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Question from potential new owner

Discussion in 'Roadster: Technical' started by John W. Ratcliff, Mar 27, 2016.

  1. John W. Ratcliff

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    I have been doing a fair amount of research on the Tesla Roadster and I'm now almost completely certain that it is going to be the next car I buy. I really only have one big concern, one that I'm hoping owners could help answer for me.

    The thing is, I have never actually even seen a Tesla Roadster in real life; only pictures. My concern is primarily about what it feels to sit in it.

    1. I am no stranger to small cars. Here is a picture of me standing next to one of my recent vehicles; a Beck 550.

    [​IMG]

    It's kind of hard to get much smaller than that. I'm not that tall of a guy either, I'm only 5' 11", that car is really just that small. You may notice that even in that tiny car, the driver has a full 360 field of view all around him, and he sits well up and has great visibility.

    In fact, one of the main reasons I love convertibles so much is how you feel connected to the outside world in all directions; so much so that I now practically feel claustrophobic in a coup.

    Since I have never seen a Tesla Roadster in real life, I just can't tell if it has a visibility problem or not or, if so, how uncomfortable it is.

    The only reference I have is to the Lotus Elise. The one time I ever sat in a Lotus Elise I really, really, did not like it. For a 'convertible' it had horrible visibility and, quite frankly, it felt like I was stepping into a coffin as I sank into it. I have never felt to 'enclosed' and 'blinded' in a convertible in my life.

    I see that the Tesla Roadster has a large cowl behind the driver, and I'm afraid it too feels very closed in?

    Thanks,

    John
     
  2. ViperDoc

    ViperDoc Roadster 1305

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    I think the Roadster is bigger than the car you have pictured. The Roadster has great visibility IMHO. It is slightly bigger than the Elise (but not much). If you make it out to Vermont, you can try out mine.

    DJ
     
  3. gregd

    gregd Member

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    Hi John,

    The Roadster is small, though probably bigger than your Beck in some dimensions, and perhaps smaller in others. It is definitely a low car, which is more of a problem with people getting out than when getting in, but the door sill is better positioned than the Lotus, and I've read that this makes it easier in both directions. There are a couple of YouTube videos that the Tesla team published, showing how a tall person would get in and out. I tell people who haven't experienced the Roadster that you don't get into it, you put it on.

    I do find, however, that there are some serious blind spots when driving a Roadster, and they are something you really need to get used to. It might be partly that I'm only 5'4", so part of the problem is that if I turn my head and try to look out the rear window to see what's to my right, I'm looking right into the side wedge-shaped wing. A taller driver (or if I skootch up a bit) can look over the top of it a bit more, which can help, but it's still easy to hide a small car over there. Take some time to adjust your mirrors, and just be a little more careful when you drive in crazy traffic.

    I don't feel at all confined in the car. Partly being small myself might help, partly that I have a clear top (search for "Visium") that I use during the winter. Highly recommended for the looks alone (my opinion), but I think it would help keep that open-top feel if you are tall. If you drive with a passenger, be sure it's someone you get along with; there is little separation between the seats. I find the seats themselves to be very comfortable, and don't mind taking long trips in them at all.

    I understand that there is a magic personal height that can limit what you can see of the instrument panel, behind the non-adjusting steering wheel. I have absolutely no trouble, but you might be in that range; perhaps others can help here. I haven't read that it's a deal breaker for anyone, though.

    All this being said, the overall experience like no other car. Acceleration is wonderful, sounding more like the Jetson's car than anything terrestrial. Handling is good, though a little heavier feeling than some other cars I've driven. The 900 lbs of batteries behind your seat can definitely be felt. But more than any other car I've driven, it truly feels like an extension of your mind and body when you drive. The one-pedal driving, with the instant and smooth acceleration and strong regenerative breaking, and the tight steering, allow the car to respond to just about anything you can think of.

    And as I also tell folks, the "Tesla Grin" is standard equipment. Good luck with your search!
     
  4. hcsharp

    hcsharp Active Member

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    It doesn't feel closed-in to me, and the seats are very comfortable. But it does have some blind spots. I've come to rely on the backup camera which was available starting with version 2.5. If you're careful you don't need it.
     
  5. adiggs

    adiggs Active Member

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    You primarily mentioned blind spots, in the context of a convertible with effectively no top. By comparison, yes, the Roadster has big blind spots to both sides. I'm 6'0 or 5'11'' and drive the car on a daily basis. However, I've also had much bigger cars sneak up on me.

