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New range-topping Tesla delivers greater thrills and fewer spills

Our Verdict

Tesla Roadster 2008-2012

Is the Tesla Roadster a short-lived novelty or the future of performance motoring?

Tesla Roadster Sport

What is it?

A new version of the Tesla Roadster. It seems like an odd move for a car so new and revolutionary, but the Roadster has had an early facelift. Barely a year after Tesla began delivering cars it has released the Roadster ‘2.0’, which gets a revised cabin, some new Panasonic batteries and some slightly smaller, lighter and more efficient under-the-skin componentry too.

And as part of the early facelift, Tesla has introduced a ‘go-faster’ version called the Roadster Sport. It’s got lightweight alloy wheels, more performance-oriented Yokohama tyres, 10-way adjustable Ohlins dampers, adjustable anti-roll bars, and the all-important more powerful electric motor.

The Roadster Sport’s AC induction motor is hand-woven with more copper than the standard car’s powerplant gets, and produces more power and torque as a result: 40 extra horses and 19 additional foot pounds to be exact. If you prefer to measure these things in terms of sheer current, the regular motor can draw 800 amps from the car’s lithium-ion battery at any one time; the Roadster Sport’s peaks at 1000 amps.

What’s it like?

Quick. The standard Roadster we figured back in February felt quick, of course, but we were disappointed when measuring it against the clock, as it took 5.0sec to hit 60mph instead of the claimed 4.0. The Roadster Sport dashes to 60mph 3.7sec, or so Tesla says. And while we can’t confirm as much officially, it certainly feels like a seriously fast car at times, and an even quicker one than its rangemate.

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Getting maximum performance out of this car involves more than just mashing the throttle. First, while the ignition’s on but the transmission’s disengaged, twist the key around to the right and hold it there for a few seconds, as if you were cranking the starter motor. A small yellow ‘P’ will appear in the top right of the car’s tunnel-mounted energy flow monitor. You’ve just entered Performance Mode. You can now pull alongside anything on the humbler side of a Porsche 911 Turbo at traffic lights and hand out a lesson in explosive short-distance sprinting.

That’s because up to about 40mph this Tesla could run with a true blue supercar. It serves up posture-correcting urge the very instant you call for it. Urge that’s every bit as mind-blowing for its immediacy and smoothness as it is for its overall magnitude, and that’s addictive enough to amuse you time after hilarious time.

It’s a peculiarity of the Tesla’s electric powertrain that, as your speed increases, so the car’s accelerative potential tails off. Between 50 and 80mph it goes like an M3. From 80 to 110mph, it feels just about as fast as a Golf GTi. And trying to get from 110 to the car’s 125mph limited top speed, watching the car’s remaining range deplete at a mile every five seconds or so, actually isn’t much fun at all.

Thanks to that better-specified suspension, however, this car is more suited to British B-roads than the standard one; it feels taut and sharp across country. Dial the Roadster Sport’s adjustable Ohlins up to ‘10’ and you’ll be much less aware of the car’s 1.3-tonne weight, as it jinks over crests and through compressions, than you would be in a regular Roadster.

And though you can still feel the car’s heft at times via the load running through its unassisted steering, that wheel remains a joy to interact with, as alive as it is with communication and feel.

While body control has been improved, so has the Roadster’s roadholding for the Sport version. The car’s rather wild on-limit handling has also been tamed slightly by those stiffer anti-roll bars and better dampers.

Tesla’s improvements to the Roadster’s cabin are also welcome. Our Sport came with lashings of attractive carbonfibre trim, more leather than the original car, and a new more expensive-looking button-style gear selector. The cabin’s still not quite fitted and finished with the care and attention that a £100,000 car’s interior deserves – loose trims and rough edges could be found without too much poking around – but at least progress is being made.

Should I buy one?

That depends whether you were in the market for a £86,950 regular Tesla Roadster. If you were, and you can find the £15k extra you need to trade up to the Sport without too much unseemly rummaging, we’d say go for it. Because if you’re the kind of early adopter who thinks the standard Roadster’s worth £87k, this one’s easily worth £102k. It’s a much better sports car. And as of January 2010, you’ll even be able to buy one in right-hand drive.

As for the rest of us more conventional-thinkers who require our weekend wheels to be capable of travelling further than 150 miles between 14hr pitstops… well, we’ll just have to settle for Audi’s R8 V10.

Which is no great hardship, you might say – and we’d agree. But believe it or not, there really are times when you’d be having more fun in the Tesla.

Join the debate


23 October 2009

1,000 pounds of battery weight, 125mph, 200 miles max before 4hr recharge, £110k. Joke of the century, millennium? This makes the £350k Lexus Celica look like a sane proposition.

23 October 2009

£101,000 pounds!, why, thats Porsche Turbo money!, ooops! did i print that out LOUD!!!

