New Tesla Roadster has first European showing at Grand Basel

by Jimi Beckwith, Autocar UK 05 Sep 2018


Tesla has shown its long-awaited new Roadster sports car in Europe for the first time at the Grand Basel motor show.

The Roadster, an all-electric four-seater machine that Tesla claims has a top speed exceeding 250mph (402kph), was revealed last year. The firm has now shown it in public for the first time at the Swiss event, although the white model on display appeared to be a design shell.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed after the pre-production car's reveal that the new Roadster is a "base model", with faster versions are due. Tesla says the launch version, first confirmed during the launch event for the new Tesla Semi lorry in California,  will feature 10,000nm of torque (7376lb ft) from three motors. It can hit 60mph (96.5kph) in 1.9 seconds, half-a-second quicker than the current fastest-accelerating Tesla, the Model S P100D.

Musk said the successor to Tesla’s first production car, which went off sale six years ago, can accelerate from zero to 100mph (160kph) in 4.2sec and complete a quarter-mile sprint in 8.9sec. He did suggest that producing a faster version of the car may cause some safety concerns.

"[An upgrade is] just a question of safety," he said. "Rocket tech applied to a car opens up revolutionary possibilities."

It is also claimed that the Roadster, which has a removable glass lid and wraparound rear section to give it a look similar to the Mazda MX-5 RF, will have a top speed of more than 250mph (402kph).

Musk revealed that the car’s 200kWh battery pack enables it to have a 620-mile (997.7km) range, which is another new record for production electric vehicles. The previous highest-capacity battery produced by Tesla is the 100kWh pack with a maximum range of 341 miles (548.7km) in the Model S P100D, according to the American EPA test.

"The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” continued Musk. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”

The Tesla Roadster is pegged to arrive on roads in 2020, initially priced from $250,000 (about £189,000/Rs 1.7 crore) for the first 1000 cars, which will be sold as Founders Edition models. Reservations for these cars are now open, with a payment of £189,000 required. Subsequent units will be priced from $200,000 (£151,020/Rs 1.3 crore), with reservations available for £38,000 (Rs 35 lakh).

Like the rest of Tesla’s range, the Roadster will be equipped with the brand’s latest autonomous driving technology. Since the last quarter of 2016, all Tesla cars have been equipped with eight surround cameras to provide 360-degree visibility around the car up to 250 metres away. There are also 12 ultrasonic sensors, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects, as well as a forward-facing radar that can see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even underneath the car ahead.

The Roadster will be updateable via over-the-air software, meaning the performance, autonomous features and safety systems may be boosted even after a car has been purchased. Recent examples of Tesla updates have enabled quicker 0-60mph (0-100kph) times and enhanced Autopilot functionality.

The Roadster's unveiling cams at a time when Tesla had been working to clear a production bottleneck for its Model 3. More than 400,000 orders have been placed but production slowed when a parts supply issues arose. Musk (pictured below) described the scenario as "production hell" and 220 Model 3s were delivered in the third quarter of 2017 compared with the target of 1500.

The issue, along with heavy investment in its new Gigafactory, contributed to Tesla recording a $619 million (£468m/Rs 4,321 crore) loss in the third financial quarter of 2017. In a statement, the brand said: “While we continue to make significant progress each week in fixing Model 3 bottlenecks, the nature of manufacturing challenges during a ramp-up such as this makes it difficult to predict exactly how long it will take for all bottlenecks to be cleared or when new ones will appear.”

Tesla Roadster rivals

The first-generation Roadster might have been the world's most significant production electric sports car when it was launched back in 2008, but today its successor enters a more crowded market. Below are three key electric cars the 2019 Tesla Roadster may have to face.

McLaren electric supercar

The Woking car maker is developing an all-electric supercar, a source recently told Autocar UK. The brand will hybridise its range first before launching the zero-emission model (imagined by Autocar above) with performance to match a 675 LT.

Lamborghini Terzo Millennio concept

The all-electric supercar concept shows Lamborghini’s intent to produce a high-performance EV. The concept features in-wheel motors, which provide the tight packaging solutions needed for the car’s aggressive aerodynamics.

Rimac C_Two

Rimac's second electric hypercar was revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year. It's already sold out, with each model fetching £1.5 million (Rs 13 crore). 0-60mph (0-100kph) comes in 1.85sec, and a top speed of 258mph (415kph) is claimed.