Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up, hold up . . . Tesla just rolled out a new version of the Roadster out of nowhere. They were just supposed to debut a new, all-electric semi truck, then boom, here’s this gorgeous, new, completely unexpected electric sports car. Sure, sure, the truck is interesting, but at this point, who cares? I don’t. Although the information I have is rather thin, the performance specs are shocking. I mean jet fighter going up against a prop plane shocking.
Before I dive in here, let’s get a few “minor” quibbles out of the way. First off, this is not really a roadster and it stretches the definition of “sports car.” What the new Tesla Roadster is, form-factor-wise, is a targa. There’s a large-ish removable roof panel – made of glass, which is kind of trick – that stores in the trunk (nice!). Tesla says this gives you “an open-air, convertible driving experience.” No, it won’t. I like targas, but don’t confuse them with convertibles. In a convertible there’s nothing behind your head but beautiful wind turbulence, a sonorous exhaust note, the tarmac you were just on, and the sighs of those jealous souls you just passed. And, more to the point, roadsters are not even convertibles. Roadsters don’t convert. Roadsters have no tops at all. Roadsters are four-wheeled motorcycles. You are out there in the elements, come rain or come shine. Ah, roadsters.
Also, like I said, Tesla is stretching the definition of “sports car” here because their new Roadster has four seats. It’s also unclear just how much room those two chairs in back offer. This could, effectively, be a 2 + 2. That would be tolerable, since some bonafide sports cars are 2 + 2s (Porsche 911s, for example), but if that back seat is actually usable for full grown adults (including fat, lazy American adults) rather than a coupe with dwarf-sized rear seating, then I’ll probably cringe a little bit more at the use of the term “sports car.”
But who cares about that stuff? Check out these specs!
Power & Performance
Zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds! Zero to 100 comes up in 4.2! The quarter mile evaporates in 8.8! Top speed of “over” 250 miles an hour. The torque is 10,000 Nm . . . which is way, way more than seven-thousand foot pounds of torque. I mean, no wonder this thing runs a quarter almost a full second faster than a Kawasaki Ninja; I’ve seen bazooka rounds move slower. Shoot, I’ve seen pro-stock drag cars run slower than that. And this thing comes with a warranty.
Range? 620 miles. That is Detroit to Indianapolis and back with juice left over. Yeah, I know. Range numbers can be finicky, and yeah, I know, you won’t get 600 plus miles out of the thing if you’re blasting off a couple dozen quarter mile runs. But even taking that kind of stuff into consideration, “range anxiety” turns into “range reassurance” pretty quickly.
Oh, and the new Tesla Roadster is all-wheel drive. There’s no details on the drivetrain layout – or for that matter the batteries, where they’re located, weight distribution (shoot, all up weight either), controller specs, cooling needs, and the like – but Tesla has been motivating via all four wheels with both the Model S and the Model X, so my money is on some version of that drivetrain layout.
Comparing & Contrasting
The Roadster has a curious resemblance to Porsche’s upcoming Mission E all-electric car. It has that same sinusoidal roof line and plunging roll-off from the front fenders and hood to the, uh, grill. There is a grill of some sort, low down and much smaller than a car with an internal combustion engine, and is most likely there to cool the controller and its subsystems, which can run hot.
The whole front end is much more aesthetically pleasing than the Porsche. Tesla’s Roadster doesn’t have the dubious headlights that the Mission E has, and although the Roadster’s lights are small and focused and downturned, they don’t come across nearly as squinty and angry as a lot of other modern cars that are dying to say, “look at me, I am a mean and purposeful performance car! Fear me!”
The rear of the Roadster has a very large central venturi tunnel, flanked by two smaller versions. This, undoubtedly, produces lots of downforce, but Tesla doesn’t give us any figures. Also undoubtedly, the underbody of the roadster is probably as smooth as a dolphin since there’s no stuff like drivelines and mufflers and all that. Going full EV must be such a joy to packaging engineers.
And now, a few inconsequential nit-pickings about those specs. Actually, I have only two. The first is that range number, which is honestly great. But we have to see how that will hold up in the real world, under real-world driving conditions. The other is that terminal velocity of “over 250 mph.” I’m not saying a road vehicle can’t do that, I just have some questions. Like, what kind of tires are you running? How many runs “over 250” can you do before you wear those factory tires down to the chords? How long can you sustain 250 mph before the batteries run dry? I’m not saying the Tesla Roadster can’t hit this speed, I just want to know a bunch about what goes along with that sort of V Max.
Elon Musk, head Tesla dude, personal friend of Tony Stark, very wealthy fiddler of rockets and maglev trains, implied during the roll out that one day, driving a gasoline car will be much less thrilling when compared to its electric counterparts. The crowd seemed very pleased by this. And I am too. The performance potential here, due in large part to the Roadster producing torque like an ocean-going tug, is the rolling definition of thrilling.
Pricing & Availability
Expect to see the Tesla Roadster in 2020. Nothing further than that, but whatever debut date Tesla eventually gives will probably be short by 10 months or so. There is, however, an answer to the question of “how much?” Simple: $200,000, starting. Oh, I do agree. That is a lot of money. Even if this thing can blow you so far off the road that Rui Faleiro couldn’t find you, 200 large is, well, 200 large.
And that’s just the base price. It will cost you $50,000 up front to get the base reservation so you can wait in line for your Tesla Roadster to show up. If you want it quicker, and want to be ushered to the very front of the line, then you need to pay $250,000 for the Founders Series Price. And, if you’d like, you can pay it right now. Tesla is already taking reservations.
When you think about it, $250,000 is what big bore Aston Martins and Porsches and even Ferraris cost. And the Tesla Roadster is not “within range” of those mighty offerings, it surpasses them. Easily. The upcoming Tesla Roadster just moved the performance envelope up and to the right, and it moved it a lot.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.