    Three years in, and I still have the Tesla grin. I still LOVE red lights when I'm first in line, and go out of my way to brake for them :)

    Oh yeah - I also have the Visium / glass top. Here in Oregon, we leave it on just about year round - all but a few months over the summer. Many reasons for it, but part of it is always feeling like we're driving with the top off, without the wind and noise from actually driving with the top off (I've found that I mostly don't care for the extra sensory input :)).

    Good luck with your search.
     
  6. John W. Ratcliff

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    Thanks for the replies. It sounds like the visibility isn't as bad as what I experienced in the Elise. My current vehicle is a targa, and maybe has similar visibility to the Tesla.

    My current car is an 1996 Acura NSX-T which I am selling at the end of this month:

    [​IMG]

    The car I really want is a Ferrari 360 Spyder

    [​IMG]

    However, the F360 is about 10-15 thousand dollars more than a used 2010-2011 Tesla Roadster Sport.

    The main reason I'm thinking I will not get the Ferrari is the maintenance costs. When you make a list of every single thing that can go wrong with a Ferrari that could lead to a $3,000-$10,000+ repair bill, almost none of those items even *exist* in a Tesla Roadster.

    I'm expecting the Tesla Roadster to be essentially maintenance free.

    The Ferrari will hold it's value, I'm still a little uncertain about the Roadster. The 2010-2011 Tesla Roadster Sport has already depreciated substantially, the question is, how much further will it go?

    Let's say I pay 70k for a Tesla Roadster Sport, drive it for two years, will it still be worth 70k? Hard to say for sure.

    There will always be F360 spyders available for sale, so I've kind of decided to get the Tesla, drive it for two to three years, and then decide what will be my 'next car', at that time.
     
  7. tvuolo

    tvuolo Member

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    LOL, that's the exact model of Ferrari I was looking at a few years ago! Fortunately, I drove a Model S P85+ a few weeks before driving a Ferrari 360. The 360 was nice, but I had more fun driving the Model S!! Of course... I wanted a two seater convertible, so I began my research and quest for a Roadster. Not one single regret. It took me a year to actually get one, once I had made the decision to buy one.
     
  8. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    The Roadster is small but I find it comfortable. It is however very similar to an Elise. The cabin is about 1 inch wider, and the sills are about 1 inch lower making it a LITTLE easier to get in and out of. But only a little. I am 5' 8" and for me it is very comfortable but there are some blind spots and larger people find it cramped. I hope you find one to test out. If you ever pass through NE Tennessee I would be happy to oblige.
     
  9. John W. Ratcliff

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    Thanks for the offers. I should have said sooner, I live in St. Louis, Missouri. If anyone is within a few hour drive (eastern Tennessee is probably a bit too far for me), I would definitely take a day trip to come see a roadster in person.

    Thanks!

    John
     
  10. John W. Ratcliff

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  11. gregd

    gregd Member

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    I read your blog, and it seems like you left out one criteria. All of your cars appear to have been Red. Just an observation, but that may limit your choices a bit. There are less than 2,500 Roadsters on the planet, and most are not the Sport model. Not sure how many of Sports are red.

    Depending on the car and a bit of luck, most find the car to be pretty trouble-free. Mine hasn't been quite so, but the local service center has gone out of their way to make things right.

    My only regret in buying the Roadster is that I didn't get it sooner.
     
  12. roadster348

    roadster348 Member

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    I bought my 2008 Roadster (version 1.5) in Jan 2015 and the prices are pretty much the same as they were then for a comparable model.
    The only service I've done is the yearly $600 annual maintenance. Haven't even had to put air in the tires.
     
  13. wiztecy

    wiztecy Active Member

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    My 1.5 Roadster is my daily driver, picked it up about 4 years ago with 3k on it. Has 60k now. Did a bunch of performance enhancements to dial it in even better, some are necessities like brakes, rotors, suspension (from non-adjustables to adjustables), learned how to dial in the alignment settings and with many of those you (really I) can minimize the negative aspects of the car being 900lbs heavier than the Elise. Its personally been my best, most reliable, fun and favorite vehicle I've ever owned hands down. Since its an aluminum frame you get fabulous feeling for the road, so the more upgrades you do in that area end up going a long way.

    As for any blindspots, there are aftermarket convex mirrors that remedy that. I installed carbon fiber race mirrors with custom aluminum mounts & blue colored night tinting and they work fantastic. I have substantially wider field of view and enjoy using them when making a pass. They take a month to get use to, but once you used these types of mirrors you want them on all your cars! So beware its habit forming.

    Speaking of habit forming, beware that when/if you do drive a Roadster it gives one strong and positive impression that you'll find some way to get it parked in your driveway soon. That's what happened to me!

