“Most electric cars were designed by and for people who fundamentally don’t think we should drive,” says Martin Eberhard, one of Tesla’s founders. Tesla set out in 2003 to change that with the Roadster.

It took until 2006 before the Roadster was unveiled. Production started in earnest in 2008, with 10 production cars reaching California by the middle of last year, and 150 by the end of the year. The Roadster is the first Tesla, but it won’t be the last; more models arrived in the shape of the Model S and Model X.

Ever since carriages dispensed with horses there have been electric cars, but for much of the past century they’ve been relegated to niche vehicles, performing at low speeds over short distances. Even supposedly radical recent ones do little else.

The Tesla Roadster aims to change that. It’s not just an electric car; it’s an electric sports car, and a very expensive one at that. It is Tesla’s attempt to glamorise electric motoring and, as we’ll discover, it’s fascinating, totally relevant and revolutionary.

Buyers can choose between the standard car and the Roadster Sport, which gets lightweight alloy wheels, more performance-oriented Yokohama tyres, 10-way adjustable Ohlins dampers, adjustable anti-roll bars, and a more powerful electric motor.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • BMW M3 CS 2018 review hero front
    First Drive
    20 May 2018
    The CS meters out ruthless performance with clinical control. It’s questionable value for money, but a stellar drivers’ car, and a fitting finale for the F80 M3
  • BMW M5 2018 longterm review hero front
    First Drive
    20 May 2018
    We rate the new M5 as best in class. Will we think the same after three months with it?
  • Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 2018 review hero front
    Car review
    18 May 2018
    Porsche seeks to answer its Cayman critics with a new range-topping model
  • Jeep Wrangler (JL) Unlimited Rubicon 2018 review hero front
    First Drive
    18 May 2018
    New electronic technologies meet traditional mechanical strengths to deliver peerless off-road prowess with added everyday appeal
  • BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 2018 review hero front
    First Drive
    18 May 2018
    New engines, gearboxes and looks spruce up the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer for 2018