Trendsetting, but at a price…

It's not often I feel sorry for motoring hacks whose horizons are filled with Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Porsches - but today this is a thought that ran through my mind.

1988811111I've driven both the new Toyota iQ and the new Tesla electric sports car on the same day, and it has provided a fascinating view of the future.

I'm not suggesting that the industry will suddenly turn to cranking out cars like these and nothing else, but the comparative speed of their appearance makes it clear that there could be sizeable rump of these new-wave cars on the market quite soon - provided you and I support them.

There's the rub. Each is these is a truly exciting car, but each has drawbacks.

19888101548The iQ strikes me as a classic early-adopter's car, something which costs too much for what it delivers. I say this from the standpoint of someone who became so obsessed with the original Smart that he bought one (for far too high a price) straight off the motor show stand, several years before Mercedes started selling them here.

I've got similar enthusiastic thoughts about the iQ, which is far more practical and better supported, but also too expensive (as we've said) against the likes of a Hyundai i10, plus bulkier and not quite as cute as a Smart. But it's secret weapon is that alongside it everything else seems ordinary.

I was preparing to dislike the Tesla. The price is ridiculous, if you know as much as we all do about the price of an Elise, which provides its chassis and running gear. And it has a nice Toyota engine.

16199104822569356x236Then I drove the Tesla precisely 3.7 miles: out of the office car park, right and left, up to a convenient large roundabout (two quick circuits) and back. In that time my mind was completely changed.

It was easy to drive, precise to steer, flat-riding, refined - and ridiculously fast. The acceleration reminded me of something Martin Brundle once told me about driving an F1 car: before you've finished pushing the accelerator down, the car's accelerating.

You suddenly realise that road-going internal combustion engines, all of them, have to ingest a column of gas before they can go. Electric motors just go. And really, really fast.

16199104650726356x236Is it a toy? Certainly. It's another car for the early adopter (a rich one, in this case). But it's no more of a toy than the Caterham in many a garage, which takes its owner out for an urgent 50-100 miles on the weekend, then gets put away again.

The Tesla would fit that mould perfectly - and it has many other points of interest besides. Track days? Make sure the track's nearby - or take it on a trailer. But you'll be the life and soul (and one of the quickest out of corners) when you get there.



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