TESLA ROADSTER REVIEW
Vehicle Style: EV Sports Car
Price: $241,938 (plus on road charges)
Engine: 375 volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive
Outputs: 215kW / 400Nm
Transmission: Direct-drive transaxle
Official fuel efficiency: 231Wh/km (ADR 81/02) equivalent to 2.17 l/100km (assuming current ACT average fuel and energy prices)
On test fuel efficiency: 306Wh/km equivalent to 2.88 l/100km (assuming current ACT average fuel and energy prices)
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Official maximum range: 340km (ADR 81/02)
Range on test: 257km
We tested the Sport, all $250k of it. At that price, it has no true peers. And it's fast. The Sport model, carrying a $35,000 premium and a higher density motor, provides 911 Turbo-matching acceleration.
But would we buy one? Hmmm.
Quality: Interior fit and finish matches the generation-old Proton standard of the Lotus Europa that donates much of its dash moulding to the Tesla (and door frames and other bits). It's far from top-drawer, but concessions must be made for the low-volume nature of this car.
Comfort: Our test car featured the optional 'Executive' leather trimming to the dash top surface, seats, and door trims (standard trim is alcantara).
The sculpted comfortable seats hold firmly and do a good job of preventing slip when cornering. Getting into the seats can be a challenge though thanks to the intrusive side sills.
Equipment: The optional seven-inch multimedia interface was fitted to our test car, part of the $7536 ‘infotainment’ package. It brings GPS navigation, single-disc CD player, reversing camera, seven-speaker sound system with subwoofer, and Bluetooth.
This is in addition to the standard seat heaters, additional touchscreen vehicle information display (for monitoring detailed power consumption data), air-conditioner, electric windows, central-locking, cruise control and cupholders.
Three different levels of charging apparatus are available with full charge deivered in 15, 7.0, and 3.5 hours respectively. The mobile 15-hour unit comes standard.
Storage: Tesla’s clever packaging has left a very useful void just ahead of the rear bumper capable of swallowing two medium-sized golf bags.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The driving experience of such a powerful electric drivetrain is nothing short of bizarre.
With one hundred percent torque delivery from zero revs, absolutely linear power delivery and single-speed transmission, it's like driving a full-sized electric R/C car: throttle input has a direct relationship to the engine speed and therefore road speed.
In a nutshell, the Tesla Sport is incredibly quick – zero to 100 comes up in 3.7 seconds.
Fitted with high-quality Yokohama semi-slick tyres, it tends toward understeer at the limit, though the rear remains planted at all but reckless speeds. That said, the introduction of 6813 lithium-ion laptop batteries to Lotus’ balanced chassis is not devoid of compromise.
As for range, we could only achieve around 60 percent of Tesla’s claimed 394km range during spirited testing.
Refinement: The electric motor spins like a sewing machine, and the simplicity of the direct-drive transmission delivers exceptional smoothness. Wind and tyre noise is acceptable.
Suspension: The Sport is fitted with an all-independent 10-way manually-adjustable suspension. The on-test settings provided a nice balance between comfort and handling, a bit like an MX-5, over most road surfaces.
The Lotus Elise-derived extruded and bonded aluminium chassis is extremely stiff; however the test car wasn't without the occasional creak.
Braking: The Roadster Sport’s unassisted braking is rare among modern vehicles. The lack of initial grab takes some getting used to, but provides extra feel for performance driving.
SAFETY | RATING: N/A
ANCAP rating: Unrated. Tesla is unlikely to submit for ANCAP testing, as its cars are exempt from local crash testing due to their low-volume distribution.
Safety features: dual airbags, ABS, and traction control.
The Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide rates the Tesla Roadster an obvious “10 stars out of 10” for greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 year/60,000km vehicle warranty.
Servicing: Tesla recommends a standard service and diagnostic inspection once a year or every 20,000km (whichever comes first). Their Mobile Service Team will visit you at your home.
The battery system has an expected life of seven years/160,000km. Tesla is offering owners the option to purchase a replacement up-front, at a cost of $12,000, for delivery when needed.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
There are no other electric vehicles that can provide this level of performance and driver entertainment. Maybe, arguably, you'd compare it to a Porsche.
Porsche 911 Carrera ($223,000) - This most-established of players sits neatly between the Roadster and Roadster Sport. The 911 delivers none of the enviro-cache or technical sensation of the Tesla, but offers day-to-day practicality and predictable resale value.
Performance is well behind the Tesla’s outright acceleration with a 0-100km/h time of ‘only’ 4.9 seconds.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport combines excellent handling and immense acceleration with generous equipment levels, low operating costs, practical storage (comparatively) and the latest in EV green technologies.
It costs a bomb but delivers $300k 911 Turbo performance for the price of a basic Carrera.
The lack of transmission ratio selection will rob purists of a degree of driving satisfaction, but the Tesla delivers an experience on a whole new level.
The sensation of such a powerful electric drivetrain is so refreshingly different that it supersedes traditional notions of driving enjoyment.
Ultimately though, its battery range remains the question mark for the Roadster Sport.
Photography: Daniel McKenna.