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So here it is, ladies and gents, the future. Doesn't it look beaut? In just a few short years (the first Tesla Roadster hit the road in 2008), Tesla Motors has built and sold 1500 of its all-electric supercars. And now the latest generation, the Roadster 2.5, is available in Australia.
It comes in two specifications – 2.5 and 2.5 Sports – with prices starting from $206,188 (+ORC). The Tesla Roadster is the only production-real performance electric vehicle in the world, and there's absolutely no compromise with it.
The Tesla Roadster has things like leather seats, carpets, electric windows, cruise control, air-con, a lined canvas hood, sat-nav, reversing camera, Bluetooth, and CD-player. There's even a small boot in the back just behind the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack.
Range. It's the thing most motoring journalists harp on when writing about electric cars, but that isn't an issue for the Tesla Roadster. See, driven for range you'll get around 400km, and even driving it with your foot pinned to the floor you'll still travel more than 300km before needing to recharge.
Given the average commute is only 20km, you can easily expect to drive around for a week before needing to plug the Tesla in. Truth is it'll be plugged in each evening, meaning you'll always have a full battery (which is good for 5000 charging cycles, or about eight years).
The true beauty of an electric motor, though, is that recharging one, even if you draw your current from a coal-fired power station, is cheap and relatively green.
You'll have no doubt read this car is built by Lotus. It isn't. That's a lazy journalist's way of getting your attention, but it does help explain much of the Roadster's handling brilliance. In truth, only 7 per cent of the Roadster's bits and pieces are shared with an Elise. The structure is similar aluminium extrusions, but the Roadster is longer and a different shape to an Elise. The body is different too – for a start, it's made from carbon fibre and is a whole lot better looking than any Lotus Elise.
And it's miles more practical. You don't have to get on your hands and knees to climb in, for instance; you just open the door and drop in behind the wheel. And getting out is much the same.
The car starts exactly like your own car: you turn a key, wait for a half a blink and then a chime tells you all systems are go. From here you've got to be careful, though, because nestled under the accelerator are 215kW (when driving in Performance) and 400Nm just waiting to be unleashed.
Touch the throttle and you'll be body slammed back into the seat and doing the legal limit in the blink of a very wide eye. Braking is similarly impressive, because thanks to regenerative braking the moment you take your foot off the throttle you get, to put it very plainly, reverse acceleration. And that regenerative braking tops up the batteries.
Now, in every other car you'll ever drive you only get blood and guts performance if you're in the right gear and in the right part of the rev range, but because the Tesla only has one gear, you're always locked in the right one. And that means there's never any let-up in acceleration for gearshifts, just avalanche-like surge. Make no mistake; this thing is a proper supercar. It can hit the legal limit in under four seconds and that makes it one of the fastest accelerating cars on the planet.
The fish and chip wrappers will harp on about the Tesla being silent. It isn't. Indeed, it's got a slight supercharger-like whine when it's up and running. It's actually quite a pleasant sound (Hollywood recorded an accelerating Tesla and used it as the engine note for the Tumbler in Batman Begins). And after about five minutes you won't miss the noise of an angry internal combustion engine barking in your ear.
All this means you can get on with the job of actually driving the Roadster. With an ultra-stiff chassis, aluminium wishbone suspension, a low centre of gravity, and unassisted steering (all honed by Lotus), the Tesla is a proper driver's car.
Tip into a corner and the Tesla is a delight. Sure, it's not as light as an Elise, but at 1370kg it isn't a heavyweight either. Trust me, you'll run out of guts before this thing runs out of grip and the steering makes anything Porsche offers seem dull.
When dot-com millionaire Elon Musk first started talking about building an all-electric sports car back in early 2000, many considered the Tesla nothing more than the stuff of science fiction. And now, two years after the first Tesla Roadster rolled off the production line, 1500 cars have been delivered and a family-orientated four-door sedan (Tesla S) is now being readied for production. Wow. There's no talk yet of when it will be available down under, but when it arrives you can expect it to cost BMW 5 Series or M-B E-Class bucks.
SummaryThe Tesla Roadster is now no longer the novelty the major manufacturers wished it had remained. It's a very real and complete package. And of all the supercars on the planet, the Tesla Roadster is best of them… because it doesn't have a shelf life. We'll always have electricity; we might not always have oil.
|Model||Tesla Roadster 2.5S|
Fit and Finish
Absolutely nothing… this is the future
|Safety equipment||Vehicle theft-deterrent system; Motor immobilizer system; Programmable PIN code (restricts unauthorized vehicle operation); Valet Mode (restricts vehicle speed and acceleration, locks the glove box, and records trunk openings and PIN defeat attempts).|
|Country of manufacture||America|
|Available from||February 2011|
|Priced from||$206,188 (+ORC)|
|Engine size||375V AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive; Custom microprocessor-controlled lithium-ion battery with 6831 individual cells. L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||215kW kW @ 4600rpm rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||400Nm Nm @ 0rpm rpm|