After years of messing about, Tesla has finally made a right-hand-drive, UK-specific version of its go-kart for lentil-eating hippies? Confused, and eager to burn some rubber, we jumped behind the wheel to find out for ourselves.. But is it a crazy-as--Creutzfeldt track demon or a
Having purloined one from our chums at Tesla, we set about London's streets putting this top of the line Roadster Sport through its paces. Our first impression was that a car of this design isn't particularly practical. Its low seats will cause you to expose delicate parts of your anatomy and there's no power steering, so you'll have biceps like Arnie's after just a few low-speed manoeuvres.
Many have claimed the Roadster Sport is silent in motion, but this isn't the case. There's no engine note to speak of, but shift from park to drive, or from neutral to reverse, and the car will clunk and whine in ways that seem positively alien. Pull away from a standstill, and the clicks and whines are replaced by the hum of the electric motor -- which is oddly reminiscent of a small jet engine -- and the outrageous roar of twin cooling fans beneath the bonnet, trying their best to keep the car's batteries cool.
After a short while driving the Roadster Sport, we'd come to an early, and misguided conclusion that it's not terribly fast -- at least not initially. Drive it in the standard mode and it delivers performance on par with a very sporty hatchback - a Focus RS, perhaps. Drive it in high performance mode, however (a few taps at the touch-screen will sort this) and everything changes. Mash the go-pedal and the car will accelerate from 0-60mph in a blistering 3.7 seconds -- faster than almost any supercar on the market. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, you name it, the Roadster Sport can leave the majority of them for dead -- until it peaks at 125MPH, that is.
Having discovered the car's rampant forward propulsion, we discovered its brakes. They're fine in the dry, but attempt an emergency stop in the wet and the road won't be the only thing that's suddenly damp. The trouble is its anti-locking system, which feels very sluggish. It disengages and re-engages the brakes to eliminate skids (as it's supposed to), but it does so at such a low frequency you may as well pump the brakes yourself.
Noting the changeable weather, and the unseemliness of hooning around back streets with rubbish brakes, we flicked the Roadster Sport into its most eco-friendly driving mode and took things easy. Here, the car transforms again, drawing less power from the battery and reducing engine power in order to improve mileage from its lithium ion battery pack. In our test, The Roadster Sport estimated it could achieve somewhere in the region of 180 miles off a single charge -- not bad considering our average daily commute here is a sub-20-mile round trip.
The indicated 180 mile range is some way below Tesla's claimed 240-mile maximum, but this prediction was likely hindered by our occasional exuberance with the accelerator pedal and the fact we were often stuck in stop-start traffic with the stereo blaring Spotify tracks over a Bluetooth-connected HTC Hero mobile phone. Other Roadster owners have reported that, driven on the right roads -- and with the radio off -- their cars can return up to 313 miles on a single charge.
We love the Roadster Sport, but it's incredibly difficult to pigeonhole. It somehow manages to beat a vast chunk of supercars at their own game while simultaneously delivering better mileage and lower running costs than any other eco car on the market. It's certainly not perfect, and only a few lucky individuals will be able to afford its £101,900 asking price, but it's a sensational vehicle that deserves to be driven by petrol heads and eco maniacs alike.