Every year in the automotive industry, auto makers generate waves of marketing campaigns touting their latest and greatest as groundbreaking and innovative, yet behind all the hype is a car no more spectacular than the last blandwagen it replaced. Then comes the little giant from the San Francisco Bay area, Tesla Motors, kicking the doors open with a word combination previously unknown to mankind. Electric sports car? Really? More than a few eyebrows were raised, and yet here we are only a handful of years after the first Roadster delivery in 2008, and Tesla is still going strong.
When the opportunity came to get behind the wheel of the Tesla Roadster Sport, I was incredibly curious to give it a whirl. I’ve long held onto the title of “purist” when it comes to all things sporting, and I had no idea of what to expect from 295lb-ft of lithium-ion thrust. During our initial walk around before rolling out into Vancouver traffic, it became clear that Tesla had pure and simple in mind when first crafting the Roadster. The interior is clean and minimal, and the cockpit, complete with racing bucket seats and a lack of power steering can make even the most tame driver feel ready to head off to the races.
Launching into traffic I am immediately pinned back into my seat, not expecting the absolute immediacy of the electric motor’s torque. This thing is quick by any stretch. Thanks to the uprated, hand-wound electric motor in the Roadster Sport, it is able to claw down a 0-60mph time in a mere 3.7 seconds. Prodding along through Vancouver traffic towards the UBC Endowment Lands, I’m rapidly forgetting why I ever thought engine noise was necessary. The sun is shining and we’ve popped the little soft top panel off the top of the Roadster. With every city block I’m more and more fascinated with my ability to hear all the sounds of the city from behind the wheel. As we roll into the woods and the road starts to wind, I start to up the pace. The steering is remarkably responsive, and I can hear the tires as they begin reaching their threshold of grip. This car is absolute bliss. My engine is gone, my transmission is gone along with my 3rd pedal, and all that remains is throttle, braking, steering and the mind.
Half way around our cruise and my partner Christopher and I swap spots, giving me a bit of time to fiddle with the car’s few electronics from the comfort of the passenger seat. I’m immediately pleased at the ease of use of the touch screen infotainment. The navigation system is a bit crude, but certainly gets the job done, and the rear view camera is perfectly positioned, and an absolute must given the high shoulders of the Tesla Roadster Sport’s lean yet muscular bodywork. With my focus off of driving, I’m quickly noticing the number of people on the streets stopping in their tracks at the sight of the Tesla. Though a couple of examples have made it to Vancouver, they are still a rarity. While stopped to snap a few quick photos, we are repeatedly quizzed about the car and what its like. Christopher’s one response which seems to ring true for both of us is that it only has one real flaw, which is us not owning one.
Turning the car back at the end of the afternoon was an absolute heartbreak. We both love our car, but this was just something else. Not only was it a blast to drive, but it also stands for so much in the automotive world. For once one of the little guys is doing something to incite real change and show the world there is more to green technology than a Prius. For once people are seeing the electric car as something fun, and engaging. This is a true sports car that you can pitch around a corner at ten tenths while listening to the birds chirping in the trees. Though our first visit was brief, we are already planning to make more time for Tesla. We have easily proven that it makes a great toy, but how would it fair as a commuter? With Roadster production ending and the last run of cars selling out fast, we can only hope to get our hands on one before it’s too late.
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport MSRP: Starting at $128,500