The Roadster was Tesla’s first foray into making cars, and almost entirely unlike its current Model S. Built on a modified version of the Elise’s bonded-aluminum chassis (which was the secret sauce that made the Elise so perfect), it laid the groundwork for Tesla’s battery, motor and electronics design. In it’s driving dynamics, it feels very Elise-like. The steering is unassisted and very direct, just like the Elise’s. It understeers a bit more (easy to adjust if I wanted to, but I think I like it the way it is), and takes a bit longer to ‘set’ in a corner, but overall I’d say its 95% of what the Elise gave me, which is awesome.
What is very different about the Roadster is the motor. Electric vehicles offer all their torque right away. Every non-electric car you’ve ever driven has a lag between the time you hit the gas and the time the car starts moving, and the torque doesn’t come in until you’re revving at a few thousand RPMs (which is why traffic-light dragstervette types like to rev in neutral then dump the clutch). Electric cars just go. It feels like moving a cursor – point and click.
The Roadster point-and-clicks to 60mph in 3.9 seconds. Which is insane. All with no sound, no fuss, no roar. Which is extra insane. Throttle control is instant and direct: step on it and go fast, lift and go slow. It makes controlling your rear end so easy, it feels like cheating.