>> The cynics said this would never happen that you'd never see Silicon's Valley Tesla Motors make it to showroom availability. Well I must be imagining things because here I am in Tesla's store in Menlo Park, California.
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>> Now as you can see this Menlo Park showroom is more than just a showroom. Behind me, that's final assembly. The cars arrive from England where they're built up in partnership with Lotus but they have no power train yet. Then here they add the four components of the power train which is electric motor, the battery pack, the controlling computer, and the single speed gearbox. Now how do you charge one of these guys--let's check it out. Here's a special charging cable that goes to a special 220 volt, 70 amp charger you can have installed in your home, and the way you connect it is like so. Hook up that line right there and get it directly on the groove, then rotate the lock, blue means it's talking to the car. The car and the charger communicating, now here's some relays--there's one, and there's the other one. Now it's charging and it will start to blink amber. The pulsing slows down as the car gets closer to a full charge and when it's fully charged, it glows green. Now charging times--from dead empty about three and one-half hours full up on a high current charger; overnight on a 220 but lower current charger, like 24 amps; and if you only have a 120 volt household outlet it could take 24 to 30 hours but that's in a worse case scenario. The rear on these cars is the business end. Back here is the engine management computer, that's under this cover right here; in front of that this front case is full of batteries, lithium ion cells, about 6800 of them liquid cooled and that's where almost 400 volts of juice comes from which powers a motor down under here which has 240 some odd horsepower, 276 foot pounds of torque and all of it available from RPM 1. Now when two's a cabin tech you've got a fair amount for a Spartan sports car. Over here on the far side is a status monitor that shows you what's going on with the drive train and the car overall. In here is a single dens slot and if you go for the premium audio system you get this JVC Chameleon head unit which we've liked a lot in our reviews. It comprises NAV, Satellite radio, iPod, just about any audio source you want; but again it's off the shelf stuffed. Up front's some more interesting parts check it out. There's an aluminum-thin radiator with two cooling fans--looks like something fitted out of a retrofitted Pantera. Well that's there not to cool the engine but to cool--well--the engine, the batteries. And right here is the world's biggest travel adapter. This guy converts the car's native 400 volts down to 12 so you can run things like the stereo and plug in your cell phone adapter. Now enough yak. Let's go for a drive.
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>> The Roadster is fully baked for the first time in its young history. Tesla went through an embarrassing hell getting the transmission right--now they say it's good. A new Borg Warner single speed gearbox, not transmission, so tight they say it rings additional range from the car--244 miles now on a full charge. You're looking at a scant 2700 some odd pounds thanks to a carbon fiber body over an aluminum tub. In fact 36% of this car's weight is just the battery--zero to 60 in 3.9 tends to speak for itself. But it's a different kind of fast because it's all torque. The ride was much more comfortable than I recall from earlier evaluation copies I've been in. Steering is ala go kart. I don't think you'll drive a car that feels more like it's on rails. A little display panel down on the left if you can crane your neck to see it holds the gauges of the 21st Century as well as the button for performance mode which is short of like M mode in a hot BMW. You'll go faster but the battery will drain faster as well. The cabin's tight and not entirely there if you're over 6 feet. I could not see the top half of the analog gauges no matter what I did with my head. Everywhere you go people wave, yell encouragement and dimly stare. Part of the value of this car is buying into its moment in history. Okay so if you're convinced here's the story; 109,000 base for the Roadster, another couple grand for the Premium audio, that's the rig that has the NAV and all the various input sources. I think I would definitely do that; then you've got to wait. It's about a 12-month backlog as of right now, late 08, but Tesla hopes to double or more their monthly output in early 09.
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