DECEMBER 2010
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Motoring

TAKE THE ALL-ELECTRIC TESLA FOR A SPIN!

Test-drive reviews by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Imagine a gas- and exhaust-free trip from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale. Heck, you don’t need to envision anymore. In fact, you can reach the nearly 200-mile distance in the all-electric Tesla Roadster. Zero to 60 mph is achieved in a mere 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 125 mph. You get “the high-end performance of a Ferrari,” as Tesla field representative Neil Joseph points out.

A 115-pound Alternating Current (AC) Induction Motor delivers 288 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. It is mated to a 1-speed automatic transmission, which lacks power-assist, but is as smooth as a 5- or 6-speed on the road. A liquid-cooled battery pack of 6,381 lithium ion cells (same as found in a laptop) stores 56 kwh of energy and can be charged from a 120- or 240-volt outlet via an on-board charger. On a full charge (which can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours and cost around $5 or 2 cents per mile), the Roadster can go 244 miles based on EPA city and highway testing. However, we could eke out just around 200 miles on a full charge in our mostly city driving.

Sitting on a monocoque chassis, the entire Tesla body is hand-built with carbon fiber. A soft top, air-conditioning, cruise control, three-spoke leather tilt steering column and heated seats are among the standard features. And how can we forget a retractable cup holder, a must for most of us? The trunk, which holds the battery pack and the electric motor (Joseph compares the motor to the size of a watermelon), can accommodate two golf bags. Up front is the a/c system for the cabin and the battery pack, electronics and brakes.

The Tesla requires zero yearly maintenance except topping the windshield washer fluid. So, forget those trips to your local Jiffy Lube or Shell. In fact, Tesla’s mobile service program, the Tesla Rangers, make house calls for annual service and upgrades. And put any worries about battery life down to rest. After 7 to 10 years of battery life, Tesla has a recycle program to help owners with its replacement.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has no dealers, just its own retail and service network of 14 stores worldwide, including one in Miami. The first Tesla Roadsters were delivered in 2008; so far, 1,400 of the rear-wheel-drive cars have been sold in 30 countries.

There are 15 Tesla owners in the Tampa Bay area. “Tampa/Orlando is among the quickest-growing markets for us,” said Joseph. “Also, Phoenix, Northeast U.S.” Once a customer orders a Tesla with a small deposit, delivery usually takes about 10 weeks.

Except for low-set seat and a cramped interior for both occupants and storage, coupled with poor rear visibility, the Tesla should attract hardcore electric car fans. The roadster provides plenty of punch while displaying exceptional grip and nimbleness. Who says an electric car can’t be fun and ‘electrifying’ to drive?

TESLA ROADSTER
Tires: 175/55R16 front; 225/45R17 rear
Suspension: four-wheel independent
Wheelbase: 92.6 inches
Length: 155.1 inches
Weight: 2,723 pounds
Base price: $109,000; $128,500 for Sport;
Web site: www.teslamotors.com


ACURA TL OFFERS AN EXHILARATING DRIVING EXPERIENCE

We have great admiration for the four-door, five-passenger midsize luxury sedan from Acura. Why? Because we own a 2003 TL, which has proved to be a reliable and entertaining car to drive. Naturally, we were excited to test-drive the 2011 TL equipped with the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) Tech Package.

A 3.7-liter V-6 engine cranks out 305 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 273 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. Power is put to the road via a quick-shifting 5-speed automatic transmission. A double wishbone front and a multilink rear suspension system works well to absorb highway bumps.

No hoses or pumps are used in the Electric Power Steering, which translates into fuel savings. Ensuring stability and balance is the standard SH-AWD, which distributes power not just between the front and rear wheels but also the left and right rear wheels.

Redesigned for 2009, the fourth-generation TL sports the massive Acura grille, of which we aren’t huge fans. The exterior fascia also shows off projector-style HID and halogen headlights, LED tail lamps, integrated fog lamps, cooling ducts for front brakes and dual exhaust tips.

A Tech Package entails a navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, real-time traffic and weather, Acura/ELS sound system with 10 speakers, push-button ignition and keyless access entry.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The cabin is adorned in opulence with a three-spoke tilt and telescopic steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power driver and eight-way front-passenger heated seats, power moon roof, rear-passenger vent controls and LED backlit gauges.

When we bought our TL in 2003, the car was quite affordable for aspiring luxury car buyers. Priced at $42,385 for the present SH-AWD Tech model, the Acura sedan is expensive by any standards. But the stylish car does offer an exhilarating driving experience with high-tech luxury cabin items that leave you asking for more.

TL SH-AWD
Tires: P245/45R18
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 195.5 inches
Weight: 3,962 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Web site: www.acura.com


AFFORDABLE 2011 KIA SPORTAGE IS ROOMY, SPORTY

Completely revamped for 2011, the crossover utility vehicle is 3.5 inches longer, 2.1 inches wider and 2.3 inches lower than its predecessor. Gone are the two power trains: 2.01-liter 4-cylinder (140 horsepower) and the 2.7-liter V-6 (173 hp). Both have been replaced by an all-new 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine, which boasts 176 hp at 6000 rpm and 168 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm.

Our front-wheel-drive Sportage was equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission. A tweaked front MacPherson strut and an all-new multilink rear suspension ensures that the Sportage handles the rigors of daily driving with comfort and stability. The motor power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quick and precise. Braking is handled by capable 11-inch vented front and 10.3-inch solid rear discs.

Sweptback halogen headlights meet up with a sculpted hood and a rakish windshield to create a sleek and eye-catching appearance. Standard cabin amenities include dual-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD audio, power windows and door locks, hands-free Bluetooth, cruise control, trip computer, tilt steering wheel and 60/40-split fold rear seats. Storage bins are scattered throughout, including a huge under-floor cargo area with compartments. Among the available options are a panoramic sunroof, push-button start, navigation and a rear camera display.

Kia needs to be commended for offering numerous standard safety features, which are optional in some competitor vehicles. These include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, front active headrests, four-wheel antilock brakes, rollover sensor, Electronic Stability Control and traction control, Downhill Brake Control, Hill-start Assist Control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The Sportage is a good-looking, roomy, sporty, practical and affordable vehicle. With the redesigned Sorento, Forte and Optima to follow soon, 2011 may very well be the year that Kia perked up everyone’s attention. Just like its affiliate company Hyundai has done recently.

SPORTAGE EX (FWD)
Tires: P235/55R18
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Length: 174.8 inches
Weight: 3,186 pounds
Cargo volume: 54.6 cubic feet
Base price: $23,295
Web site: www.kiausa.com

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