What is it?
It’s the future of performance cars. Possibly. This is our first chance to drive an almost-finished version of the all-electric Tesla Roadster on UK roads.
If you don’t already know, Tesla has created a silent-running zero emissions sports car that’s based on a heavily reworked version of the Lotus Elise. It’s the first of what the company hopes will be a full line-up of futuristic battery-powered vehicles.
The difference here is that Tesla’s made big performance promises that could, if the Roadster can deliver, completely change the way we think about electric cars.
And it can do this instantly, from zero rpm, where the electric drive system serves up its maximum 275lb ft shove immediately. As the thrust is seamless (there’s only one gear) the Tesla feels even faster than its four-second 0-60mph time suggests.
At first it is incredibly eerie charging around at these speeds with no engine noise.
But you get used to it surprisingly quickly – the novelty never of silent ‘motoring’ never wears off and it’s a constant reminder that you’re driving a pollution-free car. In the city, though, you do worry about unaware pedestrians wandering out in front of you.
The Tesla’s mid-mounted batteries and power inverter weigh a whopping 450kg and - although Tesla’s engineers used carbon fibre in the body to bring weight down – the Roadster doesn’t handle as well as a Lotus. It weighs around 330kg more than the Elise, for a start.
But it’s still very impressive and will be a revelation compared with overweight sports cars in the US market it’s aimed at.
Tesla has maintained Lotus’ suspension at the front but had to completely rework the rear geometry.
The Roadster’s a bit too soft at the back, and the body control can be poor – it thumps over potholes – but the damper and rebound rates are adjustable.