It's been 10 years already. The first ever Tesla and the beginning of an amazing story. This is the Roadster and they even sent one in space.
We finally get our hands on a Tesla. And this one is pretty special because it is the American brand's first ever model. It is called the Roadster and our first impression is that it doesn't look like the rest of the stuff Tesla produces. We all know the Model S (Their first Tesla that did not look like an electric car), the Model X (Their first electric SUV) and the Model 3 (Their first "affordable" electric car). The Roadster looks a bit like a toy or a Lotus, but we'll get back to it later. So even though the Roadster doesn't look like its siblings, it is a real Tesla that gets real services at real Tesla Service Centers.
A little bit of history, as one should know, Tesla wasn't founded by Elon Musk but by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Musk was an early investor and his management forced both founders to get off the boat. The production of the Roadster started in 2008 in England. Why England? Tesla produced their first car with the help of Lotus. Since the Roadster is based on the Lotus Elise, the Tesla has a low center of gravity which to offer the best handling possible. In 2008, the Tesla became the first production car to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first to have a range reaching 200 miles. The revolution was here. Yet, things did not go as expected.
The thing is that Tesla only sold 2'250 cars in the entire world. The prices were high, $109'000, and so were the production costs. It is fair to say that the Roadster was a total failure (I can say that because Elon said it). Add the fact that the cars had many reliability issues such as battery failure or built quality and you find yourself with a car that is actually just a prototype. Remember when one burned down on Top Gear? As you can expect there were many haters but Tesla kept on going and became the number one electric car manufacturer in the world they are today.
That was a little bit of history, but let's get back to what we're here for. We had the opportunity to drive Tesla's first ever model, and it was... quite interesting. This particular was produced in May 2011 and since production ended in August of the same year, this Tesla is one of the last ever produced. It was equipped with the R80 upgrade that consists of a battery swap. It cost the owner a mere $30'000! But now, you can expect the car to reach over 500 km of autonomy. I suspect that the car is also better finished than the 1.0 versions that came out 4 years earlier. Still, it feels pretty much like a Lotus Elise. So not the best finition ever. It's also quite small in there, I am 189 cm tall so the driving position was not ideal not to mention that I looked like a total idiot everytime I got in or out of the car. You have two small screens that indicate the autonomy or the diverse media options. Everything is pretty intuitive and you tend to forget you're in an electric car up until you press on "D".
Our first drive in the Tesla Roadster was pretty fun. Ok, it's absolutely not comfortable but so is a Lotus Elise. The car develops the equivalent of 290 PS. It accelerates very quickly and even managed to make us a bit sick. We've been in much faster accelerating cars but the Tesla's acceleration is too linear and you really need to get used to it. The brakes are quite catastrophic but bare in mind that the Roadster is also quite heavy with its 1310 KG on the balance. There is also no power steering...
We love the fact that you can go fast, have fun and not hurt the environment (we can always argue about the impact of lithium-ion batteries) while having no roof on. The car is a blast to drive but, in the end, it's a bit useless. It's like a big toy. I don't really see its purpose since you can now offer yourself a more practical, better finished, more technological, more performant and more recent Model S for the same money. Yet, the Roadster is this quirky car that marked the beginning of a success story and the beginning of a new chapter in the automobile industry. The Roadster will be in history books and we can only expect this car to become the first modern-classic electric car of its genre.