THURSDAY: Will this house fit in the trunk? 289 miles, 97 kWh
I start the day by driving to a chic café in San Francisco. I cash in some parking karma and score a spot right in front - and get a window seat, to boot. I pretend to tap out some e-mails on my laptop, but I'm really watching to see how many people notice the Tesla. Lots do. They also seem to notice that bird after bird is spattering the carbon-fiber body and leather seats with runny, half-digested berries. Now I know why that particular spot was available in the first place. Karma is a bitch, and I'm quick to get out of there. Without breakfast.
On the way home, I stop at the grocery store with the intention of picking up something small to eat, but I make the cardinal mistake of entering the supermarket hungry and buy just about everything in sight. I walk out with $175 worth of groceries spilling out of my shopping cart, and when I open the Tesla's trunk lid, a guy in a Toyota Camry starts laughing at me. The Tesla's tiny trunk is full before I've even made a dent in the pile of shopping bags, so the rest of the chattel winds up on the passenger seat, and I drive home with Cottonelle on my lap.
I spend the rest of the day looking at houses with a real-estate agent, and although the Tesla is a lot less roomy than his Lexus, nothing says "cash deal" like pulling up in a $122,000 electric sports car. I wind up buying a house, too, so this becomes the most expensive day of my life. I should have stopped after the grocery store.
FRIDAY: Carving Canyons 389 miles, 141 kWh
Had I exhibited better control over my impulses in the Häagen-Dazs aisle, the Tesla might have even passed the grocery-store test, thus acing every exam I've given it. One last question remains: can it play sports car, too?
It certainly looks the part, and I decide to take the long way back to Tesla's shop in Menlo Park, replacing the boring interstate with almost 100 miles of mountainous, undulating roads. With the canvas top rolled up and stored in the trunk, I can actually hear the air rustling my hair - a sound that is typically obscured by a screaming engine. Normally, if a car's engine doesn't tickle my cochlea, the whole car fails to tickle my fancy - but the way the 248-hp motor reacts to my right foot is enough to compensate.
The Tesla's regenerative brakes kick in as you remove your foot from the accelerator. Since the regen slows the car at a rate of about 0.2 g, you don't use the friction brakes often in normal driving, but I finally gave the AP Racing brakes a workout tearing down the back roads. Stopping power is prodigious, although the ABS computer overreacts to small bumps in the road and cuts hydraulic pressure to the calipers. As a result, you learn very quickly to avoid reflectors and other bumps - which can occasionally cause the suspension to crash harshly into the bump stops - but the Tesla is otherwise flawless on felonious back-road blasts. The unassisted, supremely accurate steering tells you everything you want to hear from a set of front tires scrambling for traction, corner after bumpy corner. If you ever forget that the Tesla is based on a Lotus Elise, a few miles of twisty blacktop provide a quick reminder. When I pull into Tesla's parking lot, the wheels are black with brake dust, the battery is nearly empty, and I'm sunburned.