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.
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.