The Car Connection Tesla Model X Overview
The Tesla Model X is the California-based automaker's long-awaited follow-up to the Model S sedan. Not quite a crossover or an SUV, the Model X is an egg-shaped wagon with a tall roof, top-hinged doors, and none of the off-road capability that would classify it as an SUV.
It's also the only pure electric car in that class, at least until offerings from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche hit the streets toward the end of the decade.
In late 2016 it was offered with 75-, 90-, and 100-kwh hour battery packs that increased its range up to 289 miles.
The all-electric utility vehicle doesn’t stand out in profile quite the way it did when the form was essentially locked in, back in 2012. Its front-end design is the new Tesla face, with a flat panel replaced a simulated grille, and its tall proportions don’t have the inherent voluptuousness of the Model S. But watch from the front or rear as the owner opens the rear passenger doors, and you’ll see why the Model X is guaranteed to turn heads in the parking lot: its gullwing-style "falcon" doors arch outward and upward, to allow a surprisingly open area through which to access the back seats.
MORE: Read our 2017 Tesla Model X review
Tesla insists that the doors are actually quite practical. A double-jointed mechanism requires only about a foot on either side of the vehicle to open the doors, and they’re actually easier in tight parking spots than sliding minivan doors. More to the point, sensors prevent the doors from hitting low garage ceilings and recalculate their opening arc depending on constraints. They prevent roof racks and any kind of cargo mounted above the roof, but Tesla offers a special bike and gear rack that attaches to the trailer hitch. Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds, though both towing and running at high speeds will eat quickly into range.
From inside, the Model X feels and drives like a Model S with a higher seating position. It's more open and airy, due to a steeply sloped panoramic windshield that's one of the largest in any production vehicle, extending up over the front-seat area. While the third-row seats fold flat when not in use, the second row only slides forward to rest against the backs of the front seats. They do give better adult-size contouring than most utility-vehicle seats. Six- and seven-passenger layouts are available, with the former eliminating the middle second-row seat, giving more pass-through space and better rearward vision.
From either a practical or performance angle, the Model X is impressive. All-wheel drive is standard, and it can reach 60 mph in as little as 2.9 seconds, when the high-performance P100D model is optioned with the appropriately named Ludicrous Mode. Three battery capacities are offered, 75, 90 and 100 kilowatt-hours, with the performance option offered only on the larger battery. Ranges vary from 238 to 289 miles, and Supercharger fast-charging capability provides up to 80 percent of total charge in 30 to 40 minutes. All models have separate electric motors for the front and rear wheels.
As in the Model S sedan, the Model X has its battery mounted low and flush with the floor, keeping its center of mass extremely low. That give its stability and general handling prowess that’s superior to just about any other SUV. There’s a multi-mode air suspension, and ground clearance is higher for the Model X, which should make it a better pick for those in climates with occasionally deep snowfall.
While neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has issued safety ratings for the Model X, Tesla says it achieves perfect five-star results in all categories of federal NCAP crash-testing. A HEPA filter includes activated carbon filtration, removing pollen, bacteria, viruses, and pollution in general from the air. Collision avoidance systems in the Model X use a multitude of sensors, with camera, radar, and sonar hardware all providing input to automatic crash braking, blind-spot alert, and lane-departure warning systems.
As in the Model S, the Model X has a 17-inch vertically oriented touchscreen setup at the center of the dash. It’s one of the best such systems in the business—relatively lag-free and updated with over-the-air updates. Key vehicle features can also be updated over the air, without a trip to a service bay, and new features can actually be introduced this way.
The Tesla Model X went on sale in late September 2015, though some owners of early production models noted quality issues over misaligned and balky doors. Production increased during the first part of 2016. Model X variants sell for about $5,000 more than an equivalent Model S. Price start at about $85,000 and can reach $130,000 for fully optioned P100D variants.