What is it?
The world’s first pure-electric production sports car is a clever amalgam of Japanese-made lithium-ion batteries (6831 of them in all), Lotus lightweight engineering, and Silicon Valley audacity.
While the $98,950 Tesla Roadster lacks the sheer speed needed to pass the true supercar litmus, it’s an entertaining plaything for daily commuting and environmental profiling.
Ambitious performance goals —acceleration to 60mph in less than 4.0 seconds, a 125mph top speed, more than 200 miles of range, and a full recharge in less than four hours — are still in flux and series production is just beginning, but this car is striving to make the green age interesting for keen drivers.
What's it like?
Thanks to a torque curve that starts high and remains so for half of its rev range, the Tesla Roadster tickles your innards with a carnival ride’s giddiness.
In the two-speed prototype I tested, there was enough urge to chirp the tires and step the tail sideways from rest. That will surely change when the beta edition arrives, which gets a single-speed gearbox and 30-or-so percent more torque to take up the slack, but Tesla is committed to providing a sprinter, not a plodder.
Agility and grip pale in comparison to the donor Lotus Elise because of 30 percent more weight and handling tuned for understeer, but the Roadster is a willing partner on curve-blessed roads. While it’s no supercar, this greenie does show the cut and thrust of a bonafide sports tourer.
That said, traditionalists will miss clutch and shifter work and the angry hum of an electric motor is no replacement for whirring camshafts and snorting pipes.
A concerted effort to reshape the bucket seats, lower the door sills, and upgrade the interior lining with carpet and carbon fiber have yielded an attractive, pleasing-to-use, and reasonably comfortable cockpit.
Aside from the toupee top, the exterior is pretty dashing too.
Should I buy one?
Unless you possess Hollywood glam and a California residence, purchasing a Tesla Roadster will be difficult. The 600 units planned for the 2008 model year are already committed.