The menacing chug of a big-bore V8 pulsates through the car. I can even feel the pistons at work as the whole structure shakes at idle. Yet there is no V8 in this two-seater. There are no pistons at all, for that matter, because this is the Brabus Tesla, a tuned electric sports car. Something weird is going on…
Brabus is famous for wringing huge horsepower from various Mercedes, but this concept is its first step into the world of zero emissions. Forget big horsepower, though. Without ripping out the generator there was nothing that could be done to boost the Tesla’s output, though with its 375-volt motor producing 248bhp and 280lb ft, enabling 60mph in 3.9sec and 125mph, it wasn’t exactly shabby.
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The overall Tesla experience was crying out for a fix, though. Only when the car scooted off the line did you know it was even switched on, and the dull crescendo of electric motor and tyre noise was just wrong. It’s not like that here, though. Instead it vibrates like a muscle car to the sound of Brabus’s own 6.1-litre V8 and 462bhp of feigned output, strategically placed subwoofers and speakers mimicking a real engine to perfection in terms of sound and feel through the carbonfibre bodywork.
And when I finally tire of blipping the throttle and engage ‘D’, the Tesla no longer feels like a leap into tomorrow’s world. It feels like a real sports car. Brabus recorded its 6.1-litre at every stage of throttle travel and linked the results to the Tesla’s single, long 0-125mph gear. Despite this minor plot flaw it’s hard not to believe there’s a huge petrol engine under the skin with this kind of accelerative force. And it doesn’t have to be a V8. It could be a screaming race-car engine or, well, just about any motor Brabus chooses to put a microphone next to.
Adjustable coilover suspension can drop the car by up to 30mm over Pirelli P Zero Rosso-shod 18in front, 19in rear alloys of Brabus’s own design, and the Tesla cuts into bends with an immaculate, low-inertia feel. In fact it’s almost as good as the Elise on which it’s based. Yet with the best will in the world there is no hiding the extra 450kg of battery pack. Brabus used forged aluminium to cut the suspension weight by 30 per cent, and it’s working on a ceramic brake upgrade, but that’s like ordering a diet drink with a bucket of nuggets. This is a car screaming for battery technology to catch up and lose weight.
Until then the cosmetic mods will still go down a storm with the wealthy Silicon Valley set. The naked carbonfibre front and rear spoilers and Audi-style LED daytime running lights add a touch of testosterone, while, inside, Brabus has removed most traces of Lotus with lightweight leather and Alcantara trim.
Tesla boss Elon Musk should look long and hard at what Brabus has done with this concept, because the addition of piped-in sound has given his brilliant technical achievement real motoring heart and soul. And this is not Tesla specific; one day all electric cars could sound like this. Imagine that – the perfect green car of the future coming complete with a healthy dose of dirty, old-school, oily nostalgia.
|Engine||375 volt AC induction motor|
|Max power||248bhp @ 4500-8500rpm|
|Max torque||280lb ft @ 0-4500rpm|
|Top speed||125mph (claimed)|
|On sale||Not yet|