Written By: Ray Wert
The Tesla Roadster Sport's steering column doesn't move, I can barely sit in it even with the top open and it makes me look silly when I get in and out. Who cares? It's got a 3.7-second 0-to-60 time.
I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes behind the wheel as only the second journalist to get a chance driving the new Tesla Roadster Sport. The first was Dan Rather, which explains the smell of liniment, the REM on the radio and the Afghan robes in the trunk. But I digress. Let's talk about what makes this car merit the $28,000 premium over the original Tesla Roadster, which only manages 0-to-60 in 3.9 seconds.
For starters, there's some new under-the-trunk bits n' pieces that help boost power slightly. Specifically, there's a hand-wound stator and increased winding density for lower resistance and higher peak torque, lending it stronger acceleration.
Frankly, the GT-R can take its launch control and shove it. Because now that I've driven this I can say there isn't a better Game Boy out there than the Roadster Sport. Thanks to it being all-electric, all the torque's available the moment you drop the parking brake and press the button for drive (more on that shortly). So you're able to hit 60 MPH in a 3-point-something-second blink of an eye. Every time. And no you won't even void your warranty doing it.
But, like many American cars, it seems to drive at its best in a straight line. I found cornering to be tricky, with the cumbersome weight of the battery pack behind the seats doing confidence and communication no great shakes. But until I get a chance to play with it at some higher speeds than I was able to achieve on crowded New York City streets, I can't say for certain how it'll perform. Late last year I had the chance to drive the Lotus Exige S 240 (same chassis as the Tesla) on these same roads and it felt much more sprightly around the turns.
The ride was more comfortable than what we would have expected, taking many of the bumps and holes of the road with relative ease, yet the suspension still felt taught enough to take someplace a bit more befitting of a 3.7-second 0-to-60 time. Credit some of that to the increased mass of the batteries helping the unsprung to sprung weight ratio.
On the inside Tesla has finally made an effort to move away from the standard Lotus interior. Unfortunately, the cockpit's still not big enough for my 6'3" frame. I found myself wedged into uncomfortable position just to be able to see out the windshield. But that's the same problem I've had in every Lotus I've ever driven. The upgrades include a lockable glove compartment, new placement of the LCD info screen and an upgraded HVAC system. Additionally, the new model takes advantage of the single-stage transmission, doing away with the silly pretense of a stick shifter and replacing it with a button system for park, drive and reverse. It worked quite nicely on my short drive.
On the exterior, Tesla's found a way to drop enough carbon fiber up top to keep the weight of this porky pig down to a manageable 2,700 lb — the same as the regular Tesla Roadster and only 700 Lbs more than the Lotus Elise. But anyway, who cares what it looks like. Only one thing matters with this car – accelerating to 60 MPH in just 3.7 seconds in eerie silence. Oh, that and the $128,500 price tag.