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.