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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 26, 2008 at 1:41 PM

Driving the Tesla Roadster: wwwwWWHHHHHIRRRrrrrr

I’m still feeling the tingle after zooming around an empty parking lot in the dark gray Tesla Roadster that arrived in Bellevue this morning for marketing and customer events.

It wasn’t a full-blown road test — journalists were driven around a former Kmart parking lot at high speed, with a Tesla representative behind the wheel, then given a chance to take a few laps.

A few quick impressions: The torque really is amazing and doesn’t let up, just as Tom Saxton described in Monday’s story about the Roadster’s Seattle debut. Also surprising is the feel of the motor’s regenerative braking — even before you tap the brake, the motor slows as soon as you lift the throttle.

Almost as good as the torque was the whine the Tesla made at high RPMs — it’s not silent, like a Prius, but it doesn’t growl like a sports car, either. It has a high-pitched racy sound at speed, though.

The test course was roughly a big circle with a straightaway that ended in a T with a busy street. The factory drivers would get it up to 60 mph or so and then slam on the brakes just before cones where the parking lot exited to the street.

Two Bellevue motorcycle cops showed up while I was driving, but they were just watching and one gave a thumbs up as I was heading toward 50 in the parking lot.

The car had been driven all night from California and then zipped around all morning before I got in. The brakes and the car didn’t feel tired, but I was still a little nervous about testing the limits of the steering and the ABS brakes.

In addition to a bunch of onlookers, the Tesla attracted a potential mate — a matching gray Ford GT40 that was low enough to drive right under the rope barrier and rumble over to the roadster.

Tesla customer service rep Zak Edson (in the blue shirt in the video) declined to engage in a race, but said he could take the Ford, depending on who was driving.

Comments | More in | Topics: Billionaire techies, Gadgets & products, Startups

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