Last year, we had the pleasure of testing a Tesla Roadster -- the world's first electric sports car. It was terrific, but we couldn't help but wishing we could have a go in the faster, more expensive Roadster Sport. A few days ago, that wish came true.
The Roadster Sport looks identical to the standard car, but that's a good thing, as both are beautiful to the point of distraction. Upon collection of our test car, we spent approximately 30 minutes talking to the marketing folks at Tesla, yupping, aahing and nodding our way through the handover process, pretending we were actually listening. Not a single word was registered -- we were far too busy gawping at the car, thinking up polite ways of shutting them up so we could grab the keys and burn rubber.
Once inside the car, it was obvious the cabin had changed since we'd last driven it. Firstly, Tesla has placed the steering wheel in the correct right-hand position, making it more suited to British roads. The company has also removed the centrally mounted joystick that selected neutral, forward or reverse gears and replaced it with a set of futuristic-looking buttons that are more coherent with the car's bleeding-edge image.
Our Signature 250-edition test vehicle -- of which only 250 will be built -- also came with £6,000-worth of optional extras including a plaque engraved with the names of all Tesla employees involved in the creation of the car, mounted on the bulkhead between the seats.
I can't see!
The Roadster Sport is somewhat impractical -- and that's being polite. Let's see. The cabin is so small, you'll touch elbows with your passenger. Getting in and out of the low bucket seats requires a bendier spine than humans are equipped with. The steering wheel obscures your vision of the speedo, so you have no idea how fast you're going. The body panel behind the windscreen obscures your blind spot completely. The top of the windscreen obscures traffic lights if you've stopped too close, and there are countless nooks and crannies down which your belongings can disappear. We learned this the hard way, as within about two minutes of driving, our mobile phone flew from its cubby hole, slid under the seat and vanished -- never to be seen again.
Go Go Gadget gadgets
Despite its quirks, this new car is actually more practical than the last. The versatile 104mm (4-inch) touchscreen display, which sat awkwardly between the door and steering wheel on the old car, now lives in the centre console. With this, you'll be able to toggle driving modes that prioritise high performance or longer battery life. The touch interface also lets you specify when the car should begin charging itself (to take advantage of cheaper night rates) and lets you calculate how much petrol you've saved by driving electric.
There are also a couple of fun features, including a G-meter that measures how much G-force you're generating during braking and acceleration. We don't advise looking at this while you're hurtling towards the horizon at full pelt.
In-car entertainment is fairly well-catered for. The Roadster's Alpine iDA-X305 stereo doesn't feature a CD player, but it'll let you enjoy digital music from an iPod or mobile phone with relative ease. Those who don't have an iPod can swap the iPod dock for a standard USB port, though there's also the option of streaming Bluetooth audio (plus hands-free Bluetooth calls) from your mobile phone to the car's excellent loudspeakers.
Even if you're not playing music, there are plenty of noises inside a Tesla Roadster Sport. Its electric motor may not speak the same language as a
rambunctious V12 engine, but the cockpit is awash with
noises. During low-speed driving, there are whines from the motor, hums from the transmission and
-- after enthusiastic blasts -- a loud drone as the cooling fans draw heat from the battery pack. During
high-speed stints, the motor emits a beefy turbine-style whine that --
from inside the cabin, at least -- sounds like a jet taxiing for
It feels like a jet, too. The Roadster we tested last year was capable of 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and went on to a top speed of 125mph, but the Roadster Sport is quicker still. It uses the same AC induction engine as the standard car, but by tweaking the car's firmware, Tesla has boosted the battery output to increase torque from 370Nm to 400Nm, dropping its 0-60mph time to 3.7 seconds in the process. The Sport edition also gets adjustable suspension, so you can tweak the firmness of the ride and choose stickier tyres, making it more suited to track use.
The car's motor, though no bigger than a small dog, delivers smooth but unrelenting dollops of torque. Mash the go pedal at almost any speed and it'll pin you back into your seat like no car you've ever driven. Aston Martins, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris all feel pedestrian in comparison to this thing -- they're all incredibly fast cars, we'll concede, but none can deliver the same hair-raising, physics-defying, wet-the-bed performance you'll get from a Tesla Roadster Sport.
If we have one reservation with the car's performance, it's the brakes -- the Roadster Sport's stopping power really don't measure up to its awesome acceleration. They work pretty well in the dry, but drop anchor while traversing a bumpy road or in the wet, and you'll soil yourself as the ABS brings you to a doddering halt.
The Roadster Sport costs a whopping £101,900 -- nearly £15,000 more than the standard car. It's difficult to justify that sort of money for a little extra performance, so we'd recommend the standard car unless you're intent on taking it round a track.
Whichever model you choose, it's worth noting that running costs are significantly lower than those of standard cars. A full recharge will cost in the region of £3 and with that you'll be able to drive an impressive 236 miles. The car is also exempt from road tax and the congestion charge, so it's ideal for people who drive thousands of miles in and out of London every year.
The Tesla Roadster Sport is undeniably a very special vehicle. It's far from perfect, but it's superb fun to drive -- particularly if you're the sort of person that likes leaving exotic supercars for dead at traffic lights. It won't suit everyone -- it's difficult to live with day-to-day and its limited range limits how far you'll be able to drive -- but for those who have the money, it's a wonderful toy.
Tesla Roadster Sport stats
- Model tested: Tesla Roadster Sport Signature 250
- Top speed: 125mph
- Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds
- Max power: 288bhp
- Range: 236 miles
- Price: £101,900