2016 Tesla Model X

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John Voelcker John Voelcker
May 27, 2016

Buying tip

The difference in rated range between the 75- and 90-kwh battery packs is only 12 miles, so buyers who want to stick close to the $85,000 base price may opt for the entry model.

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The 2016 Tesla Model X is unique, the sole all-electric SUV, even if its interior flexibility isn't what some buyers may expect from a utility vehicle.

The 2016 Tesla Model X all-electric luxury SUV is unique in the market, despite the recent proliferation of luxury utility vehicles. It's available in three versions, all of them with all-wheel drive: the base 75D, with a 75-kwh battery pack; the 90D, with the highest EPA-rated range of 257 miles from a larger 90-kwh battery, and the P90D performance model.

The most notable features of the Model X are its roof-hinged "falcon doors," which not only pivot upwards from the spine of the roof but also are hinged in the middle so their lower half stays roughly within the width of the car itself. They've so thoroughly captured the public image of the Model X that its blistering acceleration and incomparable energy efficiency are almost footnotes.

Tesla's second volume model has had a rocky launch, with some owners reporting ill-fitting or balky doors, but other buyers report no issues at all beyond an early recall for a seat-back fitting. We tested a Model X P90D from the first 500 vehicles delivered. It had racked up more than 2,500 miles over eight weeks by the time a sympathetic owner let us spend several hours with the electric SUV.

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That's when we learned that while the Model X is capacious and capable of holding six or seven adults, it doesn't have the interior flexibility that some owners may expect from an SUV.


Tesla insists on calling the Model X an SUV, but it doesn't necessarily look like one. With four doors and a tailgate, it resembles a taller, somewhat hunchbacked Model S from many angles. That's not a bad thing, but the higher profile eliminates the sleek feline grace of the lower Model S. At the nose, the Model X pioneers the latest Tesla frontal design, a flat, narrow, horizontal strip that dips into a slight V to accommodate the Tesla badge and takes the place of a large grille-like insert.

The distinctive wing-like rear falcon doors made it into production, despite severe engineering and quality control challenges. They use dual hinges and a sonar system that adjusts opening/closing arcs to avoid collisions with low garage ceilings and nearby cars. They're a talking point, and worked fine on the Model X we tested, but require several more seconds of waiting for them to open or close than conventional hinged doors would.

Inside, Tesla's electric SUV has more conventional luxury trim materials and a bit more storage than the Model S. Leather seats come in white, tan, or black, and trim is a mix of microfiber surfaces, soft-touch plastic, and wood inserts with matte-silver accents.


Specs and performance figures for the all-wheel drive Tesla Model X are predictably impressive. All variants can tow up to 5,000 pounds, although towing eats into range—as does running at anything near the rated top speeds.

EPA-rated ranges vary from 238 miles for the 75D to 257 for the 90D, while 0-to-60-mph acceleration is quoted at 6.0 seconds down to a stunning 3.2 seconds for the P90D with the Ludicrous mode option.

On the road, the Model X is smooth, quiet, and handles well, with flat cornering, responsive electric power steering, and well-controlled body motions. With the battery weight in the lowest part of the car, many drivers will find themselves hustling it through narrow roads and frequent turns at speeds 10 to 15 mph higher than they realize. It's the most poised of all large SUVs.

Comfort and Space

Interior design is stylish, with high-grade materials and a center console dominated by a massive touchscreen. A vast windshield extends above the front seats to provide a panoramic view for everyone in the car. The rolled, pivoting, magnetically attached sun visors this requires are an engineering achievement in their own right.

The Model X is most SUV-like in its ability to seat six or seven in three rows of forward-facing seats. There are three individual bucket seats in the second row, or it can be ordered without the center seat for a six-passenger configuration, though that impedes rear vision. The falcon doors ease entry and exit from the second- and third-row seats; parents will also appreciate the ability to get kids in and out of car seats without having to reach sideways.

The rear seats don't fold flat, but simply slide forward to rest against the fronts. For those who want to load truly bulky items into a Model X, that could be an issue. Otherwise, it can handle several smaller suitcases in the rear cargo area, plus two golf bags in a front trunk under the hood. The falcon-wing doors rule out any sort of roof rack, but Tesla offers a hitch-mounted carrier for items that won't fit inside.

Safety and Features

The Model X hasn't been rated for safety by either the NHTSA or IIHS, but the Model S achieved across-the-board five-star ratings in federal crash testing. Its unusually low center of gravity for a SUV could translate to minimal rollover risk.

