The Tesla Roadster Experience: Quick and Considerate

How fast is it? That’s a common question we get at events where the Tesla Roadster is on display.

To ensure that the Tesla Roadster is the right car for the prospective customer, we prefer to answer the “how fast” question with two additional questions:

  1. What kind of fast are you looking for?
  2. How skilled are you at driving fast?

When asked to define “fast,” people tend to fall into two camps. There are those who want to be “quick” and those who measure "fast" by top speed.

The Tesla Roadster excels in the "quick" category thanks to the electric motor’s ability to generate peak torque at 0 RPM and supply near-peak torque up to approximately 9500 RPM. (See the Motor Torque and Power Curve chart on our Efficiency and Performance page.) But what are the benefits of electric “quick?” There are three that can be applied to street driving:

  1. Four-second 0-60 MPH times.
  2. Quick corner-to-corner speeds on your favorite back roads.
  3. Instant 45-80 MPH acceleration for safe (and exhilarating) two-lane road passing.

What the Tesla Roadster is NOT designed for is top speeds beyond 130 MPH. This kind of "fast" is for the Future Organ Donors of America, and we agree with Car and Driver’s Larry Webster, who advises high-speed sports car owners to do it on the track. But this begs the question, how many tracks do we have in the United States with straight-aways long enough to even hit speeds in excess of 130 MPH?

Question two asks how skilled you are at driving fast. Now let’s be honest here. Launching most sports cars to 60 MPH in their advertised times requires holding the revs at 4000 RPM and side-stepping the clutch. Even the road test editors say that is difficult to execute, not to mention the annual clutch and tire bills. When you floor the Tesla Roadster from a standing start it just instantly goes as fast as it can go – no muss, no fuss; first time, every time. You instinctively expect a let up in g-forces for a shift of gears before hitting 60 MPH, but the Tesla Roadster is geared to go beyond 60 MPH in first gear. Even if you prefer to keep the car in second to avoid shifting entirely, the car is very fast off the line.

As any driving instructor will tell you, driving fast through the back-road twisties or on the track is all about smoothness and consistency. Ninety-nine percent of the time you’re either standing on the accelerator or brake. Executing a smooth downshift while braking (heel-and-toe downshifting) is rarely done well 100 percent of the time, particularly when you’re not familiar with the turn. Not an issue with the Tesla Roadster – no clutch pedal.

For performance driving on the street, nothing can top your favorite freeway onramp or exit. What do you experience in cars equipped with automatic transmissions that don’t let you hold a gear? When you hit the apex and squeeze the throttle, the car will downshift on you. It’s not fun and is, in fact, downright dangerous to have the rear end break loose at that point with so much lateral g-force. You’ll loop it if you’re lucky; you’ll have a repair bill if you spin into the guard rail. The Tesla Roadster will hold the gear whether you are in first or second, so you won’t have to worry about this condition. Simply put, the Tesla Roadster makes a driver look good.

Speaking of driving smoothly, consistently and fast at any speed, I have to stop and recognize the great Mario Andretti for recently being awarded the Commendatore – Italy’s equivalent to being knighted. The only other racing great who has received the Commendatore is the legendary Enzo Ferrari. Did you know that it’s a true story that when Mario once got stopped for speeding, the cop’s first words were, “Who do you think you are, Mario Andretti?” To which he replied, “yeah, it’s me.”

Another benefit of driving a Tesla Roadster is the good feeling you get from simply being considerate. It comes in three flavors:

  1. No going out and getting drunk on gasoline.
  2. It’s THE car to drive on “spare the air” days.
  3. Noise pollution is reduced. You may enjoy your exhaust resonance above 4000 RPM, but I can assure you that your neighbors (and perhaps the passenger you’re trying to have a conversation with) do not. When I had my Westfield (Lotus Super 7 replica), practically the only time I’d drive it was at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings to the coast and back. But I always felt guilty disturbing people who lived on that road because one reason people live out of town is for the peace and quiet. The Tesla Roadster offers a replacement sound that’s very visceral and gratifying – sort of like a hushed turbine sound of a jet at takeoff.

Bottom line for the driving enthusiast is that the Tesla Roadster enables you to drive quickly, effortlessly, and considerately. It’s some of what distinguishes the car from other sports cars and is only made possible by the inherent advantages of electric power and the genius of our engineers to optimally apply it. Perhaps the headline should read: Tesla Roadster tests positive for performance-enhancing design!

Car show alert: The Tesla Roadster will be on display at two upcoming shows. If you live in the San Francisco or Los Angeles areas, I hope you will come and visit us.

At the San Francisco International Auto Show (Nov. 18-26), we have THE prime location at Moscone Center – we’re at the base of the stairs/escalators that you descend to enter the halls. You have to see and walk by the car to get in or out.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show (Dec. 1-10), we’ll have the Tesla Roadster on display in the Yokohama exhibit.

We hope to see you there!

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Comments

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andrew kelsey

I forgot the weight has now slipped up to 2,690 lbs so my previous remark about carrying 3 extra people around in the car should have read 4 extra people. Damn that suspension had better be really good! Maybe if Matsushita's new 2.9 Ah battery compares on price / power fewer of them could be used to keep the weight down on the series 2 roadster that is bound to come along sooner or later.

andrew kelsey

The Elise weighs in at around 1,900 lbs so at 2,500 lbs the Tesla is a bit of a porker by English standards. That said it has more than enough power to compensate in acceleration terms but, even with Lotus's legendary skills on the handling side there must be some penalty for carrying 3 extra people around with you all the time. Don't get me wrong, I love the Tesla and I can't wait to see the electric revolution happen, but lets tell it like it is. Of course in the States handling is less important than it is on our Mickey Mouse roads but I still can't understand how the weight distribution has been held so close to the original with all that extra weight mostly at the rear end. Rick Vieth claims 35/65 Front/Rear compared with 38/62. Sounds like too small a penalty to me unless the battery is much further forward than the engine was. I guess it must be.