• Oct 8th 2009 at 11:45AM
  • 35
2010 Tesla Roadster Sport – Click above for high-res image gallery

To get from zero to 60 mph in the original Tesla Roadster takes an official 3.9 seconds. The brand new 2010 Roadster Sport beats that with a wonderful 3.7 seconds. Those two-tenths of a second don't look like much on paper, but they make a difference on the road. Perhaps just knowing about the enhanced acceleration makes the Roadster Sport feel faster in the absence of expensive testing equipment, because having driven both, it does feel that way. A lot.

Whatever the reason, when we recently got to take an Obsidian Black model out for a few hours, we couldn't help but notice how incredibly punchy the Sport is, whether bursting away from a stoplight or accelerating to pass on the highway. Sometimes we even slowed down a bit on the highway just to feel the seamless thrust of getting back up to speed. With the 2010 Roadster Sport, the EV grin is still in full effect. Find out what other kinds of fun can be had in a $125,500 Roadster Sport after the jump.

Photos copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

As stated, the Roadster Sport starts at $125,500 – $19,500 more than the standard Roadster. For the extra dosh, you not only get the improved 0-60 mph time, but also the ability to set the suspension to one of ten different settings and black-finish forged wheels (16 inches in diameter up front, 17 in the rear) wrapped in Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires, the same shoes that come standard on the Lotus Elise Sport (the standard Roadster has to make due with less aggressive AD07s).

As electric car fans know, peak torque from any electric motor is available from exactly 0 rpm, and this is blindingly apparent in the Roadster Sport. Its electric motor produces 280 lb-ft of torque and has also received a healthy horsepower bump to 288 over the standard model's 248. Another change is a smaller PEM (Power Electronics Module). Here you can see how the new PEM only comes to within about a foot of the sides of the car. The last-generation PEM extended almost to the edge while still allowing the trunk to close.

All that power is also somewhat dangerous in the wrong hands, because it's ridiculously easy to attain license-revoking speeds without either cognizance or intent. Were we to have been pulled over, we would've immediately blamed the eerie lack of an engine's soundtrack, "But officer, there's no way we were doing 120 – we would have heard it!" Luckily, our drive was incident-free, but given a full week with the Roadster Sport, we'd probably be writing this with one of those little four-inch golf pencils they issue for good behavior in the state penn (go ahead – ask us how we know).

The surefooted Sport model faithfully keeps to the road like a mountain goat.

When we weren't gleefully zipping down the straightaways, we tested the Roadster Sport's new adjustable suspension on the winding, hill-strewn roads west of Saratoga, CA. On these curves, the surefooted Sport model faithfully kept to the road like a mountain goat. Overall, if there's a theme to the 2010 Sport model compared to earlier iterations, it's that everything good has been improved while everything annoying has been kept the same.

The Roadster's single-speed transmission remains an impressive piece of work, offering us smooth power delivery all the way up to 85 mph, our self-enforced top speed on these public roads. The new transmission is also why the speedometer and tachometer are now contained in one display dial. If the motor is spinning at X rpm, the car is going X mph. The change from a double-speed transmission to a single-speed early in the Roadster's life means two things. First, it's easy to see that redlining happens at 14,000 rpm, which is 125 mph. Second, there is now room for a big needle on the right of the dashboard to show how many kWs the batteries are either giving up or taking in. When the car slows down, you enter the happy green (regen) zone, netting you a few more precious kW from regenerative braking before the next charge.

Since those regenerative brakes are very quick to get into their energy-recovery mode – they perceptibly take over as soon as your foot comes off the accelerator – it's basically possible to drive the Roadster using just the one pedal. Theoretically, the only time you'd need to step on the brakes is when something pops up in the road without warning, although obviously we don't recommend that strategy. On the flip side, "idling" around at very slow speeds requires constant brake application because the Roadster is designed to creep along at three mph when no pedals are depressed and the gear selector is in Drive.

