As the Model 3 and Model Y take the world by storm, Tesla's success can be traced back to one vehicle: the Roadster. Based on the Lotus Elise, the Roadster went live for the 2008 model year. By Tesla's modern standards, the original Roadster's 220 miles of range and near-4.0-second 0-60 mph time are hardly impressive. But it's an indelible part of the Tesla tale—and now, the Roadster will return. Here's what to expect from the 2022 Tesla Roadster.
The 2022 Tesla Roadster will have all-wheel drive, likely provided by a triple-motor setup comprising one motor for each rear wheel and one for the front two. Electrons could flow from a 200-kWh battery. The only output figure claimed so far by Tesla is 10,000 newton-meters of torque, which translates to some 7,375 lb-ft.
That probably isn't exactly accurate. We presume that figure is measured at the wheels, not the output shafts as is common practice. For a more realistic figure we look at Tesla's latest "Plaid" powertrain (named after a joke from the film Spaceballs). Given what we know now, we project that the roadster will have somewhere in the range of 800 to 1,000 horsepower. With all that delivered from zero rpm, the effect will be shocking.
Bugatti's 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W-16 engine is the pinnacle of internal combustion engineering. Could the Tesla Roadster's electric powertrain outdo it? While the Bugatti Chiron accelerates to 60 mph in under 2.5 seconds and through the quarter mile in less than 10.0 seconds, the Roadster could be even quicker. Tesla claims a 0-60 mph time of 1.9 seconds and an 8.8-second quarter-mile sprint—hang on to your face.
Top speed for the Roadster is said to exceed 250 mph, an incredible velocity for any car, let alone one powered by electricity. However, the Chiron could still have the Roadster beat when it comes to maxing out the speedometer. In standard specification the Bugatti's top speed is 261 mph, and a modified Chiron crested the 300 mph barrier. Therefore, the Chiron is likely still faster than the Roadster, but the Tesla could be quicker. It'll also definitely use less fuel than the Chiron, which is EPA-rated 9 mpg in the city and 14 mpg on the highway.
Internal combustion or electric, if you increase a motor's output its efficiency is likely to fall. Just look at the Porsche Taycan, or Tesla's own high-performance cars. That's why the Roadster's claimed range is so incredible. Despite potentially having four-figure horsepower and torque, Tesla says it'll be able to cover 620 miles on a charge—doubling what the 2021 Model Y Performance can achieve.
If that turns out to be true it'll be a breakthrough, as it vastly surpasses any electric car currently on sale. The Roadster could be lighter weight and more aerodynamic than those, which should help it cover more ground between charges. Still, given what we know about Tesla's batteries now, we're dubious that it'll deliver. This is one of those things where we'd prefer to be wrong.
Elon Musk pulled the covers off the new Tesla Roadster back in 2017, promising hypercar-beating acceleration and unreal range. Also unreal was the car itself—the Roadster shown then was a prototype. At the time, an in-production target was set for the 2020 model year, which has come and gone.
In mid-2020, Elon confessed that the Roadster's production had been delayed. We agree with his reasoning; getting the Cybertruck and Tesla Semi on the road seems like a higher priority. Then in early 2021 @elonmusk took to Twitter to declare that the Roaster was making progress. "Finishing engineering this year, production starts next year," he said, noting that development on the triple-motor powertrain and its "advanced battery" were critical precursors.
By that statement, it seems that the Roadster will be available no earlier than the 2022 or 2023 model year. Forgive us if we're skeptical—Tesla has a habit of missing its own targets. For now, put us in the believe-it-when-we-see-it camp. Nevertheless, we want to see it as soon as possible.
Prices for the 2022 Tesla Roadster will start at $200,000, while the Founders Series limited-edition model will go for $250,000. We assume there will be optional extras, like different wheels and tires or carbon-fiber interior trim. Tesla's Autopilot and so-called Full Self-Driving systems could be part of the mix, but isn't the point of a car like this to drive yourself? Anyway, that price will make it by far the most expensive Tesla, yet priced like some contemporary supercars. But if Tesla's claims prove true, the Roadster will be a performance bargain compared to those.
Elon Musk's online presence can be a wonderful and weird thing. His Twitter feed is a mix of product announcements, dank memes, and musings which may or may not run afoul of the law. It also contains some eye-raising claims about the upcoming Roadster. After tweeting that it will be able to fly "A little," Elon later clarified that a "special upgrade package" using rocket technology potentially borrowed from his SpaceX endeavor might allow the car to fly "short hops." Needless to say, this would add a new dimension to the Tesla Roadster's performance.
Thing is, there already is a flying Tesla Roadster—in space. The February 2018 launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket had some very special cargo aboard: Mr. Musk's personal first-generation Roadster. Strapped in the driver's seat was a mannequin, dubbed Starman, kitted for the inky abyss. The launch was a success, and the payload delivered on its mission of a billion-year orbit. Given its current location, MotorTrend has been unable to obtain the vehicle for testing. Count on us to measure the second-generation Roadster's performance as soon as it's available, whether rolling—or floating—over the test track.