energy to charge the batteries again.
Out of the traffic and on to a deserted uphill road the Tesla really came to life. This is when the go-cart transformed into a bumper car on speed. Do you remember that feeling sliding back in your seat when your dad took you in the bumper cars for the first time, well that's exactly what you feel when you hit the gas (well, electricity) launching the Tesla. The electric engine gives 100% torque from the first instance, and that is an amazing experience for someone used to revving up a combustion engine to get it to it's optimal torque level. Good thing the traction controll kept me right where I wanted to be (in the first lane). In seconds the sports car hit the 100km/h mark and the only sound I heard was wind, fabulous.
It feels like this is what cars were always meant to be. Everything about the Tesla is logical and simple. Torque when you need it, no noise, no pollution. No mechanical parts so the the engine is expected to keep up for about a million kilometers. Maintenance is only really needed to check stuff like suspension, tires, etc. The only weak point is the battery, although Tesla has done a decent job. It lasts for about 340km and is recharged in 3,5 hours. Largely sufficient for say 90% of the time. But it will not take you to the South of France and after 5 years or 150 000 kilometers it needs to be replace (at a 10 000 euro cost). But at the same time you only consume 10 euro of electricity to get a full battery.
So am I going to buy a Tesla? I guess I will. I'm almost sure I'll go for the Model S but if I can find a way to finance it, I would love to get my hands on a roadster. Of course the roadster is a great car for spoiled car lovers, not your friend for daily commutes. The Model S however, will be considerably cheaper and offer everything a good housefather needs. I just need to decide what I want to be ...