First Drive: Tesla Roadster Sport

By Alex Kalogiannis

7.14.2009

img_49921Amongst the Chelsea art galleries in New York City, you’ll find Tesla Motors’ latest showroom and New York presence. You may be thinking that a car dealership would be a garish addition to such a charming district, but you needn’t worry. Tesla, mindful of the fact that building structures willy-nilly is slightly antithetical to their whole environmentally-responsible nature, has integrated itself comfortably within the neighborhood.

The facility itself is nothing wild, just a simple space with a couple of floor models, places to sit, have coffee, and pick options for your soon-to-be ride. When asked if they plan to make good on the statement at the Model S reveal that the dealership would facilitate a functioning art gallery, a representative stated that they will indeed do so, but slowly progress into it. Oh, and expect the works to have an automotive slant. The rep I spoke to also conveyed a desire to have projectors broadcasting images from other Tesla facilities, so say the California location has an event, they can share the festivities across the globe. Also significant is that this location broadens Tesla’s service network on the east coast, having a place to bring your Roaster in to for any issues, and making more service techs available for house calls.

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Also available was the opportunity to grab a first drive in the Roaster Sport, the 2010 Roadster with upgraded specs for your electric-sliding pleasure (yeah, I went there).  Differences in this model include several little tweaks that make for a substantial improvement overall. Ergonomics in the 2010 models in general have been altered, such as moving the touch screen from the far left, near the driver side door, to the center, beneath the radio console. Gone is the vestigial gear-shift which has been replaced with push-button inputs that light up to inform you what “gear” the car is in. Also, a removable hard-top is now an option apart from the standard soft-top. The interior is imbued with stitching to match one of the varieties of color options available for the Roadster. Bluetooth connection is now available, and new sound dampers are in development with the objective of reducing the cabin noise.

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Among the many new options, the Roadster Sport features a customizable suspension (mechanically, not on the fly) and an upgraded motor, dropping the Roadster’s 0-60 time from 3.9 to 3.7 seconds. Not a drastic change, but an improvement nonetheless. That’s also frighteningly close to Ferrari F430 territory, by the way, and the Ferrari need perfect gear shifts to hit those numbers. There are also optional carbon fiber accents that do wonders to make the already sporty Roadster look more menacing. Yes, a menacing EV car – you heard it here first. The lack of power steering is still apparent, and the tiny steering wheel doesn’t help matters, but this is all minutia when you’re punching it down Manhattan roadways in a blur, stopping only for lights and inquisitive motorists. While it may be hard to notice the slight improvement in motor output, with the many colors, options and upgrades to the Roadster, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Tesla’s flagship model is shaping up to be a definite winner.

If you happen to find yourself in Chelsea with some time to kill, I recommend that you check out the Tesla store for yourself.  It’s a different experience from the usual new-car showroom, which is fitting, since the car they’re selling is also quite different from the norm.

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3 Comments

  1. Wish I could drive it so I could see if it’s worth the very high price.

  2. I know I’m treading on familiar ground here, but I think the looks are just brilliant, really.

  3. Electric sport cars seem to be up and coming – just look at the planned electric Mercedes SLS.

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