Speaking of Drive, one of the most noticeable changes for 2010 is the inclusion of a new push-button gear selector. This is just one of many alterations made to the Roadster for 2010, but one of the few that are easily noticed since the car looks just like last year's model on the outside. The 2010's cabin was redone by Tesla's new designer Franz von Holzhausen, the charismatic Hollywood hotshot also responsible for the Model S and previously behind the pen at Mazda. Interior-wise, the other major change was the decision to move the information display screen to the center of the console so that the passenger can see what's happening with the battery pack's state of charge and other details.

The Lotus DNA in the Roadster Sport also becomes apparent as soon as you crawl into its confined space. Anyone 5'9" or under will feel right at home in the cockpit. That is, unless you want to get in or out, which requires at least a bronze medal in gymnastics to do gracefully. Anyone 6'2" or taller will immediately wish for more legroom and notice that the sightlines through the windshield top could be improved. Since the exterior design remains the same, the 2010 Roadster Sport also retains the prior model's terrible rear visibility. The speedometer is likewise well-hidden behind the small steering wheel, which is a problem if you're interested in driving without going too much over the speed limit. A more visual cue – HUD? – that you're doing 80 would be a welcome addition for 2011.

Unfortunately, given our brief stint with the car, we were not able to test out the accuracy of the quoted 244-mile range for the Roadster Sport, but we're confident in the number based on what we've heard from other Roadster owners. What we can say is that after driving the car hard for two hours through the hills and highways near Palo Alto, we still had 60 miles left in the battery – and we're not even sure we left Tesla's Menlo Park store with a full charge.

We can easily deal with any of the Roadster Sport's minor faults because this car is so blessed fun to drive. This isn't some concept vehicle made out of unobtanium. It's available today (well, there's a three month backlog in Roadster orders), and it certainly won our hearts again just as it did the first time we drove it. More importantly, the improvements of the 2010 Roadster over the 2009 model have whetted our appetite for the Model S something fierce. Consider von Holzhausen's work on the upgraded Sport interior and his heavy hand in the Model S, the sedans' 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds (incredible for a 7-person sedan) with a single-speed gearbox and a price that's about half of the Roadster's. 2011 can't come fast enough.

Photos copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Heating and Aircon will eat significantly into the range of an EV I think... low temperatures are also not conducive to a happy battery - Is there a pre-warm for cold days? How long does it take before you can get going at sub zero temps?"

      The Tesla battery is always approximately room temperature. Whether the car needs to heat or cool the battery to make this happen, it will do it, whether you are driving or the car is just parked in the garage. This ensures the longest possible life and the best performance.

      As for a/c and cabin heat, it does cost battery charge. It's less than you may think though when compared to the 53kwh that the battery in the Roadster actually holds. That can power most homes for a good 5 days (would power mine for over 6). The a/c uses an electric condensor like your refridgerator does, and it really just doesn't draw all that much electricity at all compared to the motor and the overall battery capacity. Certainly there are many posts on the topic with real life data on the owners forum. Using the heated seats to keep yourself warm is more efficient from an energy use standpoint than using the HVAC, btw.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, it'll use energy when you're not driving the car. Unless it's at approximately room temp and so wont have to heat or cool the battery. I don't think it uses very much though even if it's pretty hot or cold out at least not compared to the energy the battery stores.

        The Roadster IS a poster boy. But I wouldn't say it's pointless at all. I'd buy one FOR SURE if I could afford a car in the price range. Consider that performance is in supercar territory but there's no mechanical maintenance necessary almost at all and the $/mile to drive is super low. I think it's a bargain compared to everything else that can even come close to keeping up with it and it would save me a lot of money to daily drive it compared to my 350Z, and TONS of money compared to a Porsche Turbo or, can't even fathom, a Ferrari where you're spending $$$$$$$ on maintenance!
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're saying the car uses energy when not in use? A similar Lotus drives maybe 20 days a year...