    Its also a car, for myself, that I'll never want to part with. For one, its quite a beautiful car. The lines on it look so natural and attractive. There's never a day that passes where its not being admired by just myself. You'll have people taking cell phone pics, video's, pointing, smiling, thumb's up'n, and screaming out the window "Hey, that's one very nice car!" I typically reply back that I love how I never have stop at the gas station, I can refuel at the convenience of my home.

    Which gets to another point. These cars need and want to be driven. Its sad that some people who've bought these quite special cars, but didn't put any miles on them. I've seen them as low as 436 miles. They work great as an everyday commuting car as long as you don't have to pick up multiple people or need to move something of relatively large/odd sizes. Although I've packed mine up quite full from Costco or buying some odd purchase from Craigslist.

    As for going up in price, who knows. But honestly buying cars is not about buying them to invest in, most of the times which is rare, they go up and sometimes rocket. You should really buy a car because you believe in it, that something about it fascinates you, that when you drive it, it opens new experiences and joys that cars allow us to experience and share. The Roadster is a very rare car, around 2500, all hand-built all the way to the assembly of the carbon body. Some have been unfortunately totaled, some recovered as salvage vehicles that are supported and some not supported by Tesla. So who knows how many are really around now. So there are many similar factors Roadster has with some valuable classic cars that have tested and already proved their market.

    As for the fit, I'm 6' tall and 170lbs. It fits me like a glove.
     
  14. John W. Ratcliff

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    Thanks for all of the feedback. I have kind of narrowed it down to two cars. Either a brand new 2016 Alfa Romeo 4c spyder, or a 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. They both cost about the same amount of money, have similar performance characteristics, and are both beautiful looking small convertible sports cars; just what I'm looking for. I'm a huge fan of Alfa Romeo's ever since I drove a 1993 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce for about five years. They are just beautiful cars, and a lot of fun to drive.

    The decision kind of boils down to this.

    The 4c comes with a 4 year bumper to bumper warranty, so if I buy it I will have absolutely zero maintenance costs. That is a very significant factor. On the other hand, the 4c will probably depreciate by $20k during the time frame that I own it.

    The Tesla Roadster Sport will, quite likely, not depreciate at all. However, after talking to Jeremy Zesnack, he led me to believe that I could get hit, out of the blue at any time, with the cost of either replacing the PEM or batteries; which could easily cost a great deal of money.

    So, it kind of boils down to deciding, is it better to take the depreciation on the 4c, but have no maintenance costs, versus little to no depreciation on the Tesla but risk getting hit with sudden and unexpected major repairs?

    With the 4c, at least there are no surprises. With the Tesla, I'm not yet sure how to evaluate the degree of real risk of getting hit with a major, very expensive, repair over a 2-3 year period of ownership.

    If anyone has any thoughts or perspective I would be glad to hear it. I'm planning on making a buying decision towards the end of April, and in the meantime I hope to test drive both vehicles to help come to a firm decision.

    Thanks!

    John
     
  15. MLAUTO

    MLAUTO Member

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    While the performance specs of the Alfa and Roadster might be similar, the actual driving experience is quite a bit different. The instant torque and silent motor of the Roadster puts it in a class by itself. You will know right away which one you want after you drive them both. And don't forget to add in the cost of gas for the Alfa.
     
  16. John W. Ratcliff

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    >>And don't forget to add in the cost of gas for the Alfa

    When you are buying an exotic sports car for over $70,000 and plan to put less than 3,000 miles a year on it, the cost of gas is the least of your concerns. ;)

    Like you said, I will just have to experience both cars to be able to make up my mind.

    The biggest issue for me with the Tesla Roadster is from my conversation with Jeremy, when he explained that Tesla doesn't even really know how to 'fix' these cars; they just replace anything that doesn't work at a *massive* cost, and that is kind of frightening. If the Tesla's were still under warranty, this wouldn't even be a question.

    The Alfa Romeo 4c comes with a bumper to bumper 4 year warranty, and four years is probably longer than I would expect to own it in the first place.

    What is Tesla's long term commitment to Roadster owners, and will they make sure their cost of ownership doesn't turn into a nightmare of replaced PEM units and failing batteries?

    Knowing you could get hit with an out of the blue 30k bill because the batteries are shot, at any time, is a truly frightening thing to contemplate.
     
  17. hcsharp

    hcsharp Active Member

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    The Roadster Sport is much quicker especially at lower speeds. It's really a very different driving experience. The Roadster has its torque right there on the pedal all the time. The 4C has a long turbo lag. Here's from a review of the 2015 4C:
    A second or so of pause??? Seriously?

