2017 Tesla Model X Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
June 26, 2017

The 2017 Tesla Model X is in a class of its own as an all-electric luxury SUV with breathtaking performance, and an equally intimidating price.

After a rocky launch, the Tesla Model X SUV is seemingly on its (silent) way into many owners' hands.

It's too early for 2017 details—the automaker doesn't follow traditional model years like others, and rolls out changes on the fly—but Tesla is finally building 5-seater versions of the Model X and now offers fold-flat rear seats, which was an early and frequent gripe from owners.

It's offered in 75-, 90-, and 100-kwh battery sizes, all with all-wheel drive, and one performance model, the P100D. Ranges start at 237 miles and go up to 289 miles.

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The Model X earns an 8.2 out of 10 on our overall scale with plenty of points for efficiency and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Style and performance

It would always be hard for Tesla to follow up on the great looks of the Model S. (Eds note: The Model S could be coal-powered and still look great.) The Model X doesn't stray far from that playbook, rather it just exaggerates some proportions to look bigger, bulkier, and taller. It's not a bad look overall, perhaps space age Toyota Previa?

We'll get to the falcon doors in a minute.

Inside, the Model X sports the same 17-inch touchscreen found in the Model S that dominates attention. Beyond that screen there isn't much going on, but at least it's trimmed in quality materials for 5, 6, or 7 passengers.

The performance of the Model X is breathtaking—literally and figuratively. All models are all-wheel drive and the base 75D still accelerates nearly 3 tons of mass to 60 mph in six seconds. The 90D is somewhat fleeter on its feet: 60 mph happens in just 4.8 seconds. Or maybe you prefer your happy meal with an airplane glue chaser? The P100D manages the 60 mph run in 2.9 seconds.

Thanks to most of the mass down low and a good suspension tune, the Model X is a competent handler—but not quite to the same level as the Model S. We doubt many will have problems with the way the Model X rockets down the road.

Comfort, safety, and features

The Model X is built to be a family hauler if the Model S didn't satisfy. Configured as either a 5-, 6-, or 7-passenger SUV, the Model X has more interior cargo room and a functional shape that suits more luxury buyers interested in SUVs. The rear seats fold flat now, which was an early gripe for many owners. We've found the seats to be generally comfortable, although the scalloped backs don't appear to be suited for family duty.

Third-row passengers will be more comfortable if they're into Hatchimals. There's not enough room for long-legged adults for a long trip.

The "wow" moment for the Model X may very well be its rear falcon doors, which is an problem in search of another problem. The good: The top hinged doors effectively raise vertically, so there's some convenience in parking garages. The bad: Can't use a conventional roof rack for skis or bikes. Take too long to open. Sensors can malfunction and not open correctly. Some body panels may not line up correctly. We can go on.

Put simply, the Model X would be a better SUV without them.

A complete safety record for the Model X isn't yet available, and we don't expect that the six-figure SUV will be crash-tested anytime soon. We don't advise you take that burden on yourself, either.

Every Model X has 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 costs $5,000 or more.

Each Model X comes standard with all-wheel drive, advanced safety features, LED headlights, a massive panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition, 20-inch wheels, power adjustable heated front seats, wood accents, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power liftgate, air suspension, and a 17-inch touchscreen with navigation.

There's more standard gear, but with an $88,800 starting price (before federal and any state incentives) it should be clear that it's a luxury SUV. Options include a crystal clear-sounding audio system, a cold weather package, and the ballyhooed Autopilot and "full self-driving" capabilities.

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2017 Tesla Model X

Styling

The Model X doesn't have the same good grace as the Model S. And about those falcon doors...

The 2017 Tesla Model X is the company's crossover SUV that borrows liberally from the Model S that preceded it.

It's taller and bulkier, lacks the grace of the sedan, and doesn't hide its size very well. And when open, the falcon doors remind us of the "Karate Kid."

While Ralph Macchio has aged fairly well, we don't think this Model X will do the same. It earns a generous 6 out of 10 on style, with one point each for a good interior and good exterior shape, but one lost for the simulated crane kick. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

From some angles, the electric SUV looks like an inflated Model S more than an actual utility vehicle. It doesn't have any slap sides, nor a vertical tailgate, but instead has a 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 Model X paved the way for the new corporate face of Tesla, with a narrow, flat horizontal panel with a slight V incised into it for the base of the Tesla logo on its nose badge.

The two front doors act like normal doors, but the rear doors are so-called "falcon doors" that electronically raise and lower while more or less in a vertical way. (Think of an overly complicated solution to sliding minivan doors.) The good: They're unique and make the six-figure Tesla feel a little more special than just a regular crossover. The bad: They take too long to open. Sometimes they don't align with the other doors. They prohibit any kind of traditional roof rack. The sensors can sometimes stop the doors from fully opening. We can go on...

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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2017 Tesla Model X

Performance

Three is the magic number: Three models. Three tons. Three seconds to 60 mph.

Thankfully, Tesla's second mass production model follows the performance of the first.

Weighing nearly three tons fully loaded, the 2017 Tesla Model X has very good acceleration and road-holding, and a fairly sedate ride. For all that, we give it an 8 out of 10 on our performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All versions of the Model X are equipped with all-wheel drive, indicated by the "D" suffix on their model names. There are three versions of the Model X on sale, the 75D, 90D and P100D, the latter model being the "performance" version.

The 75-kwh Model X 75D is rated by the EPA at 237 miles, with a 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds. 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. Max out with the P100D, and its quoted output of 762 horsepower, and the range is 289 miles and 0-60 mph falls faster to 2.9 seconds.

