The Model X is Tesla’s follow-up vehicle to the award-winning Model S sedan. The X shares about 60 percent of the content from the sedan—converting the sleek Maserati-looking five-passenger model into a stylish crossover utility vehicle in the design spirit of the Acura ZDX or BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.
Tesla wants to make cool cars that lure new waves of buyers to try an electric car. But it’s hard to make an SUV with minivan-like qualities look sexy. From certain angles, the X looks like a bulked-up taller S. That’s not a bad thing, considering the beautiful design DNA of the Tesla sedan—but the Model X is unlikely to be a head-turner like the Model S.
The first thing you might notice is that Tesla has opted to forgo anything resembling a faux grille. Perhaps afraid of looking too different from gasoline vehicles, electric carmakers have typically opted to include some sort of functionless patch of metallic material where a grille would normally be. Tesla was undaunted by the unfamiliarity of the front-end design.
The Model X has the same wheelbase as the S, but it’s about 2.3 inches longer, 4.4 inches wider and 10 inches taller. Amazingly, despite the extra height, the Model X is no less aerodynamic than the S, with a 0.24 drag coefficient.
The most notable design strategy for dressing up the Tesla SUV is the use of double-hinged falcon doors, which rise up and over the top of the car—rather than either opening like a regular sport ute or employing sliding like doors on a minivan. The advantage of falcon wing doors versus gull wing or even standard doors is their compact opening radius, extending less than 12 inches outward as they fold automatically above the car. The doors also give better access to the Model X’s third-row and make loading large objects like child safety seats in the rear passenger rows a lot easier.
The Model X also boasts the largest piece of curved glass ever used in a production vehicle. The sweeping windshield extends over the cockpit and doesn’t terminate until the B-pillar. This design eliminates the need for a moon roof (which the placement of the falcon wing doors prohibit.)
Inside, the Model X’s interior is a direct extension of the design cues Tesla established for the Model S. Controls for the typical luxury bells and whistles you’d expect to find scattered about the front console are all there, but you’ll have to scroll through the SUV’s gigantic 17-inch touchscreen to find them. Where most $100,000 luxury vehicles strive to present an air of classic regality, Tesla is selling science fiction come to life. It’s minimal, ergonomic and pristine—a design younger luxury buyers appreciate.
At the outset, Tesla is only taking orders and delivering for two Signature series models, the 90D and P90D performance edition. Both are all-wheel-drive configurations with the same battery pack, but the 90D has dual 259-horsepower motors in the front and rear, while the P90D boosts output for the back wheels to 503 horsepower, bringing total torque to 713 pound-feet.
The 90D will get you from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, while the P90D can do it in 3.8 seconds. Opting for the “Ludicrous Speed” upgrade cuts that time down to 3.2 seconds. Top speed for each of these models is 155 miles per hour.
Those who had the opportunity to take the Model X through a quarter-mile sprint report rollercoaster-like G-force sensations, the likes of which are rare in even the finest performance SUVs. In competing with the likes of Porsche, Tesla’s ace in the hole has always been electric vehicles’ capacity for instantaneous torque, which, if not governed to replicate a more natural acceleration rate, would make the Model X a very dangerous piece of machinery. Gasoline engine competitors could give the finest engineers in the world endless budgets to develop a better sprinter, but Tesla would always be able to beat them.
Air suspension with five settings enables the Model X to adjust from 9.5 inches of ground clearance to 6.5 inches, often automatically. In fact, you can even program the SUV to recognize certain spots—like a particularly worn down patch of road or a driveway entrance with a high lip—and adjust in anticipation of them without command.
The Model X is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, although the hitch necessary to do that will add an additional $750 to the price of the vehicle.
The Model X 90D and P90D sport the same 90-kWh battery packs found in equivalent trim levels of the Model S sedan. But due mostly to the SUV’s increased weight, the Model X loses about 10 percent of its range compared to its cousin. Still, with an EPA-rated 257 miles of range for the 90D and 250 miles for the Performance edition, the Model X test the limits of what a 5,400 pound, 7-passenger, all-world performance SUV can achieve.
The EPA rates the 90D at 92 MPGe (or Miles-Per-Gallon Equivalent) and the P90D at 89 MPGe. To put that in perspective, the Nissan LEAF—which weighs about 2,000 pounds less than the Model X—gets 112 MPGe.
There’s no timeline for when we might expect the more affordable 70D to hit the market, but on its website, Tesla says the 70 kWh version of the Model X will get an estimated 220 miles of range.
Tesla offers the most elegant and powerful charging system in the marketplace. It uses a 10 kW charger—a step above the 6.6 kilowatts or so commonly found in today’s electric cars. This means the Model X should be able to add 30 or more miles of range per hour of charging from a 240-volt source.
The big battery pack used in the Model X—as well as the Model S—makes this faster rate very useful for recharging all the way to full. Drivers will find they have plenty of energy reserves on a daily basis for common driving (regardless of charging rate).
Never content to offer just the best—rather than the crazy over-the-top absolute best—Tesla also offers a twin-charger that doubles the power rating to 20 kilowatts when combined with adequate amperage from home electricity service and Tesla’s High Power Wall Connector. In this configuration, you could pump in 60 or more miles of range in an hour of charging.
These scenarios all refer to home charging. But the cherry on top of the EV ice cream sundae is the free use of the Tesla Supercharger network, which enables all-electric road trips. The network—consisting of strategically placed 120-kW rapid chargers that can add as much as 170 miles of range in just 30 minutes—is a stroke of genius by Tesla.
There are currently more than 250 Supercharger installations in the U.S., and according to the company, 98 percent of the US population is now within range of the network. Consult with the Tesla website to see the current layout of Superchargers in your region.
