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Tesla Roadster Aims to Be 'Quickest Car in the World'

CARS.COM — Tesla threw down its latest gauntlet in the redesigned Roadster, a car with claimed performance figures that are just plain silly. How silly? Consider: Dodge says the 840-horsepower Challenger SRT Demon runs the quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds; our untimed quarter-mile runs at Lucas Oil Raceway demonstrates the sheer violence of such capability. Now hear this: Tesla says the Roadster will eviscerate the quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds.

Related: Tesla Cuts Pricing on Model S, Model X

Get the soap out. That was a lot of cursing.

It remains to be seen whether the news can overcome a backdrop of concerning financials, early reliability problems on the Model X and production delays on the Model 3. Indeed, CNBC reports that some analysts were unmoved by the splashy unveiling, which also included a semitruck.

Still, what a splash it was. The California automaker says the battery-powered Roadster can hit 60 mph in 1.9 seconds — making good on what CEO Elon Musk called in June “an interesting target” — en route to a top speed of more than 250 mph. Oh, and its range tops out at 620 miles. Should the EPA eventually concur, that would represent nearly double the maximum range of today’s Model S.

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Record-Setting Speed

Tesla claims the new Roadster will be the “quickest car in the world, with record-setting acceleration, range and performance.” Images and video depict a svelte two-door car whose lines snake from one oversized fender to the next; inside, a waterfall display splits the dashboard, with four seats and a removable glass roof.

The design is uncluttered — free of huge spoilers, downforce-generating splitters or even a top portion of the steering wheel — but it’s unclear whether this is a conceptual prototype or the actual production car. In response to Cars.com’s questions, Tesla representatives wouldn’t say which.

Double Charge, Double Price

According to Automotive News and a video of Tesla’s reveal posted by The Verge the Roadster employs three motors, all-wheel drive and a 200-kilowatt-hour battery; that’s double the maximum capacity of the current Model S. Production begins in 2020.

The first Tesla Roadster (2008-12) was a Lotus-based electric two-seater that hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and started at $110,950 with destination for the 2011 model. Its successor will cost a lot more: The new Roadster starts at $200,000, with a Founders Series beginning at $250,000. Tesla opened reservations at $50,000 for the base model and the full $250,000 for the Founders Series, which is open to the first 1,000 models — because stranding that much cash from investment returns for two-plus years is a swell idea.

Not Intended for Mass Production

AutoPacific analyst Ed Kim notes that with such pricing, the Roadster will be a rare sighting on the road.

The Roadster is “simply a halo car, pure and simple,” Kim wrote in an email to Cars.com. Tesla is unlikely to make much money off it, he added, because the battery pack “will undoubtedly be extremely expensive. Small volumes and probably relatively small margins mean that Tesla will have a suitable halo car, but it won’t likely do much for the automaker’s balance sheets.”

Kim added that a high-performance sports car is so conventional for any brand that it’s “almost cliche.” But the Roadster “will no doubt create buzz, and if that has a positive impact on the sales of Tesla’s other models, it will have done its job,” he wrote.

Semi Update

The automaker’s new Semi, meanwhile, can purportedly sustain 65 mph up a 5 percent grade versus 45 mph for diesel semitrucks. High-speed Megachargers installed at the beginning or end of a route (or anywhere in between) can add “about 400 miles” in 30 minutes, Tesla claims.

The trucks can trail each other autonomously in a convoy, too, with 500 miles of range at highway speeds and maximum weight, according to The Verge’s video. In that footage, Musk promised production of the semitruck in 2019; he also guaranteed no powertrain breakdowns for 1 million miles on each truck.

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