The 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5 may be based on Lotus Elise underpinnings, but its styling is significantly different. The Release 2.5 update, new for this year, keeps it fresh and gives it a slightly more sophisticated look than the previous gaping maw.
Against the styling of the lithe, light Elise, the 2011 Tesla Roadster is longer, slightly sleeker, and dispenses with the side air intakes. It’s low-slung, racy, and a real attention-getter. The revised nose this year ties the Roadster more closely to the upcoming Model S all-electric sedan, for the start of a brand character.
Reviewers like the styling, in general, and the removable folding cloth roof panel fits neatly into the small space under the rear decklid. A carbon-fiber hard top is also available. It’s a small car nonetheless, just 44 inches tall with top erected, and fully 5 inches shorter than a subcompact Honda Fit.
But the 2011 Roadster’s carbon-fiber body panels would be equally attractive with a gasoline engine underneath. The battery-powered drivetrain is Tesla’s selling point.
Earlier Roadsters had Spartan interiors with almost no storage space. Both seats and furnishings have been revised each model year, with the Release 2.5 version offering seats that are claimed to be far more comfortable.
Behind the steering wheel, the instrument panel lights up and the car makes a computer-like “bong” tone once it’s powered up. The traditional pairing—speedometer and rev counter—face the driver, along with a bank of warning lights. A touch-screen vehicle information system lets the driver select among five operational modes for performance, battery conservation, and even long-term storage.