In-depth reviews

Tesla Roadster (2008-2013) review

The Tesla Roadster all-electric sports car can sprint from 0-62mph in under four seconds and handles like a Lotus Elise

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

  • Near-zero running costs, sharp handling, good looks
  • Expensive to buy, new technology, range anxiety

The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise, but with a carbon fibre body and supercar-beating acceleration. Despite the lightweight body it still weighs 300kgs more than an Elise. That's down to the battery pack on board that provides enough charge for a theoretical range of around 220 miles. Tesla only introduced 250 Roadsters to the UK, so buying one will guarantee you access to a very exclusive club.

Engines, performance and drive

The Tesla Roadster is built like no other electric car. It uses the chassis of a Lotus Elise, but instead of an engine behind the driver, a big block of hi-tech battery packs is installed. With a lot of weight over the rear wheels, traction is incredible, and the car feels rooted to the road through corners. The driving experience is just as much fun as in an Elise, and the Sport version is capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds. The ride is firm, but progress is relaxing because of the silent running and single-speed gearbox – you just push the throttle and go.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

It's always hard to gauge how much you'll spend running an electric car, but once you've shelled out nearly six-figures for a Roadster, Tesla claims that in electricity terms it costs around 1.5 pence per mile, while the batteries last 100,000 miles and are recyclable. The good news is that there's no road tax to pay because it's an electric vehicle. A full charge should take you 220 miles, but in our experience this figure will be nearer 100 if you drive normally.

Interior, design and technology

Despite the brand-new body, there are still elements of Lotus Elise about the Tesla, but that's no bad thing. It looks futuristic enough to pass as an electric car, but it's not too outlandish. The cabin is pretty basic, but a few high quality materials help lift it.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

It's the same size as a Lotus Elise, so you get the same impractical two-seater layout. There's a tiny 170-litre boot in the rear and those extremely thick door sills that make getting in and out a real pain. The cabin feels just as cramped once you're in.

Reliability and Safety

The carbon fibre body and electric motor are both relatively experimental, so could be prone to problems. However, Tesla is on hand to solve any mishaps, as it is a new manufacturer building a reputation. Tesla says that the Roadster will barely require any upkeep as there are very few moving parts in the electric motor. That’s still unproven, though Tesla does warn owners to never let the batteries go completely flat, as the car cannot be revived and you'll need to replace the batteries, which is an expensive fix. Safety is taken care of with traction control and driver and passenger airbags and the carbon fibre body will be strong in a collision.


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