The future of the SUV looks rather ungainly…
It seems like just yesterday when this upstart American firm named after a famed scientist began peddling a highly-modified Lotus Elise that plugged into your home socket like a shaver. The Tesla Roadster served more as a proof of concept than anything else, and what a concept it was: Like the Toyota Prius in the early noughties, the Tesla Roadster became the car of choice for environmentally-aware celebrities, though it never really caught on with the masses.
Then the Tesla Model S changed everything.
Of course, like most other carmakers, Tesla quickly realised that the next logical move would be to make an SUV. So they did. With unique upward-hinged rear doors and all the hardware needed to drive itself, the Model X won over customers who were previously on the fence about Tesla and whether or not there was a Californian EV that would be practical enough. However, unlike a growing number of SUVs, the Model X is about as capable off-road as a desert fork, but it doesn’t matter: As an obvious display of geeky-coolness and your love of the environment, it doesn’t get more in-your-face than this.
“Tesla says the doors need just 30.5cm of horizontal clearance to open. Think about that for a second. Apart from a conventional minivan with sliding doors, the Model X’s ‘falcon wing’ doors are pretty darn practical and, well, rather cool.” - CarAdvice
If you initially thought this was a Model S that had suffered an anaphylactic shock, you’d be about there. The Model X doesn’t seem to have the same quiet aggression as the Model S that it shares its underpinnings with; Instead, it looks somewhat ungainly, though you can’t accuse it of being nondescript. The Model X is actually pretty big, with a girth similar to a Range Rover, just without the same sort of presence.
The Model X is definitely pretty sleek, even though it has a nose that suggests it has the aerodynamic properties of the Hoover Dam. There’s even a neat little rear wing that tucks in above the taillights, which you won’t notice until you’ve spent a little time with the thing. Big wheels make the X look particularly mean, especially when the suspension is set low.
Of course, the Model X cannot be mentioned without saying something about the Falcon Wing doors. Fitted with more sensors than most ICUs, the doors themselves open open upwards, folding as they do so, to offer unrivalled levels of access into the second- and third-row of seats. They look really cool too, with every opening/closing sequence attracting about as much attention as the average Lamborghini. Practical and flashy? Yes please.
Engine & Drivetrain
“That neck-straining torque certainly gives the sensation of [521 kilowatts]. Or of falling off a tall building.” - Car & Driver
Under the bonnet lies a quad-turbo V8… we’re just messing with you. This is a Tesla, and so power comes from four electric motors, hooked up to one of three battery capacities. The range kicks off with the 75D, which packs a 75kWh battery offering 417km of range. The 90D is the next step up, unlocking 489km of range from its 90kWh battery pack. Move upwards to the 100D, and you get a 100kWh battery with 565km of range, the most range offered in the Model X lineup.
The top-spec Model X P100D packs the same 100kWh battery as the lesser 100D, but it trades range (23km less per charge, at 542km) for blistering performance, being able to hit 100km/h from rest in just 3.1-seconds. This makes it one of the fastest SUVs on the market, and definitely the fastest high-riding electric vehicle to do the century sprint.
“The interior itself is smart-looking, and the materials used are suitably plush.” - AutoExpress
If you’re familiar with the cabin of the Model S, the Model X should feel just like home. The centre console houses an enormous portrait-oriented infotainment screen that controls just about every system in the car, along with a fully-digital instrument cluster for more driver-focused information. While original Tesla models were criticised for their shoddy build quality, improvements have been made continually to ensure that the Model X stands up against its rivals.
Quality issues aside, the Model X’s cabin is breathtaking to all but the fussiest critics, with an overwhelming sense of airiness throughout. This is emphasised further with the white-leather cabin, while the black and tan-leather options aren’t too bad either. The seats themselves, while pretty to look at, aren’t the most comfortable, with some reports claiming little in the way of lower-back support. One of the biggest boons of the Model X over the S are the third row of seats, which face forwards (as opposed to the children-only rear-facing jump-seats in the Model S) and are easily accessible thanks to those Falcon Wing doors.
Behind the Wheel
“It’s well-behaved around corners for the most part… but don’t push it.” - TopGear
While the Model X may want you to believe that it’s an athletic thing to hustle about (what with that body and that blistering 0-100km/h time), it really isn’t. The Model X is suited best to being driven with purpose and a degree of finesse, as the steering wheel and suspension setup were not designed to provide an outwardly-sporty ride. If you get your kicks from sprinting away at lights rather than carving up coast roads, you’ll suit the Model X just fine.