Active-safety systems include automatic emergency braking, along with lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems. A standard backup camera and parking sensors help when using this large vehicle in tight spaces.

The price starts at around $85,000 and a fully-optioned version runs to $130,000 or more, but despite its cost, the Tesla Model X forgoes the lengthy list of luxury and convenience options that traditional luxury brands offer. High-speed Supercharging and the self-driving Autopilot capabilities are two main options.

Still, it remains the only all-electric SUV on sale today. Despite some compromises to SUV functionality and early quality concerns, it's well-executed and easy to use for buyers who transport six people or need more cargo capacity than the Model S.


2016 Tesla Model X


The 2016 Tesla Model X isn't nearly as graceful as the lower, sleeker Model X sedan, but the interior is elegant.

The 2016 Tesla Model X is nominally a crossover SUV, and it's clearly taller and bulkier than the company's other current product, the Model S sedan (which is actually a five-door hatchback). It lacks the feline grace of its sedan sibling, and doesn't disguise its size quite as adeptly, since it's considerably taller.

Still, from some angles, the electric SUV looks as much like an inflated Model S as an actual utility vehicle. It has no slab sides, no vertical tailgate, but instead a tall hatchback shape with a canted rear window in the tailgate and a body that narrows considerably toward the roof above the base of the windows. The panoramic windshield, which extends a considerable distance over the driver's head, is more visible from inside the vehicle than outside, especially if the Model X is painted a dark color. (The engineering of the rolled, magnetically latched sun visors alone is worth a look; they store vertically along the windshield pillar when not in use.)

At the front, any attempt at a simulated "grille" panel has been dispensed with. Instead, there's a narrow, flat horizontal panel with a slight V incised into it for the base of the Tesla logo on its nose badge. (The Model S just received a new front end that follows the same theme, as does the future Model 3 sedan.) At the sides and rear, the linkage to the Model S is particularly clear in the shapes of the rear side windows and the taillights.

The two front doors are conventionally hinged. But it's the so-called falcon doors that will lure onlookers from across the parking lot and offer endless entertainment to friends, neighbors, and small children who've never seen anything remotely like them. They're not conventional gull-wing doors, a single piece that rises from a roof hinge. Instead, they're hinged both along the roof line and above the window line so the lower halves stay more or less vertical as they rise. That means they require little more width than the car itself to open the rear side of the body in a way that's practical enough to make them usable even in tight parking lots. A system of sonar sensors adjusts the arcs of the opening and closing doors to avoid collisions with people standing too close, nearby cars, or low garage ceilings.

Inside, the Model X uses a vertical 17-inch color touchscreen display very similar to that of the Model S for most of the vehicle's minor controls, the various entertainment systems, and full-time 4G internet connectivity, among other functions. The dash, door panels, and seats are trimmed in suitably luxurious materials—leather, suede, matte silver accents, wood insets that live up a price tag that can reach beyond $100,000. Nonetheless, the interior is considerably simpler than that of any other competing large luxury SUV, which only adds to the Model X mystique.

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2016 Tesla Model X


The 2016 Tesla Model X offers startlingly good handling, roadholding, and acceleration—more like a car than a tall SUV.

For a vehicle weighing close to three tons, the Tesla Model X has superb acceleration and roadholding—one of the brand characteristics that won the Model S sedan its rave reviews.

All Model X versions currently on sale have the all-wheel drive indicated by the "D" (for dual) suffixes on their model designations. But there are two battery capacities—75 and 90 kilowatt-hours—and the larger pack can be ordered with the Performance option, indicated by the "P" prefix.

The Model X 75D with the smaller pack is EPA-rated at a range of 238 miles, and Tesla quotes 0-to-60-mph acceleration of 6.0 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph. If you opt for the larger 90-kwh pack, the Model X 90D's top speed rises to 155 mph and 0-to-60-mph time falls to 4.8 seconds. This version has the highest rated range of any Model X, at 257 miles. The mid-level 90D has 518 total horsepower, split between its front and rear motors (259 hp front, 259 hp rear).

(It should be noted that maintaining those top speeds for any length of time will deplete your effective range at an alarming rate.)

Finally, the top-of-the-line P90D performance model offers 250 miles of range. Its power is substantially increased, with quoted output of 762 hp (259 hp front, 503 hp rear). It too has a top speed of 155 mph, but assuming you order the Ludicrous mode option, the 0-to-60-mph time falls to a jaw-dropping 3.2 seconds. Those are statistics that would leave drivers of equally massive SUVs of an earlier era (think Hummer H2) whimpering and wailing in futility.