23 October 2009

New technology always costs more than old to begin with. So long as enough people are willing to pay the "early adopter" premium (which in Tesla's case looks a reasonable bet at present), the company will be able to producer increasingly cheaper models in the future.

BMW's X6 hybrid is another case in point (or maybe just another matter altogether!!).

23 October 2009

Absolutely pointless Tesla are taking the p***, instead of making it cheaper....hell for 101000, how many types of hybrids can u have....and don't say this is zero emissions...please im an engineer and i know exactly how marketing interfere in the process.....and the questions is where does electricity comes from??????, if u can answer that then spending 100k on one of those is worth it even if it saves one tree. by the way the Fisker is a lot better if u need to make an statement and buy an electric milk cart, at lease it looks better......for me if i have a 100k burning my pocket... i'll be driving past this rubbish straight into Porche dealership and pre order a Panamera Turbo.

23 October 2009

...surely the point is not that "electricity has to come from somewhere" still but that it is at least generated using a power station running at reasonably close to peak efficiency all the while (unlike a car engine being run up and down the gearobx and rev range) and that, potentially, the power being used can come from a broad range of renewable / nuclear and multiple fossil fuelled energy sources.

Over time this energy can come from anywhere, these type of vehicles can get there power from any source as time goes buy and different methods such as Wave and tidal power may come on line. Unlike all the alternatives.

200 mile range and 4 hour charge is fine for most people in a car (it'd get me to the office and back 3 days on the bounce without a charge although it wouldn't be able to replace my company car for distance work).

Are hybrids really an alternative? The average fuel economy seems to come out similar to small capacity diesels and the battery on its own can propel the car for a few miles and then it's flat and you are left with a 1.8 petrol car towing around the extra weight and drag of a heavy hybrid system trying to charge the batteries back up.

The volt/ampera seems a nice idea although it will exhibit many of the failing listed above but at least it will have a dedicated all electric drivetrain and plug-in charging.

The *real* killer and there is no getting away from it is the price but, as someone already pointed out, if enough rich folk buy one of these then decent mass production can start on the key components in the drivetrain. Didn't it mention a hand wound motor for instance?

23 October 2009

[quote carnut]Absolutely pointless[/quote] And exactly what is the point of other £100k sports cars, other than to indulge the fancies of the very rich?

23 October 2009

[quote SimonRH] if enough rich folk buy one of these then decent mass production can start on the key components in the drivetrain.[/quote]

this is not new technology and the price will not come down meaningfully with mass production - god forbid it ever happens. 'The battery' is a few thousand, essentially existing laptop batteries lashed together - no new tech there. The motor, AC induction type, is presumably existing also, and unlikely to be reduced in price from sales of a few boutique cars - copper determines the price mainly I would have thought.

Tesla is a joke, especially with its new reference to (version) '2.0'. These silicon valley geek/asperger's billionaires think they can lamely disregard the conventional, presumably dinosaur auto industry in their minds and apply the same computer/Moore's Law rationale/trajectory of development to what is a basic product, with little or no real breakthrough technologies, analagous to the integrated circuit, operating system software or defence industry spawned Internet. For face-saving and to maintain the Big Lie over Global Warming and CO2 as a killer greenhouse gas Tesla will be propped up at all cost($7,500 tax vouchers already) - to the working classes US taxpayer. Tesla will eventually come to be seen as corresponding nearest to the ZiL limousine of the high ranking apparatchiks of the Soviet Union for the NuAmerika. Utterly uneconomic, wasteful and excessive but there just to show and prove to the proles that their masters are in total(itarian) charge and their needs and whims will be served and paid for by the proles.

23 October 2009

[quote SimonRH]running at reasonably close to peak efficiency all the while[/quote]

Something at peak efficiency is not necessarily efficient. Internal combustion engines can have 'thermal efficiencies' at about 20%. Electricity generation efficiency varies between 10% and 90% depending upton type. (Take a look at slide 11 in the linked presentation below.) But there are still so many other factors to consider such as losses due to power lines. And the point of a car's gearbox is precisely to allow it run at more efficient engine speeds for given velocities.

23 October 2009

The Tesla induction motor is a custom unit. A typical 225kW, 50Hz industrial induction machine weighs about 1500kg...

Even with our gas/coal based electricity generation mix, a Tesla will deliver ~75g/km CO2. Off the top of my head, I think that's around 100mpg (petrol) equivalent.

23 October 2009

[quote rogerthecabinboy]Tesla is a joke, especially with its new reference to (version) '2.0'. These silicon valley geek/asperger's billionaires think they can lamely disregard the conventional, presumably dinosaur auto industry in their minds and apply the same computer/Moore's Law rationale/trajectory of development to what is a basic product, with little or no real breakthrough technologies, analagous to the integrated circuit, operating system software or defence industry spawned Internet.[/quote]

Yes it’s such a joke those idiots over at Daimler are buying into the company.


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