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

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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2017 Tesla Model X

Comfort & Quality

Spacious and big, the Model X is best when it's full of people. When can we vote the falcon doors off the island?

The Tesla Model X is the automaker's swank family car if the Model S sedan doesn't do the trick.

Available in 5-, 6-, or 7-seat configurations, the Model X has either individual rear seats, or a split-folding second row.

It's comfortable up front and in the middle (we think the third row should be like McDonald's PlayPlace: kids only) with room for plenty of gear. As a true 5-, 6-, or 7-seater, it would earn a 9 on our comfort scale. So how did we get to 8? Those falcon doors were a terrible idea. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Model X's party trick, of course, is those "Karate Kid" falcon doors that rise up for access to the second row. They pivot and fold from the roof to 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.

It gets worse: Because of the falcon doors, roof racks are impossible. Want to haul skis, bikes or anything that you'd normally stack on a roof-mounted storage container? Opt for a tow package and add the bumper-mounted rack. But that'll make charging at a Supercharger a mess. Yeah, we don't get it either.

For occupants the second row seats are fairly comfortable, but if you get the seven-passenger version head room for the center seat is compromised by the falcon-door gear. 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 more room inside the Model X than in the Model S sedan for passengers, but with rear seats up, there's little cargo space.

For 2017, Tesla says the second-row seats will fold flat completely, addressing a major gripe of some owners. But their molded backs, with shiny black-plastic surfaces, seem likely to get scratched or scuffed with regular family use. All seats folded down, Tesla claims there are 77 cubic feet available for cargo, which is slightly larger than an Audi Q7. 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.

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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2017 Tesla Model X

Safety

The Model X doesn't have much crash data from official agencies, and we don't suggest you volunteer to fill in the blanks.

The 2017 Tesla Model X hasn't yet been rated by either major safety rating organization in the U.S.

We can't definitively say what would happen if you throw one into a wall, so we suggest letting the experts have a crack at that first. We can't rate the Model X for safety without input from one or both agencies, so we'll just have to stay tuned. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The good news: The related Tesla Model S aced the fed test.

The better news: Every Model X has 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.

Outward vision in the Model X is on par with other modern SUVs, which is to say, it's not very good. The six-seater has a gap between the rear seats, while a third headrest in the seven-seat version effectively plays defense. The rear window seems like it's on the other side of a football field, but at least a rearview camera and parking sensors are all standard.

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2017 Tesla Model X

Features

If you focus too hard on the Model X's electron power, you might miss its best feature: its luxury.

The 2017 Tesla Model X requires two modifiers when describing the car. It's an electric car, yes, but it's also a luxury car.

It's too early for details on the 2017 model year—Tesla denotes model years by the year in which the car was built—and we're unsure if Tesla will make changes mid-way through the year like they did in 2016. Stay tuned.

If its $88,800 price tag isn't a dead giveaway, then surely its list of standard features will be. Each Model X comes standard with all-wheel drive, advanced safety features (which we cover separately), LED headlights, a massive panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition, 20-inch wheels, power adjustable heated front seats, wood accents, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power liftgate, air suspension, and a 17-inch touchscreen with navigation. 

We could've kept going too. That's good base equipment and there are plenty of options available too. The base (and only) infotainment system is impressive, and Tesla's Autopilot is a "killer app" for us. It earns a 9 out of 10 on our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

There's also that "Bioweapon Defense Mode," better known as a HEPA air filter.

There are three versions of the Model X available: 75D, 90D, and P100D. The numbers relate to the battery size (75-kwh, 90-kwh, and so on) and the letters denote "D" for all-wheel drive, and "P" for performance.

Options include 22-inch wheels, a 6- or 7-seat layout, "Enhanced Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving" capabilities, premium audio, a cold weather package that includes seat heaters everywhere, a towing package, and a charger upgrade. All told it's possible to add more than $22,000 to the bottom line of the Model X, which gives established luxury automakers a run for their money.

About those "Enhanced Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving" features: Last year, Tesla updated the sensors, cameras, and radars on all of its cars as part of a comprehensive upgrade. According to the automaker, more Autopilot features will roll out as over-the-air updates, and cars built after October will be capable of driving themselves. They're the only automaker rolling those kinds of dice; significant regulatory, technology, and liability hurdles remain on self-driving cars. Still, Autopilot attracts legions of interested buyers, hoping to be on the bleeding edge of automotive tech.

(Those cars aren't technically fully autonomous, they still have steering wheels and pedals.)

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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2017 Tesla Model X

Fuel Economy

Simply put: the Tesla Model X is the greenest family car on the road.

The Tesla Model X manages an impressive feat while still adhering to the law of energy conservation. Turning a full charge of 75-, 90-, and 100-kwh batteries into 237, 257, 289 miles respectively in a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds is impressive.

It's impressive enough to earn a fuel-economy score of 10 out of 10 in our books—which requires an open mind to the concept of "fuel economy" in an electric car. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The actual carbon footprint of the Model X can vary greatly depending on how clean—or dirty—the owner's electric grid is, of course. Even in coal-heavy states, electric cars represent no more lifetime carbon emissions than a very efficient gasoline car rated at 35 mpg or better. On clean grids, such as California or the Northeast, the Tesla has a lower carbon footprint than any gas-powered vehicle now sold.

Perhaps the only competition to the Model X is the Model S, which manages ranges of between 218 miles and 337 miles

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March 4, 2017
2017 Tesla Model X P100D AWD

Just A Spaceship

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My Spaceship Tesla X is the Best Car Ever.No cons only pro's
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8.2
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Styling 6
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