On the road, the Model X P90D we drove was smooth, quiet, fast, and predictable in its handling. It felt very similar to the Model S, though its higher seating position made slightly more body roll detectable than in its lower, sleeker sibling. But for a vehicle of its size, the Model X holds the road superbly, to the degree that we found our actual speeds even on tight corners and country roads to be 10 or 15 mph higher than we expected.

The P90D owner who loaned us his car said that he had never had cause to worry about the rated 250-mile range. Over his few months of ownership, he's taken his family of six on several long-distance road trips through multiple states in the car, largely relying on Tesla's network of Superchargers spaced every 150 miles or so along major highways.

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2016 Tesla Model X

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 Tesla Model X is comfortable inside, but the vaunted falcon doors offset excellent access with some drawbacks.

The 2016 Tesla Model X is meant to hold more people than the Model S sedan, and is offered in six- and seven-passenger versions. The former has two individual rear seats, while the latter has a split folding bench seat in the middle row. 

The "wow" factor starts with the flush chrome door handles, which extend to greet approaching occupants. The front doors can be set to open automatically, though the rear falcon doors require a push on the handle, after which the occupant should stand back and slightly to the side to let the door clear. Once inside, all seating positions are higher than those of the Model S. It's easier to get in and out of the Model X front seats, which are comfortable and well-bolstered, with considerable head room for virtually any size of driver.

The falcon doors that pivot and fold from the roof give excellent access to the rear compartment, but they're relatively slow in operation. For those times when a driver uses the rear seat as a convenient shelf on which to toss a briefcase, backpack, or purse, the process of opening and closing takes several seconds longer than a simple hinged door would. Worse, the second row seats slide forward and tilt toward the front seats, but they don't fold flat in any way, reducing the car's utility. And their molded backs, with shiny black-plastic surfaces, seem likely to get scratched or scuffed with regular family use.

The second-row seats are comfortable, but if you get the seven-passenger version, head room for the center seat is compromised by several inches due to the falcon-door mechanism above. The two third-row positions are small and likely to be uncomfortable for adult riders over anything more than short trips. They're usable by kids and teenagers, but larger adults will find them quite cramped.

There's a lot of room inside the Model X, and Tesla says it offers 40 percent more interior volume than Audi Q7, another large luxury crossover SUV with all-wheel drive. There's very little cargo volume with the rear seats erected, but fold them down and a standard load bay opens up. The front trunk, which Tesla insists on calling a "frunk," offers several additional cubic feet despite the front drive motor underneath it. Interior storage and amenities, long a Model S weakness, includes a center console with an armrest, bottle holders and map pockets in the front doors, four USB ports, and six cupholders.

Interior materials include imitation leather and microfiber fabrics, obeche wood insets, and soft-touch plastic surfaces. The two-tone interior of our top-of-the-line P90D test car was attractive, luxurious, and comfortable, though dominated up front by the 17-inch touchscreen display unit and remarkably spare otherwise.

Like all electric cars, the Model X isn't completely silent. While electric hardware noises are largely muted, there's a bit of occasional whine, and the relative silence of the drivetrain brings tire and wind noise into sharper focus than in cars with engines whose suppressed noise masks the other sounds. The 20-inch tires on our test car were fairly quiet, with only a bit of road noise coming through. They soaked up bumps admirably, though we suspect the lower-profile tires on the optional larger 22-inch wheels might deliver a harsher overall ride.

Our test car, within the first 500 Model X vehicles built, had doors that fit perfectly and opened and closed reliably. Some early Model X owners have posted photos of misaligned doors and balky operation, but our test Model X appeared to be fine in that respect. The owner admitted that the sonar sensors can be finicky, noting that doors occasionally stopping doors halfway when they sensed a non-existent blockage in their path.

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2016 Tesla Model X


The 2016 Tesla Model X should do well in real-world safety, although it hasn't been rated by the IIHS or NHTSA.

The 2016 Tesla Model X electric SUV hasn't been rated for safety by either the NHTSA or the IIHS, so it's difficult to assess its safety relative to other large luxury SUVs—some of which are similarly unrated due to their relatively low sales volume.

It should do well, however, if its top-rated sibling, the Model S sedan, is any indication. That car got across-the-board top ratings from the feds, and its roof was so strong that it actually broke the NHTSA roof-crush testing equipment. A battery located under the floorpan, absolutely as low as it can sit, should give the Model X an unusually low center of gravity for any SUV—an minimize the risk of rollovers.

