Tesla Roadster, the company's next-generation supercar, is set to take on a major new challenge.
On Sunday, CEO Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that the all-electric vehicle is going to Germany's legendary Nürburgring in 2021. The complex is home to two race tracks: the 20.832-kilometer (12.945-mile) Nordschleife circuit which dates back to 1927, and the newer 5.148-kilometer (3.199-mile) Grand Prix track. The longer track is an iconic test circuit for new vehicles, putting cars through their paces on a demanding and varied course.
It's the perfect challenge for the upcoming Roadster, which is one of the most highly-anticipated electric vehicles in the world. Tesla's first vehicle, the original $108,000 Roadster, debuted in 2008. This sequel, unveiled at the Tesla Design Studio in November 2017, is expected to be similarly groundbreaking: Musk described it at the launch as a “hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” which will make gas-powered vehicles feel like “a steam engine with a side of quiche.”
The second-generation Roadster should offer specs to match. It will offer a top speed of over 250 mph, an acceleration time from 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, and 0 to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds. It will have the ability to complete a quarter-mile in just 8.8 seconds. The all-wheel-drive four-seater has a removable glass roof and enough battery to cover 620 miles on a single charge.
A trip to the Nürburgring should demonstrate the car's impressive speeds. Tesla used the course to show off how the company's technologies are leaving competitors in the dust. In November 2019, a Tesla Model S with the under-development "Plaid" powertrain completed the Nordschleife circuit in just seven minutes and 13 seconds. The feat undercut the all-electric Porsche Taycan by nearly 30 seconds, with the Model S competitor scoring a lap time of seven minutes and 42 seconds.
The "Plaid" powertrain could be part of what makes the Roadster such a speed demon. At the original November 2017 unveiling, Musk explained that the Roadster would ship with a special "Plaid" mode, an improvement over the "Ludicrous" mode then available in the firm's Model S and X vehicles. Both modes are a reference to '80s sci-fi classic Spaceballs, in which "Plaid" designates the next step up from "Ludicrous."
Two years later, in September 2019, Musk revealed that a triple-motor "Plaid" powertrain would also come to the Model S and Model X. The Model S version, Musk claimed, would feature seven seats and start shipping in October or November 2020. In April 2020, Musk explained that the team was planning to simplify the project and reduce complexity.
Originally expected to launch in 2020, the Roadster may now launch in 2022. During an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in May 2020, Musk claimed the firm would focus on shipping the Cybertruck before moving on to the Roadster. The first Cybertruck vehicles are expected to start shipping in late 2021.
The Inverse analysis – This could be the first major demonstration of the Roadster's potential. At the prototype's unveiling, select fans were able to take a short test ride and experience the intense acceleration rates. These hands-on experiences were later shown in a December 2018 compilation video.
A circuit lap could reveal a more powerful vehicle than expected. In July 2018, racer Emile Bouret claimed the released specifications were "conservative." With planned boosts for the higher-end models of Roadster, like a "SpaceX options package," the original version could pale in comparison to some of the vehicles that will hit the road later.
Update 09/21 1 p.m. Eastern time: The article has been updated to clarify the measurements of the race track.