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Sunday, January 04, 2009
2009 Tesla Roadster - Road Test
ClikImage: © 2009

2009 Tesla Roadster - Awesome Performance In Monte-Carlo

The Hotel De Paris in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, the location setting of many past Hollywood blockbusters and one of the finest hotels in the world, played host to the fully electric Tesla Motors 2009 Tesla Roadster today in a test drive event organised by the company. Tesla Motors is a California, U.S.A based next generation car company with the drive to succeed in many ways, including zero emissions.

We had an opportunity to drive the 2009 Tesla Roadster through the streets of Monaco and then up the twisting mountain road that leads to the ancient village of La Turbie, France, just behind the Principality. Our test driver with formula car racing experience was able to get a full impression of the capability of the car within the constraints of the road surface available. The car we tested was a close to European spec Roadster in anthracite metallic grey with a charcoal and red leather interior.

Tesla Motor's Sales and Marketing Manager for Europe, Simon Rochefort, did an excellent job of answering our technical questions and giving us running info as we took the car through its paces. For those not yet familiar with the Tesla Roadster, it is the fastest production electric car available on the Planet with zero emissions and a zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time of approximately 4 seconds. The car has a bonded aluminium chassis and carbon fiber body panels. There is a large lithium ion battery pack that is mounted in the rear storage that gives the Tesla Roadster a range of up to 390 km (244 miles) off a full charge.

Amongst the fine boutique shops and the ambiance of Monte-Carlo, the Tesla Roadster and its highly advanced technology blended in superbly with the Christmas decorations and the festive spirit of the New Year that stood around it in Monte-Carlo's historic centre. What follows is the impression of our test driver as he took the Roadster through its paces in Monaco and then up the twisty mountain roads of France.

"When you look at the Tesla Roadster on the outside it is a supercar like many others and its styling is unique with a flair of Lotus and a touch of Italy. On the inside, however, it is an entirely new experience as you sit at the controls of a highly capable piece of fully electric sports equipment. Both Lotus Engineering and Tesla Motors' engineers have done an excellent job in developing the controls to give the driver the feedback needed to drive the car fast and within the constraints of supercar performance. The sports leather steering wheel and the steering's positive feedback gives a race car feel to it at all times.

I took the controls of the Tesla Roadster in front of the Hotel De Paris in Monaco, and joined what is the descent past the Metropole Hotel on a road that becomes part of the Principality's  Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit each year. With Simon Rochefort of Tesla Motors, we took a right into Monte-Carlo's famous Tunnel then along the Port and then headed towards the exit of the Principality taking the direction towards La Turbie, France. The first impression you get of driving the Tesla Roadster as you click the transmission into drive and disengage the brakes is how silent the car is in pulling away from a curb. It can only be described a 'peaceful' power on demand. The transmission is actually very simple to operate with just 'drive', 'neutral' and 'reverse' engagements.

The Tesla's manual steering requires a little muscle at slow speeds, much like a racing car, but as you start moving beyond 10 km/h (6.2 mph), the steering, which is extremely precise, comes into its element. Acceleration of the car is awesome and mind blowing as you literally have the ability to rocket towards any direction at incredible speed; yet the car is incredibly easy for anyone to drive.

With the application of your foot you have 248 hp (185 kW) of power and  a maximum 276 ft-lbs (375 Nm) of torque available at the 100% level between zero and 4500 rpm. All of this power will blast you to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4 seconds and leave you speechless for a moment. The Tesla Roadster's acceleration is like the sensation you get from a turbo engined car, but the torque lasts much longer on the Roadster's electric power plant. The added benefit of all of this is that this car emits zero emissions to the Planet. If you go full into the accelerator peddle, which we could only do at about 75% due to road conditions, the car pulls like a stallion that hasn't been out of the stable for a year.

The handling of the Tesla is extremely precise and the chassis feels great. A true test of the Roadster would be to do some laps of Laguna Seca in California, where you would get the complete feel of the car and its capability to maintain pendulum g-force balance through Laguna's famous 'corkscrew' corner. For the limited exposure I had to cornering in the Roadster coming down the series of sharp apex mountain corners from La Turbie, France, the car felt great and precise. Under hard sudden braking, all four wheels planted well into the road surface and the car kept entirely straight and balanced. One feeling that is different however is that the Tesla Roadster's brakes work in combination with the regenerative braking (for charging the battery pack) and this merged technology is something you have to get used to when performing quick racing negative g stops.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the Tesla Roadster and at 99,000 Euros for the fully optioned 2009 European 'Signature Edition' (limited production of 250 for 2009), it is really a bargain for the performance you obtain. Simon says that the Roadster is selling extremely well in Europe."

Editor's Note: In the United States, the base price of the Tesla Roadster (without the options) starts at $109,000 for the 2009 model year. We thank Tesla Motors for the opportunity to drive such a revolutionary car, and look forward at some opportunity to be part of a race circuit test session of this fine car.

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