Some vehicles will forever hold a special place in people’s hearts. For the Tesla community, that car would be the original Roadster, a car that broke the mold of conventional electric vehicles when it was released. With the Roadster, Tesla proved that electric cars did not have to look and perform like glorified golf carts — they can be fast, sleek, and sexy too.
The original Roadster garnered a lot of awards during its time. On October 27, 2009, for one, the Tesla Roadster set a world distance record for production electric cars, traveling 501 km (311 miles) on a single charge. In March 2010, the sports car also became that first electric vehicle to win the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally, with Formula One driver Erik Comas driving an Arctic White Roadster to dominate the three-day, 1,000-km (620-mile) event.
Tesla released the Roadster Sport in 2009, as a top trim for the electric sports car. In its review of the vehicle, Car and Driver noted that the Roadster Sport hit 60 mph in just 4 seconds, thanks to its powerful AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor that produces instant torque. With its 122 mph top speed, 288 bhp of power, and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Roadster Sport was capable of sucking the breath out of unassuming passengers.
Tesla only sold about 2,450 Roadsters during the vehicles’ entire run from 2008-2012. After the Roadster, Tesla focused its efforts on developing and refining the Model S sedan, a vehicle that could very well be the most important car of the decade. Following the Model S was the Model X SUV, and after that came the Model 3, the company’s first attempt at a mass-market car. Tesla passed through “production hell” with the Model 3, though the company was able to power through its difficulties this year. Elon Musk recently noted that Tesla is now at a point when it has no problem building 5,000 Model 3 a week — more than twice the number of original Roadsters the company produced over four years.
The Model 3 Performance is the top trim of Tesla’s latest vehicle. Being powered by larger and more energy-dense 2170 battery cells, the Model 3 Performance is Tesla’s first track capable car. Equipped with two electric motors that produce a combined 450 hp and 471 lb-ft of torque, the high-performance electric sedan has an impressive 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds (eventually updated to 3.3 seconds by Tesla), a top speed of 155 mph, and a range of 310 miles per charge.
In sheer specs alone, the Model 3 Performance — the most conservative among Tesla’s Performance-branded vehicles — outguns the original Roadster. As a video of a race between the two cars shows, though, the original Tesla Roadster is still incredibly quick despite its age. The race between Tesla’s past and present electric cars was held at the Atco Dragway in NJ, where two neophyte drivers christened the drag strip with the rather rare matchup.
Thanks to the raw power of its electric motor, as well as the reaction time of the Model 3 Performance’s driver, the Tesla Roadster Sport established an early lead during the bout. Midway through the quarter-mile, though, the Model 3 Performance started catching up. Both vehicles were neck-and-neck until the end of the race. The Model 3 Performance crossed the quarter-mile mark in 11.838 seconds at 114.02 mph, while the Tesla Roadster Sport completed the run in 12.959 seconds at 101.13 mph. Thus, despite getting the jump over the newer car off the line, the Roadster Sport ultimately bowed down to the Model 3 Performance by 0.6623 seconds.
Its loss to the Model 3 Performance aside, it’s difficult to not remain impressed by the Tesla Roadster Sport. The car, after all, is equipped with battery and powertrain technology that has since been improved by Tesla. Despite this, the vehicle was still able to perform the way Elon Musk wanted it to — as an electric sports car that can stand toe-to-toe with some of the best high-performance cars in the market.
Watch the original Tesla Roadster Sport battle the Model 3 Performance in the video below.