Tesla vs. All My Other Cars

At this point, I’ve owned more awesome cars than most car reviewers. I’ll cop to being a bit insane in this regard. On the other hand, it does give me a unique point of view. Below, some first week impressions of the Tesla Roadster, and how it compares to my beloved, departed Lotus Elise, my recently crunched 500e, the gone-too-soon CLS550, and my wife’s stalwart RRS.

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Each of these cars is insanely fun, in its own way. The Lotus was my favorite: after driving it (well) for 8 years, it knew what I wanted to do before I did. Every thought, every twitchy desire, translated to a sublime dance of car-ish dynamics. I knew I had reached driving Nirvana when one drizzly day I whipped around a damp corner at unsafe speeds only to encounter a downed tree branch right in my path: before I knew what I was doing, I quickly whipsawed the car around it, in absolute control of my four wheel skid as I maneuvered the Elise first one way to get my nose around the branch, then another to whip the tail around. All in the blink of an eye, all subconsciously. I loved that car. Yes, it was loud, yes, the lack of traction control (and occasionally ABS) meant rainy day commutes were scary, and yes, the ride was hell on your kidneys, but boy was it fun.

Then I brought the Fiat 500e home. Compared to the Elise, it was slow, tippy and nervous, with terrible steering wheel feel (I could actually feel the electrics move the wheels in increments when I slowly turned the steering wheel). But it too was fun. It turns out having a low-limits car is great, when you’re willing to drive at those low limits. Every launch was pedal-to-the-metal, every corner a tire-screeching one (because the tires screeched for every little thing, of course, but it was ear catching nevertheless). I quickly realized that fun was how you drove, not what you drove (within reason, of course: I can’t imagine a fun way to drive a Camry, for example). Besides, the 500e was the perfect commute car: HOV lane privileges, I could actually hear my music, and I didn’t need bluetooth headsets or ear plugs. My Elise fell into disuse, and I eventually sold it.

Sadly, the 500e met an untimely demise, and in adversity, opportunity, as Einstein liked to say. Enter the Tesla Roadster.

I’ve now spent a couple of months driving it. I’ll be posting my thoughts over the next few weeks.

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