Every Model X comes with 12 airbags, stability and traction control systems, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and automatic emergency braking. All cars are also fitted with the forward-looking camera, radar, and 360-degree sonar sensors that support Tesla's Autopilot self-driving system, although activating that capability is an extra-cost option.

Rear three-quarter vision is about average for a large modern SUV, which is to say lousy, though the six-seater has a gap between the rear seats while the third headrest in the seven-seat version makes it even worse. The rear window appears a very long way back in the rear-view mirror. A backup camera and parking sensors are standard as well, which help drivers maneuver this large vehicle in tight spaces.

One safety feature offered on Tesla vehicles is the "Bioweapon Defense Mode," which is actually another name for what most people call a "HEPA air filter." Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the system cleans cabin air to medical-grade standards, though we're not aware that the claim has been independently confirmed.


2016 Tesla Model X


The 2016 Tesla Model X offers a competitive set of features, including active-safety systems, plus Autopilot self-driving software

The 2016 Tesla Model X may be an all-electric car, but a price starting at around $85,000 puts it squarely in the higher tier of the luxury spectrum. That means it needs not only a finely appointed interior, but also the kinds of feature and options expected among that level of vehicle. It meets some of those expectations, but the smoothness, performance, and advanced technology of its battery-electric powertrain may substitute for some missing items, at least in the eyes of its buyers.

Three basic versions are available: the base Model X 75D, with a 75-kwh battery pack; the mid-level 90D, with a larger 90-kwh battery that gives longer range (257 miles) and quicker acceleration; and the P90D performance version, with much faster acceleration.

Standard features on every Model X include the large panoramic windshield—Tesla says it's the largest on any production car—the double-hinged rear falcon doors, the 17-inch color touchscreen display with full 4G internet access in the center of the dash, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Rain-sensing wiper, power folding heated door mirrors with memory, keyless entry, a power tailgate, and LED headlights and taillights can be found on many different luxury cars.

Inside, every Model X includes 14-way power adjustable heated front seats, hand-wrapped imitation leather and microfiber surfaces with matte obeche wood accents, and a nine-speaker, 240-watt audio system. There's also that "Bioweapon Defense Mode," better known as a HEPA air filter.

No spare tire is provided, however, and if owners want to carry an emergency tire-inflation kit, they must pay extra for it. Otherwise, the company's response to the possibility of a flat tire is to suggest that owners call Tesla Roadside Service.

Options include 22-inch alloy wheels, which exact a slight penalty in rated electric range; the ability to Supercharge, built into every car but not enabled; and the Autopilot self-driving capability, which also has to be enabled at extra cost although every Model X has the necessary sensors built in.

For the P90D version, the Ludicrous mode that cuts zero-to-60-mph acceleration times to a remarkably minimal 3.2 seconds is also an option, on top of the P90D version itself, which adds $20,000 to the cost of the regular 90D version.

The charging cord included with the car has adapters for 120-volt household current and a NEMA 14-50 plug for the Tesla garage charger. There's also an adapter to let owners recharge the Model X at public charging stations using the standard J-1772 connector. And, of course, the Model X use Tesla's own fast-growing network of Supercharger DC quick-charging sites, which will recharge the battery to 80 percent within 30 to 40 minutes.

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2016 Tesla Model X

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Tesla Model X runs solely on battery power recharged by grid electricity; it has no direct emissions.

Like all battery-electric cars, the Tesla Model X is far more energy-efficient than any vehicle sold without a plug. The EPA rates its efficiency at 93, 92, and 89 MPGe for the 75D, 90D, and P90D versions respectively. (The Mile Per Gallon Equivalent unit indicates how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

The associated battery range ratings are 238, 257, and 250 miles respectively. And for such a heavy vehicle, that indicates that the Model X makes remarkably economical use of energy.

But while the "wells-to-wheels" carbon footprint of an electric car varies considerably with the fuels that go into the electric grids on which it recharges—even in coal-heavy states—electric cars represent no more lifetime carbon emissions than very efficient gasoline cars rated at 35 mpg or better. On the cleanest U.S. grids, including those of California and parts of the Northeast, the Tesla has a lower carbon footprint than any vehicle with an engine now sold.

Because the vehicle itself has no tailpipe, the Tesla Model X electric SUV earns our highest rating of 10 out of 10.

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