Tesla Roadster reviews can be grouped in two main categories: older reviews of "validation prototypes" (2006–2008), before Tesla began serial production and customer deliveries, and reviews on cars in serial production (2008–2010).
The global online auto review site Autoguide.com tested Tesla's fourth-generation car in October 2010. Autoguide editor Derek Kreindler said "The Tesla Roadster 2.5 S is a massively impressive vehicle, more spacecraft than sports car. Theories like global warming, peak oil and rising oil prices should no longer bring heart palpitations to car fans. The Tesla shows just how good zero-emissions “green” technology can be. Quite frankly, getting into a normal car at the end of the test drive was a major letdown. The whirr of the engine, the shove in the backside and the lithe little roadster that seems to pivot around you is replaced by a grunting, belching, feedback-free driving experience". He continues on that "but for a $100,000 car, it could use some work" complaining of purposefully cheap work.
In the March 2010 print edition of British enthusiast magazine EVO (p. 120), editor Richard Meaden was the first to review the all-new right-hand-drive version of the Roadster. He said the car had "serious, instantaneous muscle". "With so much torque from literally no revs the acceleration punch is wholly alien. Away from traffic lights you'd murder anything, be it a 911 Turbo, GT-R or 599, simply because while they have to mess about with balancing revs and clutch, or fiddle with launch controls and invalid warranties, all you have to do is floor the throttle and wave goodbye".
In December 2009, Wall Street Journal editor Joseph White conducted an extended test-drive and determined that "you can have enormous fun within the legal speed limit as you whoosh around unsuspecting Camry drivers, zapping from 40 to 60 miles per hour in two seconds while the startled victims eat your electric dust". White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, praised the car's environmental efficiency but said consumer demand reflected not the environmental attributes of the car but its performance. "The Tesla turns the frugal environmentalist aesthetic on its head. Sure, it doesn't burn petroleum, and if plugged into a wind turbine or a nuclear plant, it would be a very low-carbon machine. But anyone who buys one will get the most satisfaction from smoking someone's doors off. The Tesla's message is that "green" technology can appeal to the id, not just the superego".
In December 2009, MotorTrend was the first to independently confirm the Roadster Sport's reported 0 to 60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. (MotorTrend recorded 0 to 60 mph of 3.70 seconds; it recorded a quarter-mile test at 12.6 sec @ 102.6 mph.) Engineering Editor Kim Reynolds called the acceleration "breathtaking" and said the car confirms "Tesla as an actual car company. ...Tesla is the first maker to crack the EV legitimacy barrier in a century".
In November 2009, Automobile Magazine West Coast editor Jason Cammisa spent a week driving a production Tesla Roadster. Cammisa was immediately impressed with the acceleration, saying the car "explodes off the line, pulling like a small jet plane. ... It's like driving a Lamborghini with a big V-12 revved over 6000 rpm at all times, waiting to pounce—without the noise, vibration, or misdemeanor arrest for disturbing the peace". He also took the car to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, and praised the car for its robustness, saying the Roadster:
"wins the Coolest Car I've Ever Driven award. Why? Despite the flat-out sprints, the drag racing, the donuts, the top-speed runs, and dicing through traffic like there's a jet pack strapped to the trunk, Pacific Gas and Electric—which generated power for the Tesla—released into the atmosphere the same amount of carbon dioxide as would a gasoline-powered car getting 99 mpg. And the Roadster didn't break. It didn't smoke, lock up, freeze, or experience flux-capacitor failure. Over the past ten decades, no company has been able to reinvent the car—not General Motors with the EV1, not Toyota with the Prius. And now, a bunch of dudes from Silicon Valley have created an electric car that really works—as both an environmental fix and a speed fix".
In 2009 the Tesla Roadster was one of the Scandinavian Sports Car of the Year participants, which is comparison made by Nordic car magazines Tekniikan Maailma (Finland), Teknikens Värld (Sweden) and Bil Magasinet (Denmark), they praised the torque of the car and a track car structure, negative things were e.g. short battery life. The car had some problems either the batteries or engine was overheating and they could not drive a full track lap at all in dry track conditions.
In May 2009, Car and Driver technical editor Aaron Robinson wrote a review based on the first extended test-drive of a production Tesla Roadster. Robinson had the car for nearly a week at his home. He complained of "design anomalies, daily annoyances, absurd ergonomics, and ridiculous economics " and stated he never got to see if the car could go 240 miles on a single charge because of the torturous seating forced him to stop driving the car. He also complained of Tesla increasing the car prices on those who had already made deposits and charging extra for previously free necessary components.
In February 2009, automotive critic Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times called the production Tesla Roadster "a superb piece of machinery: stiff, well sorted, highly focused, dead-sexy and eerily quick". Neil said he had the car for 24 hours but "caned it like the Taliban caned Gillette salesmen and it never even blinked".
In February 2009, Road and Track tested another production vehicle and conducted the first independently verified metered testing of the Roadster. Engineering editor Dennis Simanitis said the testing confirmed what he called "extravagant claims", that the Roadster had a 4.0 s 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) acceleration and a 200-mile (320 km) range. They said the Roadster felt like "an over-ballasted Lotus Elise", but the weight was well-distributed, so the car remained responsive. "Fit and finish of our Tesla were exemplary", which Road and Track thought fit the target market. Overall, they considered it a "delight" to drive. Testing a pre-production car in early 2008, Road and Track said "The Tesla feels composed and competent at speed with great turn-in and transitioning response", though they recommended against it as a "primary grocery-getter".
In January 2009, automotive critic Warren Brown of the Washington Post called the production Roadster "a head-turner, jaw-dropper. It is sexy as all get-out". He described the feeling behind the wheel as, "Wheeeeeee! Drive a Tesla, even if you have to fly to Tesla's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, to get your hands on one for a day. ... If this is the future of the automobile, I want it".
In a review of a Roadster prototype before the cars were in serial production, Motor Trend gave a generally favorable review in March 2008, stating that, it was "undeniably, unbelievably efficient" and would be "profoundly humbling to just about any rumbling Ferrari or Porsche that makes the mistake of pulling up next to a silent, 105 mpg Tesla Roadster at a stoplight".; however, they detected a "nasty drive-train buck" during the test drive of an early Roadster with the older, two-speed transmission.
In a July 8, 2007, review of a prototype Roadster, Jay Leno wrote, "If you like sports cars and you want to be green, this is the only way to go. The Tesla is a car that you can live with, drive and enjoy as a sports car. I had a brief drive in the car and it was quite impressive. This is an electric car that is fun to drive".
In a November 27, 2006, review of a prototype Roadster in Slate, Paul Boutin wrote, "A week ago, I went for a spin in the fastest, most fun car I've ever ridden in—and that includes the Aston Martin I tried to buy once. I was so excited, in fact, that I decided to take a few days to calm down before writing about it. Well, my waiting period is over, I'm thinking rationally, and I'm still unbelievably stoked about the Tesla".
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