1) Tesla loans Top Gear a Roadster'
2) Top Gear does a show showing it running out of power and being pushed back into the garage at the track and they state that its range is comically low.
3) Tesla claims it was all staged
Whether or not you believe Tesla or Top Gear (and it seems relatively clear that Top Gear probably did stage it) the timeline does not show a shift in attitude from Top Gear regarding Tesla. They've always made fun of it.
Comically low on the track, going full out. Which seems to be a pretty reasonable claim.
Also consider that Tesla didn't sue for over 2 years after the episode first aired. The episode was in late 2008, and Tesla sued in March 2011.
Well, except for the part where apparently they didn't actually manage to run it dry on the track.
This said, it's fucking Top Gear. Their idea of a "serious" car review of the Renault Twingo is seeing if a car (undoubtedly not stock) can do a flip in a sewer tunnel. Their review of the Reliant Robin was only about how the car (again, modified), only flips. Somebody should have clued Tesla in.
The one major concern that almost everyone has about electric cars is to do with the range anxiety and I thought they demonstrated that well. Sure, it was staged; but staged to demonstrate the point in an entertaining way (well, the amount of entertainment is personal preference I guess).
The "joke" being that the car doesn't have the range that Tesla claims and that you're likely to be stranded as a result. Top Gear is a joke.
Tesla should have realized their car was going to be the butt of some joke: it's what the show does. If Tesla can't handle being made fun of, then they shouldn't have given Top Gear a car to test.
edit: I also enjoy the fact that top gear is much more opinionated and un-PC than anything else out there. It's keeps it interesting. Yeah, so Clarkson hates EVs, hates Ford, and hates "caravans". Once you can get past this and accept you and him very well may have different viewpoints, he's hilarious.
It's a love/hate relationship. He bought a GT40 (and then had many problems with it, but loved it, from what I remember). From what I can gather from the series, Ford is fairly popular in the UK (with the Mondeo?), so it's an easy target.
Did you hear the one about the electric car? It ended up getting half it's promised range. HAHA!
Top Gear is a joke.
That being said, the problem is that EV battery technology is still young: Most manufacturers state the upper-limit instead or something realistic. For an example: smartphones nowadays usually go past their claimed battery life despite that before it was hard for them to stay on for an entire day.
I own a Nissan Leaf and am well aware that range depends upon a series of conditions like weather, excessive acceleration and braking, and climate control. THIS IS TRUE OF ALL CARS, but matters more in EVs.
That does not mean that anyone would be well-served by an automotive review that lists towns and distances traveled, but which then misrepresents the car's state of charge to pretend its battery is completely discharged when it's actually over one-third full.
I doubt anyone purchased any car based upon their recommendations or takes them seriously when they "review" cars.