Not long ago, it was hard to use the term "sporty" in the same sentence with the word “electric.” That being said, as the technology progressed, green cars have started to grow faster and stronger, being able to compete against any famous sports car that can be found on today’s roads.
Tesla had a major role in permanently changing our perception of electric cars. Its sporty model - the Roadster – was launched in 2006 and was based on the similarly sporty Lotus Elise. Though, despite sharing the same platform with the Elise, the Roadster was a totally different breed of car.
This green monster is powered by a 248 hp (185 kW) electric motor fed by a 53-kilowatt-hour battery that offers an autonomy of up to 200 miles. However, going green and sporty doesn’t come cheap, as the Tesla Roadster has a starting price of $109,000.
Hit the jump for more details on the Tesla Roadster.
Unlike the Elise, Tesla ’s body panels are completely made of fiber glass, which helps keep the vehicle’s weight as low as possible. However, due to the heavy battery pack and other components used for the electric drivetrain, the Roadster still weighs 700 pounds more than the Elise, which is rated at only 2000 pounds.
Being 3946 mm long, 1973 mm wide, and 1873 mm tall, the Tesla Roadster is a pretty low and compact sports car.
Leaving behind the numbers, the Tesla Roadster looks absolutely breathtaking. Its curvy lines and the tasty mix between concave and convex shapes will announce to anyone that what they see is a genuine sports car with a high level of adrenaline injected in its veins.
The muscular front fenders, the aggressive chin, and the low ground clearance further enhance the sporty look of the vehicle. We also like the elongated headlights which cope great with the curved lines of the hood.
Moving on to the back of the car, we’ll find the taillight clusters which host three circular lights mounted in black housings.
The rear spoiler is seamlessly integrated into the body, while the mean looking diffuser ads the finishing touch.
Stepping inside is a bit arduous and once on board, don’t expect to a high level of comfort, as the cabin is pretty cramped. Leg and knee room is also limited, but most of the controls are placed pretty intuitively, so you’ll be able to reach them without too much fuss.
On the other hand, given the over $100,000 price tag, we’ve expected to find a top notch build quality with sharp cuts and maximum attention to every detail. We’re sad to announce that this is not the case for the Tesla Roadster as the fit and finish needed more attention from the company’s engineers. A keen eye will spot a lot of exposed bolts and wiring which could spoil the fun of any perfectionist.
Luckily, you’ll find many cubbies and storage places around the cab, but some of them aren’t as practical as they intended to be. During sporty maneuvers, you should expect to find your new Smartphone flying all over the place.
On the other hand, the deep sport seats are fairly supportive and you can rely on them with confidence even during hard cornering. There are also enough adjustments to keep you satisfied and the driving position is low and sporty as well.
We also need to send a shout to the ergonomic three spoke steering wheel which inspires enough confidence to make you feel like an F1 racer.
As you’d probably expect, the trunk space is pretty limited and except for a small hand bag, you’ll hardly find room for anything else.
In Fall 2009, Tesla added a few upgrades to the Roadster’s cockpit, replacing the stick with buttons for park, reverse, neutral, and drive. Thanks to this smart modification, the center console became narrower, thus making more room for the legs. There is also a new glove compartment and a more performant HVAC system.
Engines and Performance
Everybody knows that electric cars are ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of efficiency. Well, not the Tesla. Unlike its old siblings, the Tesla Roadster is all about speed. Lots of it.
The entire car was engineered to provide groundbreaking performance and of course, the entire story started by throwing a strong 248 hp electric motor into the mix. What’s even more impressive than the engine’s ponies is the massive 211 pound feet of torque which is achieved from 0 rpm, leaving behind any sports car powered by conventional fuel. This means that the Tesla Roadster has a weight-to-torque ratio of 12.7 pounds/pound-foot and all it’s available from the moment you touch the accelerator pedal.
Dip a big toe into the go pedal and without worrying about gear changes, you’ll hit the 60 mph mark in only 3.9 seconds. After this, you’d probably want to check if your neck is still in the right place.
The battery pack provides a combined range of 220 miles, the vehicle offering 105 miles per electric gallon.
An Energy Storage System (ESS) provides power to the electric motor and every other electric device. Its main components are the 6,831 cells, a cooling system, and an independent safety system that isolates high voltage outside the enclosure under a variety of detectable safety situations.
The Tesla Roadster is equipped with a two-speed, double-clutch transmission. The transmission comes without a clutch and the motor is automatically spinning up or down to match revs.
Ride and Handling
The Tesla Roadster was designed as a sports car and, despite its electric nature, feels like a true beast. Thanks to the wise emplacement of the battery pack, the vehicle has a low center of gravity which allows it to tackle every corner with tenacity. The Tesla Roadster’s chassis is two inches wider than the Lotus Elise which further enhances the road stability.
It stays planted on its wheels like it’s glued to the road, but the understeer effect is a bit hard to be controlled. The heavy steering won’t help you too much either and you’ll build some nice muscles with every turn you make. However, it offers plenty of road feedback letting you know exactly what the wheels are planning.
The ride is comfortable only on a perfectly plane surface, as everything worse than that will make the bones of your spine feel even the smallest bumps.
On the safety side of things, the vehicle received an energy-absorbing structure built into the front and rear of the vehicle and also standard driver and passenger air bags. Moreover, the passenger compartment is encompassed by extruded aluminum door beams and high level side beams. Other safety systems include 4-channel ABS, an interlock system, and traction control.
|Base 2dr Convertible||$109,000|
|Sport 2dr Convertible||$128,500|
The Tesla Roadster is a huge step forward in terms of sport electric vehicles. Its driving dynamics are worthy of a true sports car and the electric motor rewards you with a massive torque available at its maximum value from only 0 rpm.
The exterior design is an instant eye catcher and you won’t complain too much about the interior either. Though some poor fittings still surface which is unacceptable given the plus $100k price tag.
- Maximum torque from 0 rpm
- Exquisite design
- Acceptable range
- Interior lacks refinement
- Heavy steering