    Not a valid comparison. Battery and PEM replacements are rare and can often be repaired instead of replaced. The true cost of such repairs should be calculated by multiplying the chance of it happening by the average cost of repair. I think you'll find that works out to a lot lower number than the depreciation on a new 4C. Probably lower than most high-end sports cars too.

    You're also confusing maintenance with repairs. I don't know what the annual maintenance is for the Alpha Romeo, but if I had to guess I'd say it's probably a lot higher than the Roadster.
     
  18. gregd

    gregd Member

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    I had a direct experience last year with the "replacement PEM" topic, over a bad connector. The service center worked things out with the factory, and I ended up paying mostly just the labor to get it replaced. Even so, worst case, that would have been only half of your guaranteed depreciation on the 4C.

    Batteries typically don't just fail, they degrade, and without intending to put a lot of miles on it, your main responsibility is to just keep it reasonably charged. But even if you do end up driving more than planned (and none of us will be surprised when you do), the risk there is probably not huge.

    Since the car is also a technology proving ground, there is a lot of information it keeps on its health and performance. If you can work with the current owner to get the vehicle logs, there are parsers you can use to review the battery health, alerts, and basically a history of every time the car sneezed.
     
  19. jeremyz

    jeremyz Member

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    John, I was trying to be very conservative about the likelihood that you would be hit with a big money bag repair over a 3 year ownership window. I conjectured the likelihood was 20% to 30% (it's probably more like 10%). So, the expected cost would be:
    Brick your whole battery (likelihood is way less than 30%): ($30000 3.0 battery cost - ~$20000 equity increase) * .3 = $3000
    Battery needs a sheet replaced: $5000 * .3 = $1500
    PEM replacement: $10000 * .3 = $3000

    So, I think the expected maintenance costs on the Roadster are way lower than the expected depreciation on the 4C. With the Roadster though, you would have to be able to potentially tolerate a much larger transient. As for comparing the two cars, I really like twitchy turbo cars, but I love my Roadster.

    I stand by my statements that Tesla doesn't really fix any big ticket items at the service centers. They just replace the items with refurbished parts from the factory. The parts are fixed at the factory and your end cost has no relationship to actual repair cost for the part; I don't think that model is viable for Tesla in the long run. I think it's also fair to say that Tesla is inconsistent in what it charges customers for repairs. Sometimes, they comp giant repairs; sometimes, they don't.

    I guess if you look at the Tesla Roadster extended warranties (which are only available to cars that are still under warranty), they think 100% coverage for 3 years/36,000 miles is worth $12,500. I'm not sure if it's possible to buy a 2.5 Roadster that you could still get an extended warranty for.
    Roadster service plans
     
  20. Habious

    Habious Member

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    I'm in the process of going through a PEM replacement right now (my Roadster is at the Tyco Road Service Center, in VA).

    Prices I got quoted were:

    New PEM: $8K
    Refurb PEM: $2.5K

    Now, with my particular situation, it wasn't MY choice as to go with a new or refurb unit; it was about what was (or wasn't) available. From my understanding, they're putting in a refurb PEM.

    I've also had the unfortunate experience to "enjoy" having my battery pack go *poof, requiring TSC to pull the pack, and send it back to the mothership in CA for refurbishment. That was, if I recall, around $4.5K.

    Alfas are ridiculously-pretty cars, and a hoot to drive. However, the reliability on them...well, that's something else.

    But, considering what I've been through, I'm not in a position to say that the Alfa would be LESS reliable than the Roadster.

    With all of that being said, though, you have to actually EXPERIENCE "100% Torque Available at Zero RPM" to really understand it. The power (and there's plenty of it) is just...there...whenever you want it. No turbos to spool up, not even a half-second transmission downshift to get you in the power band. It's just...there. Sitting at a light, put your foot in it, and it throws you back into the seat. Cruising at 40 MPH, put your foot in it, and it instantly throws you back in the seat. Zipping along at 60 MPH on the highway and need to pass someone, stick your foot in it and...you guessed it...throws you back in the seat.

    I've always told people, from Day 1, that the hardest part about driving the Roadster is not giggling like a 12-year-old girl every time you drive it. It's just that much fun.

    However, I do know that some folks like the more visceral driving experience. Mowing through the gears of a manual transmission, and the roar of the engine when you put the hammer down. You get NONE of that with the Roadster. Wind noise, and tires rolling on the pavement...that's about all you hear (a little bit of motor whine when you nail it but, nothing compared to the roar of a turbocharged engine). I'm not saying one is better than the other...they're just very, very different experiences.
     

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