Tesla Roadster: 5 fast facts about Elon Musk's electric supercar

As "one more thing" surprises go, Elon Musk's unexpected reveal of the new Tesla Roadster was a move that would make Steve Jobs proud. After all, we knew a new Tesla Roadster was coming, we just didn't know to expect to see it quite so soon – and certainly not right after the EV-maker made its big pitch for the Tesla Semi truck. Missed the late-night announcement? Here are five fast facts to get you up to speed.

Tesla is promising the fastest production car ever

The numbers make for some impressive reading, certainly. 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds. 0-100 mph in 4.2 seconds. The quarter mile run in just 8.9 seconds.

That's not just fast, it's supercar-beating, world-record-beating fast. Tesla is crediting three electric motors for all that power, with a faintly ridiculous 10,000 Nm of torque – 7,374 lb-ft if you're old-school – helping push the Roadster past the 250 mph mark.

Of course, it's really worth remembering that all this is fairly theoretical right now. The car world isn't short of supercar projects that promise huge performance, but they don't get the kudos for it until they actually deliver. Tesla's existing cars certainly demonstrate the potential of electric motors, but translating that into a production vehicle takes effort.

The Tesla Roadster's range is mind-boggling

Your eyes may have been forced back into the depths of your skull with the acceleration, but they'll be crying tears of joy when you look at the battery gage. Tesla isn't just suggesting the new Roadster will match the Model S and Model X on range, it promises it'll beat it comprehensively. We're potentially talking LA to San Francisco and back again, all on a single charge.

In fact, the headline number is 620 miles, which is well in excess of anything else on Tesla's forecourt. For that, it needs a pretty huge battery pack, with 200 kWh slung low in the car to keep the center of the gravity down and thus help with stability. If you're keeping score, that means a battery twice the size of what you'll find in the most expensive Model S, which gets at most 335 miles of range.

It might even be mildly practical

Supercars don't normally have four seats, but Tesla's does. Indeed, the company is promising practicality along with its performance. Musk conceded that the rear seats were small, but just having them in the first place is unusual for the segment.

Even if you don't use them, the cabin looks set to be light and airy. Tesla's digital dashboard takes pride of place, with a huge portrait-aspect touchscreen dominating the center stack. A glass roof panel can be removed to make it an open-top, though you'll have to store that in the back of the car as it doesn't stow automatically. Those in the front will have to tell their counterparts in the back what the sun feels like, too, as the roof cutaway doesn't extend beyond the front seats.

It'll be expensive - though not ridiculously so

You're looking at the most expensive production Tesla – well, at least when the Tesla Roadster actually goes into production. The base car will be $200,000 the company has confirmed, with a $50,000 reservation fee if you want to stake your place in the line. However, those who want one of the very first Roadsters have an option to jump the line.

That's the Tesla Roadster Founders Series, just 1,000 cars that will be the first to roll out of production. You'll not only need to cough up $250,000 to secure one, Tesla actually wants that money today, in full. You can make a $5,000 payment today online, but you'll have to follow it up with a bank transfer for the remaining balance.

Six-figures for a car is, undoubtedly, expensive. However if Tesla can actually deliver on its promises with the Roadster, it's actually surprisingly competitive. The McLaren 720S, for example, starts at just under $300k and does 0-60 mph in about 2.8 seconds. A Bugatti Chiron is a hefty $3m, with its 2.3 second 0-60 time and 261 mph top speed.

You'll have to wait to get it, and that's tactical

Problem is, while you can go down to a McLaren dealership and buy a 720S today, your reservation for a new Tesla Roadster comes with a side-order of forced patience. Deliveries of the new car aren't expected to begin until 2020, three years from now. And, it's worth remembering, Tesla doesn't exactly have the best track record for hitting its production goals.

Why open the order books now, then? It's hard to ignore the fact that, if all 1,000 Roadster Founders Series cars are snapped up – and we'd expect that to be the case in relatively short order – that's a nice $250m lump sum in Tesla's bank account. Welcome indeed, when the company is burning through cash trying to get its Model 3 and Gigafactory production lines running as they should be. Every $50k "base" Roadster reservation only sweetens that, and helps Tesla avoid raising more cash in the traditional way.

How comfortable you are with that idea probably taps into how comfortable you are in general with how Tesla operates. Elon Musk has suggested in the past that high-ticket cars like the Model S and Model X have helped subsidize the way for more affordable options like the Model 3, though in reality it's taken a whole lot of reservations for the cheaper, smaller car to get it to the point of production (and it still needs more). Big ambitions take deep wallets, and it's somewhat fitting that, like the original Roadster paved the way for the first Model S, it's this new Roadster which will help foot the bill for Tesla's current expansion.