        OT: pointless, an electric sports car. Unless as poster boy. Let's leave the precious Li for real life high energy consumption applications. Taxi's, maybe. IMO.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Unless they've bumped up the schedule on the Model S only the Signature series cars will be out in 2011. I guess ABG could possibly drive one of the first units as a member of the press, however.

      Some "Reservation" (those that own, or know a friend that owns, a Roadster) cars may be out the door before 2012 but, unless something happens to quicken production, the "Production" cars that are reserved will begin delivery in early 2012, unless all the Signature and Reservation cars are produced before then.

      On the Roadster, I agree a HUD or something similar, such as a programmable (i.e. 80 mph) audible chime, would be a welcome addition to help prevent speeding in an extremely quick and quite car such as the Roadster. We'll see what Tesla comes up with for the 2011 Roadster.
      • 5 Years Ago
      silly toy - I wouldn't be seen dead in one of those things - it's a mid life crisis giveaway.

      Old bald fat guys in sports cars are still old bald fat guys - just get a big fancy suv and quit pretending yo be young and virile bud. It's not a good look.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Glad to see that Tesla Motors isn't resting on their laurels, and is continuing to improve their designs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is a sweet looking car. I like the black with black rims. 240 miles per charge would be plenty to get me around town but long trips are kind of out of the equation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Roadster has to make due with less"

      Make DUE?? Seriously?? Come on guys, where are the proofreaders?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Once more, hands up for those who want to see EV range quoted with two numbers : highway and city. Just as gas mileage is given for petrol cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, yes. Although thermal extremes might be more interesting. Low speeds and regenerative braking will possibly make city driving more efficient than highway.

        Heating and Aircon will eat significantly into the range of an EV I think... low temperatures are also not conducive to a happy battery - Is there a pre-warm for cold days? How long does it take before you can get going at sub zero temps?
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...thermal extremes might be more interesting."

        On a cold, snowy day:

        The heat/defrost will need to run constantly, and you'll need to run it several minutes before you even set off.
        The Cd is altered by ice frozen to the bodywork.
        And you can't run low rolling resistance tires if you value your life.

        At best, you'll get half of Tesla's advertised range.
        • 5 Years Ago
        235 highway/255 city on the EPA cycle.
        So far this is the only standardized test for EVs until they change the procedures (the EPA is considering doing this).

        People keep asking for "real world miles," but it will vary drastically depending on how you drive (the main variable is what speed you travel on the highway, since drag is the biggest range killer in EVs). The only number they can advertise is the standardized numbers.

        However, Tesla does realize people are curious about how the range various and they did some simulations: look at the range vs speed graph here if you want to see the simulated results for what will happen at various speeds:

        He might be talking about the actual "owners forum" at the Tesla motors website, not Tesla Motors Club (which is a fan forum, visited by owners). On Tesla Motors club, they get around 200 in range mode, and 170-180 on standard mode.
        I highly doubt the heater will take that much range out of the battery, given the heater used by the Roadster is fairly efficient (the resistive heaters draw 15kW, heat pump draws 3kW at 0C). First of all, if you start off at the plug, the Roadster will automatically draw power to heat up the batteries. Given the large size of the pack, it retains heat fairly well (takes a while for the ambient cold to soak up). I haven't seen any real cold weather range tests (for example in Canada), so it is hard to judge if it will cut the range down to half (120 miles on range mode), but I doubt it is that dramatic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        not "possibly". Pushing the care at 60mph takes significantly more power than 30mph. Wind resistance grows with speed cubed.


        • 5 Years Ago
        "And you can't run low rolling resistance tires if you value your life."