The Model X has redefined the possibilities for space and passenger comfort available from a long-range electric vehicle. How you choose to distribute that space is up to you.
The SUV comes standard with a five-seat configuration offering maximized rear cargo space for buyers who don’t do a lot of people hauling. For those who do, six- and seven-seat setups are available for $3,000 and $4,000 more respectively. In five- and seven-seaters, the second row is comprised of three individual captain’s chairs rather than a bench row. This has the effect of making the center seat every bit as supportive as the outer ones, and allows each passenger to adjust their seat independently. It also gives each seat a generous amount of storage space underneath.
Here’s where those dramatic falcon doors come in handy. The unique doors make stepping in and out of the Model X easier than a minivan, even in the third-row. The outer seats in the second row are independently adjustable as well, meaning that no more than one passenger will need to be disturbed when someone enters or exits the third row.
As with the Model S, the X doesn’t actually house any components where an engine would traditionally be found. Instead, Tesla provides additional storage space under the hood—enough for a few pieces of carry-on luggage or 4-5 shopping bags.
Critics say the Model X comfortably accommodates seven passengers, which is quite an achievement for a crossover SUV. The design of the seats themselves is one of the major areas of upgrade over the Model S, which many said didn’t live up to its price tag in terms of seat comfort. Upholstery is available in Black Leather, Tan Leather and Ultra White leatherette.
At the Model X launch event last fall, Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted that his company’s new crossover is “the safest SUV ever.” Though the X is yet to undergo any official testing, there are a lot of reasons to believe that may be true.
One of the biggest and most specific dangers facing SUVs is the threat of rollover during an accident. Because conventional SUVs are tall and much of their weight sits above the wheels, there’s added danger of tipping over compared to sedans, and these kinds of accidents can be particularly dangerous for passengers. Thanks to its massive battery pack though, the Model X is both heavier than competitors and carries the vast majority of that weight underneath the floor, where the pack and drive components sit. This ultra-low center of gravity makes the risk of rollover in a Model X exceedingly low.
Key support structures for the chassis are made of high and ultra-high strength steel, including the B-pillars and bumper beam supports. With no engine block in the front of the car, the nose of the vehicle can also absorb more head-on impact without compressing the cabin.
As you might expect Model X offers a seemingly endless list of standard and optional safety features, including collision warning and automatic emergency breaking systems, Autopilot functionality, and blind spot monitoring. Each Model X is outfitted with a camera, radar and sonar to monitor exactly what is around the vehicle and detect threats. These technologies not only aid collision prevention features but will increasingly serve to give the vehicle more powerful autonomous features as Tesla refines the technology.
The NHTSA awarded the Model S with five stars (its highest rating) across the board for all crash and rollover tests. There’s every reason to believe the Model X will do just as well under the agency’s scrutiny.
Tesla is currently accepting orders for three Model X trim levels. The 90D starts at $132,000 before federal and state incentives. The more powerful P90D can be had for $142,000. Features like seating for six or seven passengers, the Ludicrous Speed upgrade, trailer hitch, and the twin-charging system that cuts Level 2 charge times, can add tens of thousands to the starting price.
Although no timeline has been provided for its release, Tesla says that the 70D, a 70-kWh base model version of the Model X, will start at $80,000 once it eventually goes on sale.
Of course, the federal plug-in vehicle tax credit of $7,500 is applies, as does California’s $2,500 rebate, providing some relief from the SUVs massive price tag. For the time being, the Model X may also qualify for the so-called “Hummer loophole,” which exploits a federal tax credit of $25,000 for those who purchase the car as a business investment.
Comparisons of Similar Cars
As a $140,000, seven-seat, all-electric, 250-mile performance crossover SUV, the Tesla Model X is truly a vehicle without peers. (Competitors might argue that this is for good reason.) Nevertheless, if you’re considering purchasing a Tesla Model X there aren’t a whole lot of plug-ins you’re likely to consider alongside it.
The two closest candidates though, might be a pair of plug-in hybrids from Europe, the Volvo XC90 T8 and the BMW xdrive40e. The xdrive40e starts at $64,000 and has a 13-mile electric range, though fuel economy numbers after the battery depletes are less than impressive. The Volvo XC90 is a seven-seat luxury crossover that starts near $69,000 and offers an electric range of 17 miles.
Neither vehicle will enable you to kiss your last goodbye to gas stations, but both offer comparable luxury and technology features at about half the price of the currently available Model X trims.
If you just now decided that you want to buy a Model X, you’re going have to be patient. Tesla currently has more than 20,000 reservations to run through and there’s a decent chance it won’t be able to fill new orders until 2017.
Production for the Model X got off to a slow start in 2015, with just 206 cars delivered in the fourth quarter. In January, Tesla decided to further limit production to improve the quality and efficiency of manufacturing. Tesla says it remains on track to deliver between 80,000 and 90,000 in 2016, though it hasn’t specified precisely how many of those will be of the Model X. (One investment analyst recently reduced his projection from 18,500 to 15,000 units.)
When buyers might be able to place orders or expect delivery for the $80,000 70D trim level is anybody’s guess.
All Tesla purchases begin with an online order, whether placed at home (using the Tesla website) or from one of the company’s showroom floors. Product specialists are also available by phone, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific to answer questions. Call 1-888-518-3752.
“Our goal is to bring electric vehicles to the mass market by telling our story, educating the public about electric vehicles, and delivering the best car in the world,” said CEO Elon Musk. “The ability to sell cars through Tesla-owned stores is important for sustainable transportation and is the best chance a new electric car company has of succeeding."
Musk believes that EVs operate under a different set of rules, and therefore Tesla's stores in no way conflict with the dealer model for gas cars.