Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5
In July 2010 Tesla revealed the Roadster 2.5 which included updates to the front, rear and interior of the car. The result of the exterior refresh (new front air dam, rear diffuser) is a car which has echoes of the Lotus Evora / Ford GT40 (bonnet & headlights) as well as some Ferrari (front air dam, rear scoops). It's also obvious that some of these changes are intended to define a Tesla 'family brand' to match the upcoming Model S. When you first see the Roadster in person you're probably not prepared for how small it is (especially if you've not been up-close with something like an Elise), it measures just under 4 m (12.9 ft) long, 1.8 m (6.1 ft) wide and just 1.1 m (3.7 ft) at its highest point - it sits low and feels tiny in traffic. The body panels are made from carbon fiber and have a very highly polished and high quality paint finish. Tesla chose carbon fiber because of the weight and stiffness advantage over glass fiber, according to them this saved around 22 kg (50 lb).
The removable 'soft top' roof appears to be identical to that of the Elise, even down to the two plastic support struts which need to be clipped into place before fitting it. Removal is straightforward enough, unclip one side, roll it in and do the same on the other. Obviously taking the roof off and stowing it in the car will eat into some of that limited cargo space. Should you feel the need here is a carbon fiber hard-top available for $5,000.
The Roadster Sport is fitted with Yokohama Neova AD07 LTS (Lotus spec) tires which offer both excellent grip and low rolling resistance. They're 16" at the front and 17" at the rear and sit on custom Tesla-designed lightweight alloys. Unusually for a sports car the Roadster Sport has no toe-in or camber dialed in, unconfirmed that this is for range purposes, if you're keen to take your Roadster Sport on a track then Tesla will set up your suspension accordingly.
Interior design and ergonomics
In the cabin the updated 2.5 is more refined than the previous model, the dashboard is wrapped in the leather and there's carbon fiber everywhere, there's also improved sound proofing, a push-button transmission selector and a new large touch-screen Alpine AV / Navigation system with seven speakers, an iPod connector and reversing camera. It's a genuinely nice place to be, certainly as sports cars go. Build wise there's a little wobble from the center console and mismatched stitching but frankly for such a limited production car they've done a great job of making it look and feel like a marque.
Swing the lightweight door open and admire the Lotus engineered aluminium hinge then carefully plan you entry (at least the first time), getting in takes a little practice, the ‘aluminium tub’ chassis means that the door sills are wide and you sit low (to be fair the sills are lower than the Elise). Because of its overall width and the sills you do sit quite close to your passenger, although this is no different than other small sports cars. Despite the low driving position visibility is good and there are no major blind spots (the rear window is small but adequate for the windscreen mounted mirror).
There’s no adjustment for the rake or height of the steering wheel, which, depending on your height will mean you can't see the top of the speed and power gauges. The Roadster’s has sports-car-like bucket seats so don’t expect any adjustment other than fore-aft, however after a couple of days in them I was of the opinion that they are surprisingly comfortable and I had no aches or strains. In the drivers footwell there are, as you’d expect, only two pedals and as I found out you’ll need the brake much less often than you’d expect (more on this later).
The cabin is bereft of storage save for the tiny glove compartment (aptly named) and two small shelf-like compartments on either side of the dashboard, however cargo space (in the trunk) is reasonable (170 l / 6 ft³) considering the category and size of the car, sadly if you were expecting additional space under the hood (Porsche style) you'll be disappointed, it's stuffed full of radiators, fans and electronics.