Refinement is excellent too, especially on the smaller 20” alloy wheels. Move up to the bigger 22” units and you’ll find that road-roar and comfort are compromised to a degree. That said, it’s never unbearable, just a little fidgety. Upgrade the Autopilot system to enjoy one of the first iterations of autonomous driving, and you’ll be left grinning from ear to ear in tailbacks, free to look smugly at lesser mortals in their do-it-yourself cars.
Safety & Technology
“There are two schools of thought on Tesla’s giant-screen infotainment system. One is that it’s brilliant; the other is that it’s a little too large and distracting — but still brilliant.” - Autocar
The Model X claims to have been “designed with safety as its first priority,” and the engineering behind that claim is pretty solid. The lack of an engine behind the nose means there’s an enormous crumple zone, while the support structure for the batteries means that side-impact protection is greater than most. Those batteries are also mounted in the floor, which gives the Model X a lower centre of gravity than other SUVs on the market.
Standard active safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking and collision avoidance, along with things like full-LED headlights with dynamic bending to illuminate corners ahead of the driver. ISOFIX tethers are offered on the outer two seats of the second row, and both third-row seats as standard too, further reinforcing the Model X’s appeal as a family car. And of course, that 17-inch portrait-style central infotainment screen cannot be ignored.
If you absolutely have to be on the cutting edge of new technology, then the Model X has little comparison. It’s a spacious, practical, comfortable family wagon that feels at home both in town and out on the open road, and offers a degree of technological sophistication that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Its distinctive styling and unique rear doors blends practicality and style perfectly, resulting in a car that’ll stand out no matter where you go.
There may be better SUVs out there, but the Model X is regarded by many as more than just an SUV. It’s a statement of ones commitment to the future, it’s a symbol of forward-thought and new mobility. Thing is, if you’re not that hot on trends and reckon that EVs are just not quite there yet, the Model X simply will not appeal.
Should you want a Model X in your life, we suggest you think long and hard about what you want out of your new electric SUV. Consider things like driving style and range, as range-anxiety (the sense of nervousness you get when you see the battery level on the wrong side of half) could see you opting for a more expensive model even when you might not need it. The most sensible Model X for the typical urban commuter is the 75D, with plenty of range to handle most daily requirements. While it may be the base model, it does leave enough cash in the kitty to go for some options, which should allow you to bling-up your Model X to the eye-catching eco-machine you want it to be.
WhatCar? - 4.0/5.0 - “The electric Tesla Model X is a viable alternative to conventionally-powered SUVs, but it doesn't come cheap.”
Car & Driver - 5.0/5.0 - “There are no other electric SUVs at the moment. And even against fossil-fuel-fed SUVs, the Tesla’s effortless performance and efficiency can’t be matched. We should also note that there are no other SUVs with gullwing doors, but now we know there’s a good reason for that.”
Autocar - 4.0/5.0- “Tesla would do well to understand that the word ‘capable’ has an especially broad meaning in this segment: there are no superchargers in the wilderness that its rivals are better equipped to explore. However, it is necessary once again – even with qualifications – to acknowledge that there is nothing else quite like the Model X.”
Telegraph UK - 7.0/10 - “The Model X is a desirable car, and offers useful additional space over the Model X for big families. However, while its electric range and performance impress, it is also expensive compared with rivals. It’s a good electric SUV, then, but the Model S remains Tesla’s best car.”
Car Magazine - 4.0/5.0 - “The premium electric car market is getting ready for one almighty punch-up. Today, we can safely recommend the Tesla Model X. But it's not going to have things all its own way for much longer... ”
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “The Tesla Model X isn't quite the revelation that the Model S was, but those who have the right lifestyle - and who can afford the high price tag - will find that this car is a perfect match. We prefer the Model S, with its more composed drive, more practical rear doors and more handsome looks, but for those who really want an electric SUV, then there’s little else like it.”
TopGear - 8.0/10 - “Tesla Model X, Tesla’s second step along the path to world domination. Fear its Falcon doors!”
Motoring - 82/100 - “As a long-range electric SUV the Tesla Model X is in a class of one, but in the burgeoning and highly competitive luxury performance SUV market, these quality issues are likely to detract from the appeal of the Tesla as a genuine luxury vehicle.”