The times… they are a-changin’

So sang Bob Dylan in 1964. He could have been talking about my experience today.

A rare meeting of our driving breakfast club occurred this morning. A number of people on my street have nice cars and enjoy driving them on some of the twisty roads in the area. For several years we go out and drive for one, two or more hours on the best roads we can find.

Breakfast drive
Our breakfast driving club

Recently Teslas have become a feature of our neighbourhood. Car enthusiasts have sold their performance German saloons and pruchased Elon’s finest. Today was the first run I have been on with a Tesla in the group. I followed a model S for the first 20 minutes stint. They are quick for sure… out of the bends it took off down the straights like a scalded cat but only to be caught at the next bend. The next straight followed by a bend revealed precisely the same pattern. The behaviour of the Tesla and the 308 could not be more different.

As we approached each bend, the model S braked early went through the apex relatively slowly and then blasted out of the bend. I on the other hand, braked late into the bend, rotated the car and carried a higher apex speed. This was the recurrent story until our stop at the end of our first section which was the first opportunity to discuss the model S.

According to the driver the model S has to be slowed down before turn in to avoid chronic understeer. Once the front-end gripped, he said, the car could be accelerated through the bend with abandon. The driver considered his apex speed to be high but I think that the mass of the car was a misleading factor here as the 308’s apex speed was consistently higher. For the next two stints I took the lead of the group and did not see the rest of the cars in my mirrors until we hit traffic some 30 minutes down the road.

As we ate breakfast, the conversation was, of course, as normal, purely automotive. However, I was untypically aloof and spent more time listening rather than talking. I was keen to hear what these Tesla drivers would talk about over their coffee and bacon. There could be no “your car sounds incredible on the overrun”. There could be no “I was at redline on every change”. There could be no “I heard you nail the heel-toe into that tricky hairpin”.

So what was the conversation? It included how rewarding the car was when one managed to avoid the understeer. It was how great the car was when regen did not kick in mid-bend. It was about how the trick to fast driving was to feather the throttle to fool the electronics. The conversation seemed to be anti-car – like the car was the problem.

I’m not against the electric car. I am not anti-Tesla. I look forward to a world where the compactness and efficiency of electric motors ushers in a new age of coachbuilding populated with designs currently not feasible with the ICE. I also look forward to an automonous electric vehicle transporting me effortlessly on roads that I don’t care about at times when I have more important things to do.

However, this conversation was not about the road, or the tires, or the experience of cornering. It was about the deficiencies of the cars they were driving. It was about how the electronics of the car were interfering with the driving. It was about how these cars needed to be managed rather than driven. Did any of the proponents see these as deficiencies? On the contrary, these owners seemed to genuinely enthusiastic about these machines and their management challenges. I found the lack of emotion in the discussion disappointing. The conversation resembled one that could very likely happen in my own home discussing the relative merits and performance of the incumbent Dyson versus the new shiny Shark vacuum.

I drifted away in my mind and the Tesla babble receded. I became caught up in my own reverie of the drive. I thought of the slide caught on entry and then again on exit as the tires reached optimum temperature. I thought of the induction howl in my right ear as I came out of yet another bend. I thought of the exquisite 30 minute three-pedal dance I had just completed with my 308 ballet partner. I thought about how for that half-hour, the car had felt like an extension of myself. Movements were unthought. Braking, steering, shifting and accelerating blended into a symphony with the road as the conductor and me as a simple musician.

Clearly, I am a dinosaur. No one else at the table cared about such a transcendental experience. No one else at that table would have understood it even if I had described it. At first, this bothered me. Then this dinosaur got over it and went for another gasoline-fueled drive.

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Disclaimer: describes the restoration work I perform on my car and only my car. I am not a professional mechanic. The website content is presented for entertainment purposes only and should not be seen as any kind of advice, information, instruction or guidance for working on any other car. The opinions stated here are my own and no-one else’s.

4 Responses

  1. Don Bartz says:

    Very interesting and insightful. I was at a luncheon with the Ferrari Club here in Florida and was talking to a young couple who had just purchased their new Ferrari. A Cal Spider ( they had a baby and needed a back seat!). They had been Tesla owners and had been members of the Tesla Club and had attended a few meetings. When I asked them what made them venture into the Ferrari community, they said the Tesla crowd was very different….instead of talking about the things we talk about re. our Ferrari’s….maintenance, fun of driving, engine sound, etc., etc., the Tesla folks talked about how far they could go on a charge!
    The young man said he approached his wife about buying a Ferrari and without hesitation she said YES!…..NOW!
    I’m not sure if the Tesla owners wearing Birkenstock’s, or having Hilary in ’16 stickers had anything to do with their decision though 🙂 Kidding…….kind of.

    • David says:

      Hi Don. Indeed it sounds like a similar situation – a flaw (in this case, range anxiety) being discussed like it was a virtue.

    • David says:

      The reality is of course that every single electric car has a longer range than my 308 when I am “on it”. Let’s see… 18.5 gallons at about 8 mpg (I have a very heavy right foot) means I’m at less than 150 miles. I should be the one with range anxiety 🤣

  2. Tom J says:

    Fun article, I really enjoyed it. Enlightening about the e-car dynamics. I auto crossed against a Tesla that did well…as long as he could go charge up between runs. ‘Not the way I want to drive autocross.

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