My Car Quest

April 24, 2024

Design Critique: Tesla Roadster, er, Targa Coupe

Short on exotic looks but strong on performance…

by Wallace Wyss –

It is rare in this writer’s experience to write a design critique of a car that was announced several years ago, been redesigned and is still not in the showrooms.

Oh, I forgot, there aren’t any showrooms (or maybe one or two –I know for sure there’s one in Santa Monica) Tesla keeps postponing its production but they did freshen it up. Who knows if it may yet be postponed again and have to be freshened up again.

Tesla Roadster

Franz von Holzhausen is Tesla’s US vehicle designer. Since 2008, he has been in charge of design at Tesla, Inc. He designed the Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, and the unveiled but not-yet-released Cybertruck, Semi, and what they persist in calling the second-generation Tesla Roadster. Anyway here’s my reaction

FRONT The fact it has no grille cavity isn’t so obvious since the black area below the bumper line gives some sort of grille impression and may be taking in air but not for an ICE engine. The grille-less look of other Teslas always struck me as people wearing masks over their mouth (now a common sight).

Tesla Roadster

SIDE Although the indented side with a chiseled half running board is stolen from the Camaro, it does give the mass some interesting solidity. To have it just gradually bowing out would make it look too much like the Opel GT of decades ago. The air scoop behind the rear 3/4 window is stolen off the Miura but nicely done. Having a targa top gets rid of all that could go wrong with the retractable hardtops. Why the press keeps calling it a roadster is inexplicable other than lazy journalism. A roadster is a fully open car. A fixed rear roof structure supporting a hatchback means it’s a targa roofed coupe. The vent in front fender imitates vents on numerous ICE cars, used to ventilate hot engine compartment. I’d like to know what they are venting (would hate to think there’s something phony on such a highly utilitarian design).

Tesla Roadster

REAR Nice flush fitting-when-down retractable spoiler. Under-tray vertical fins suggest some attempt at controlling air flowing under the car but we won’t know if they are partially cosmetic until we see a bottom shot.

Tesla Roadster

IN SUM Nice design by their chief designer. One that won’t grow old, no matter how much longer we have to wait for a production model. I would even like to see the bottom vertical under-tray fins underplayed more and the top spoiler made wider as long as it still hides flush deck when not needed. I doubt the front spoiler is deployable but if it isn’t, they might consider it since they are talking Ferrari-like speeds. Bad stuff can happen if you have nose lift above 150 mph (as Ford found out at LeMans in ’64).

Tesla Roadster

Car portrait by Wallace Wyss

The performance claims are scary, under 2 sec, 0-60 mph. I think that goal should be looked at with a cautionary view. There’s even rumors of a Space-X package for another $50K that could get you down to 1.1 seconds. The headrests need to be designed to protect against the neck-snapping jerk from a standstill that could produce. I’d be happy with a mere 4.2 sec. 0-60 mph.

Tesla Roadster

The price seems to have risen every time I hear it–now over $200,000 and again that production date is moved, this time to 2023. But even with four factories — Fremont, Texas, Berlin, Shanghai–poor Elon can’t delay the long promised Cybertruck again or the Semi to make a “playtoy” like the targa coupe (there, I called a spade a spade) so which one to prioritize? Decisions, decisions…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, author of 18 car histories, has been a guest lecturer at the Art Center College of Design.



Photos compliments of Tesla.
Design Critique: Tesla Roadster, er, Targa Coupe
Article Name
Design Critique: Tesla Roadster, er, Targa Coupe
This Tesla Roadster is a nice design by their chief designer. One that won't grow old, no matter how much longer we have to wait for a production model.


  1. Mike Stellato says

    considering that this may be an all-electric 4-wheel drive vehicle, it looks like there is an intake vent outside of the headlight that may duct air down to the front wheel drive motor. The vent behind the front wheel well could be for this air to exit – thereby making it a reasonable design item. The “Miura” style intake vent behind the rear quarter window most likely has the same function, with the exit vents below the rear bumper. That my opinion……

    • The nice thing about those scoops and vents is that your likely correct they are functional but in the grand scheme of things not distracting like so many hyper car ducts and vents which I am largely sure are needed but do not actually enhance the looks in my opinion …

  2. It is nice to see smooth dare I say elegant and understated , flowing lines on a car that is not jarring in its attempt to look like a stealth aircraft… the aspect of not needing huge side air intakes owing to it’s electric nature is also refreshing… The price point will certainly insure the status for the wealthy set although it makes the C8 Corvette look like a screaming bargain, mind you that is a car whose styling leaves me personally cold, sorry GM I believe that the C7 was actually more attractive…
    Performance is great but there seems to be a race (every pun intended) by manufacturers to build hyper cars that most of the folks who buy them are not truly qualified to drive… So to that end how much HP is actually usable, perhaps these hyper cars should come with racing school classes and track time to teach folks how to handle the HP… Or perhaps the HP and performance numbers race has gotten a bit out of hand … Just a thought

  3. wallace wyss says

    I agree with Jim on the need for training. I have driven a NASCAR stocker, million dollar Ital Design prototypes, etc. but am not prepared to drive a 250-mph (the latest claim) and would vouch to say neither are most civilians. Its a little like selling a conversion device to convert an AR15 into a fully automatic M16….

  4. wallace wyss says

    Sometimes watching You Tube videos on Tesla you don’t know where the truth stops and sci fi starts but one entitled

    10 All-New TESLAs coming to Shock Auto Industry

    predicts the Tesla sports car will have an option called “cold rockets” that will get its 0-60 mph time under 2 seconds
    and be able, with another option, to float off the ground a few feet. I haven’t figured out the advantage of that yet…

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