For production cars, how fast is too fast? How about 0-60 mph in one second?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Elon Musk claims that the new Tesla Roadster will hit 60 mph in less than one second.

Yeah, well, Elon Musk says a lot of things.

Then again, he’s achieved a lot of things too.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that when the Roadster hits the roads in 2025, it achieves that headline figure* – or even gets close to it. What would that feel like? And more broadly, how fast is too fast for a production car?

*Tesla has been criticised for muddying the waters over 0-60 times. Many car manufacturers use a rolling start as part of their standard stats. Tesla does the same but has been accused of injecting jargon into its claims by using the proviso ‘0-60 with rollout extracted’. If you’re interested, take a gander at this discussion.

What different levels of fast car feel like

Fairly obviously, how quick a car feels depends on what you’re used to. If you’ve spent the last ten years pootling around in a Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i Auto (0-60 in 15.2s), then a warm hatch, like the Audi A1 Sportback 35 TFSI (0-62mph: 7.7 seconds), will feel like a rocket ship. After all, it’s over twice as fast.

Jump from that Audi into, say, a current VW Golf R (0-62mph in 4.7 seconds) and you’re in for another shock.

To get an idea of what the next level up looks like, YouTube is a great resource. There are thousands of clips showing the reaction of unsuspecting passengers to very fast cars. Take the compilation below, in which a dude subjects various people to a launch in his Nissan GTR:

We’ve no idea if the car has been tuned, but in standard trim, the 565 bhp Nissan GTR claims a 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds. For his passengers, that’s often quite literally jaw-dropping (as well as scream-and-expletive inducing).

That’s still only one-third of the acceleration that the Tesla Roadster will produce (again, assuming the predictions are correct).

Reaching the next level with electrons

A few years back, a collective weeping could be heard around the world. It was the sound of millions of petrolheads watching fossil fuel hypercars being out-accelerated by electric saloons and SUVs.

In the video below, for example, we can watch a McClaren 720S up against a bog-standard Tesla Model S Plaid. Note that the McClaren – already an eye-wateringly fast and expensive sports car – has been fettled to over 1000 bhp. Feel free to skip through the waffle to 10:23.  You can guess what happens.

What about from a rolling start? Forward to 10:43 and it’s the same thing – the McClaren is annihilated.

Love or hate electric cars, it can’t be denied that they’re the next level in production car acceleration.

And speaking of levels…

The current record-holder for the world’s fastest production car (over a quarter mile)

At the time of writing, the world’s fastest production car is the Rimac Nevera. In the video below, you can watch it eat up a Ferrari S90 Stradale for breakfast, then ask for seconds. Take a look at chirpy Black Country lad Matt Watson’s reaction from 6:19.

Now bear in mind that the Rimac Nevera can ‘only’ manage 1.95 seconds for 0-62 mph.

That’s still around half the speed of the proposed Tesla Roaster.

A bit of secondary school physics

Using our almost-lost secondary school physics, we worked out two figures you might find interesting:

  • 60 mph is 26.82 metres per second, so the Tesla should accelerate at 26.82 m/s2. For comparison, acceleration in the first second of freefall is 9.81m/s2. That means that anyone in the car will be subject to 2.73 G. The Roadster would accelerate you 2.73 times faster than falling out of a window.
  • During that first second, the car would travel at 0.5 x acceleration x time x time, which  is 13.41 metres. If the Roadster is about 3.9 metres long, that means it gets up to 60 mph in under three-and-a-half car lengths.

So, how fast is too fast?

Look, we love fast cars. But there’s good fast and there’s dangerously, irresponsibly fast.

Even very skilled drivers are taken aback by the speed of the Rimac Nevera, a car that can reach the legal speed limit in just over 2 seconds. Not that anyone’s going to be satisfied with accelerating for just two seconds in that beast. On the managed conditions of a track, we could see that could be a blast. But for anyone without pro-driver skills, unleashing the Rimac’s full power on a public road – even the Autobahn – would be nuts.

What about the Tesla Roadster? On a public road, forget it – it’s potentially twice as fast as the Rimac. Yet even on a track, we’ve got our doubts. As far as we can figure out, the only ways to experience comparable straight-line acceleration are:

  • in a jet-engine powered dragster
  • in a fighter jet, launched by catapult from an aircraft carrier
  • on a space rocket launch (though this is barely faster than the Tesla).

In all three situations, you have to get a serious amount of experience and/or training before you’re strapped in. Somehow, we can’t see Tesla insisting that anyone who buys the Roadster has to pass an advanced driving course before the keys are handed over. It would be against Elon’s libertarian principles.

We’re not saying that the new Roadster should be banned. Just that it’s way too fast for almost anyone to handle safely.

How fast is too fast? In our view, the new Tesla Roadster could be.

(And by the way, wouldn’t it be nice if Elon could put those Roadster-resources into producing, say, a great affordable EV?)

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