        Most all season or even winter tires will be significantly lower rolling resistance than the sticky high performance or ultra high performance tires that are on the Roadster and Roadster Sport. They are certainly NOT low rolling resistance tires that come standard, they are made with performance in mind first. You're right, of course, about using more energy to heat and defrost, but costing half of the range is not accurate. Moving a 2750 lb car takes many orders of magnitude more energy than running a cabin heater. If you had it on the whole time you were driving, you might see 15% or so less range (as a ballpark but, again, there is real data on the owner's forum).
        • 5 Years Ago
        They'd be paradoxical. The regen gives better "mileage" in stop-and-go driving than on the highway.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "It's available today (well, there's a three month backlog in Roadster orders)"

      Roadsters are custom built to order. It takes 10-12 weeks for Tesla to build and deliver it once you decide on all of your options. I believe there is little-to-no wait/backlog (as in, a line of other cars being made before yours would even begin that process) though, as their production has increased quite a bit. If you're more concerned with getting a car right away and less concerned with getting the exact combo of options you may want, Tesla typically has a handful of factory spec'd cars that are available immediately.

      "Once more, hands up for those who want to see EV range quoted with two numbers : highway and city. Just as gas mileage is given for petrol cars."

      Tesla's 244 mile range quote comes from the EPA and their combined city/highway cycle, which also includes using things like air conditioning, radio, etc. You'll have more success getting to that range in city-style driving than highway. Driving where you are speeding up and slowing down, while staying at lower average speeds, will allow the regen capacity to recharge the batteries to some extent and the motor will always use less energy at low speeds than high speeds. On the highway at a constant speed there is no regen happening and the motor is using more energy. On a highway-speeds-only stint, you wouldn't get that quoted range.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "On a highway-speeds-only stint, you wouldn't get that quoted range."
        "quote comes from the EPA and their combined city/highway cycle, "

        Yes, and i would favour separate, credible figures for highway and city. Just as they give separate figures for highway and city mileage for ICE cars.

        This would help improve the credibility of the EV range claims, and NEVs would immediately get a zero highway range number, separating wheat from chaff, so to speak.
      • 5 Years Ago
      model s is a 7 person sedan?

      that cant be right...
        • 5 Years Ago
        5 adults + 2 kids in rear facing seats in the back + luggage in the front under the hood
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive from San Jose to Los Angeles and sometimes Dan Diego almost weekly. I need a car that can sustain at least 500 miles at 75 MPH with safety margin. Today I charge by filling gasoline/diesel, which takes a couple of minutes. I don't think electric cars are suitable for everyone quite yet. Perhaps a few people who will never drive that far, but that's about it right now. NYC taxicabs could be a good example.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Those two-tenths of a second don't look like much on paper, but they make a difference on the road."

      As a semi-empirical point of comparison, at a recent electric-only SCCA-type event put on by the EV Association of DC, a Roadster Sport was able to make it through the very tight, very twisty course in just under 18 seconds, where the best time I remember seeing for the three 'plain old' Roadsters was about a second slower.* The Mini-E in attendance was a couple seconds slower, at ~21 seconds.

      *This is from memory, the results have not been posted for 2009 yet, but should eventually be here:
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here's a video of the original and the Sport on a drag strip. Not a big numerical difference but definitely noticable.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think the tires helped as much or more than the extra power. It was a pretty short course with more emphasis on turning than accelerating.

        The Sport driver also had the adjustable suspension option, but didn't have time to have it tuned. That surely would have brought his time even lower.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It would be interesting to check out the suspension changes with some hot laps around Sears Point and compare the times with an old roadster. It looks like TMC went the right way with larger tires on the back and suspension tweaks. Wonder how it brakes?
        TMC might be able to sell a lot of cars if they offer mods that would make the car a good "Track Day Car."
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm warming up to EVs in no small part due to the awesomeness of the Roadster.

      But I have to say that I wish they'd kept a traditional shifter rather than pushbuttons. There's just something satisfying about that mechanical "clunk", and it makes you feel like you're a fighter pilot with a button-festooned (OK, only one-button) throttle at your side along with the main controller (wheel, stick, whatev) in front of you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        They'd probably have to engineer a "clunk" since I think the only mechanical gear is a reduction gear and reverse is done by the controller since they use an AC motor.
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