Tesla Roadster S Review

By: Damion Smy, Photography by: Easton Chang

Presented by

Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus
Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus
Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus
Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus Tesla Roadster S by Lotus

Tesla by Lotus . Yep, it really is an electric sports car

Tesla Roadster S Review
Tesla Roadster S by Lotus

 

Tesla Roadster S

Think of electric cars and your mind probably conjures images of bubble-shaped, dynamically-bland buzz-boxes. But the Tesla Roadster S will change all that.

Tesla has taken the pin-sharp chassis of a Lotus Elise, draped it in sleek carbonfibre panels and has mid-mounted a 215kW/400Nm electric motor that can be charged from any power point.

The Tesla isn't cheap, but when image-conscious governments and banks are paying $65K for the only other fully electric, zero-emission car on the Oz market - Mitsubishi's i-MiEV micro-car - $206,000 doesn't seem so preposterous.

What you get for that coin is a seriously sexy car and everywhere we drove on our Sydney CBD test route, we saw fingers point and jaws drop. Surprisingly, a lot of people actually know what it is. What they don't know is how it works.

There are minor clues as you climb into the cabin and sink deep between chassis rail and centre console, just as you do in an Elise. There's a familiar twin-gauge binnacle, Momo wheel and smatterings of leather on the race seats. It feels like an Elise, but look to your left and there's no gearshifter. Just an array of buttons - Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and TC for Traction Control.

Yet the Tesla has no gearbox - simply a single-speed direct drive connecting the AC motor and transaxle directly to the rear axle. This means bugger-all moving parts and a completely different driving experience. Turn the key and there's an eerie silence. Hit D for Drive, release the traditional park brake and the accelerator produces a whir that sounds like a smooth, high-tech golf buggy.

All 400Nm of torque is accessible from just a single rpm all the way to 5000rpm. Nail the throttle and the thing lights up and launches you with intensity usually reserved for Porsches or Lambos.

It's an unexpected adrenaline rush, with unusual acoustics. Wind and tyre noise mix with motor whine to make the drive more of an audio sound-off than the muted experience we feared before driving it.

Ride is better than the stiff Elise's but still firm, and despite the unassisted steering being a little heavy at low speed, it handles superbly at pace. The set-up's good enough for us to crack a 12.9sec quarter mile and 0-100km/h in 4.3sec. More impressive is its rolling response, with 80-120km/h knocked off in a searing 2.33sec - better than an Audi RS5.

Its Achilles heel is a 360km range - enough for a daily commute, but limiting for a track day - with a best-case seven-hour charge time. Still, the idea is that you can top it up while having lunch, and charge the thing while you're asleep.

So it's no one-trick pony because being electric isn't the Tesla's sole party trick. It's a genuinely fast, involving sportscar with zero emissions. And that's something no other car in Australia can boast right now. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

TESLA ROADSTER S

 

ENGINE: 56kWh AC electric

POWER: 215kW @ 5000-6000rpm

TORQUE: 400Nm @ 1-5000rpm

WEIGHT: 1235kg

TRANSMISSION: Direct drive

0-100km/h: 4.3sec (tested)

TOP SPEED: 201km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $206,000

 

 

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