The day was hot and the car was very, very fast. Electric cars have all of their power available to you at all times, so if you want to, say, take the car from 0-40 in two seconds, your lungs will simply wrap themselves around your spine and you’re off. Or say you wanted to take the car from 40-90. No problem. Done in another two seconds. Suffice it to say, this is a fun car to drive on the winding roads of the Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto. Caveat: Please note that driving a Tesla Roadster may result in involuntary hysterical laughter.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we even took the Tesla Roadster out for a drive (they gave us the optioned out car Tesla CEO Elon Musk drives when he’s in town), we were given a tour of the facilities. Tesla will soon be expanding operations to the former NUMMI plant in Fremont across the Bay, but for now, all powertrains are made at the Tesla headquarters before and after Lotus has their way with the car bodies. Tesla makes 9 powertrains per day in this facility. Each one includes 6831 battery cells, and each battery cell must be tested for quality. That’s and intensive job, but the work environment appeared pleasant enough. Tesla’s manufacturing floor is housed in an old HP facility, and the floors just could not be any whiter or shinier. The “factory” is as clean and quiet as the end product.
So, then we were off to drive on the winding roads, and boy, did we have a good time. The Tesla is designed for pure driving fun. The HVAC system is an afterthought–just a few manual knobs circa 1985–but we assume that’s to save weight. Stereo: just fine. Navigation system? Well, a little slow and an unsophisticated interface by today’s standards, but all of these little weaknesses can easily be polished up by a baby company that is maturing by leaps and bounds.
The steering wheel is small, and has a real manual feel of being connected to the road. Fortunately it’s not too tough to operate. The chassis clearly isn’t designed for too much rough stuff. It was thrown around a bit by some bumpy roads. And underneath the lovely body, the chassis of the Tesla Roadster looks just like a go-kart with a huge battery pack filling the trunk. There’s room under the huge floppy trunk lid for the tiny fabric roof, a charging cable, and a purse. In contrast, the Model S sedan will carry its battery pack underneath the car in a 4-inch deep carrying case that runs the whole width and length of the car’s wheelbase. It also has a more traditional car chassis, so we will expect a very different ride from the sedan. Maybe a little less hilarity, too, though.