Tesla Model X

Styling

The Model X is a stylish crossover utility vehicle with the design spirit of the Acura ZDX or BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.

From certain angles, the X looks like a bulked-up taller Model S. That’s not a bad thing considering the beautiful design DNA of the Tesla sedan—but the Model X is not a head-turner like the S. 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 (at least according to numbers provided by Tesla).

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 utility or employing sliding doors as 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 arguably give better access to the Model X’s third-row and make it easier to load large objects like child safety seats in the rear passenger rows. Nonetheless, critics complain that it takes too long for the doors to lift (about seven seconds) and that ingress is still challenging. Some reviewers also complain about the doors’ lack of reliability and flimsy feeling.

Another dramatic styling flourish is the Model X’s transparent roof—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 prohibits.) But again, there are complaints about small sun visors that don’t properly block glare and the design not allowing for roof racks.

Tesla opted to forgo anything resembling a faux grille. Other electric carmakers have typically used a functionless patch of metallic material where a grille would usually be.

Inside, the Model X’s interior is upscale but stark. 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 refinement, Tesla is selling science fiction come to life. It’s minimal, ergonomic, and light on analog buttons.

The Model X’s styling and its performance have earned legions of devoted fans—but in addition to the already mentioned complaints, there are grumblings about misaligned panels, seats that don’t offer adequate adjustment, and other quality issues.

In May 2019, Tesla introduced an optional 20-inch version of its aerodynamic wheels with a new two-tone design. The 20-inch Two-Tone Slipstream Wheels add $2,000 to the price, while the 22-inch Onyx Black Wheels are a $5,500 option.

Performance

As of this writing, Tesla is taking orders and delivering two versions of the Model X: the Long Range and Performance models. Both are all-wheel-drive configurations with the level of performance increasing as you move up the price curve. The $77,800 Standard Range can zoom from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds—with a top speed of 155 miles per hour. Move up to the Performance model at $97,800 to slice the acceleration time to 60-mph to 2.7 seconds.

Taking the Model X through a quarter-mile sprint produces rollercoaster-like G-force sensations that are rare in even the finest performance SUVs. The Model X turns with more stability than you’d expect for an SUV weighing almost 5,500 pounds. In competing with the likes of Porsche, Tesla’s ace in the hole has always been electric vehicles’ capacity for instantaneous torque. The braking, even with heavy energy regeneration, feels linear and natural. Nonetheless, some reviewers say there is a heaviness about the Model X and that the steering feels overly digital. The ride quality, they say, falls short of other big, luxury SUVs.

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 program the SUV to recognize certain spots—like a particularly worn 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 $750 to the price of the vehicle. Keep in mind that the Model X is not truly a hard-working utility vehicle but rather a stylish, high-tech people mover.

For many, the price of admission (in addition to the Model X’s zero emissions) are the whiz-bang novelties like the Summon feature, which allows users to park or retrieve the SUV from tight spots using the mobile app while standing outside of the vehicle.

Tesla Model X

Efficiency/Range

As noted above, in 2019 Tesla started using Long Range and Performance to designate the driving distance on a single charge of its models. Previously there were numbers in the name, such as 75 or 100, to note the kilowatt-hours of battery storage. As of this writing, the Long Range promises 328 of estimated EPA range. The faster acceleration in the Performance version reduces the range to 305 miles—still extraordinary by industry standards.

All EV batteries lose some capability over time. Anecdotal reports indicate that Model X owners will lose about 5 percent of its range after around 50,000 miles, and see a few more percentage points of loss by approximately 65,000 miles on the odometer. So even after about four to five years of average use, the Standard Range variants of the Model X will offer 230 or more miles of range.

Charging

Tesla offers the most elegant, wide-reaching, and powerful charging system in the marketplace. For home charging, the Tesla Model X uses either an 11.5-kW or 17.2-kW charger. This means adding about 35 to 50 miles of range per hour of charging from a 240-volt source, rather than around 20 to 25 miles in that same hour with most other EVs.

The big battery pack used in the Model X makes this faster rate very useful—although most drivers will find that they have plenty of energy reserves on a daily basis for common driving (regardless of charging rate).

Never satisfied to offer just the best—rather than the crazy over-the-top game-changer—Tesla beats the competition for home charging rates when combined with adequate amperage from home electricity service and Tesla’s $500 High Power Wall Connector. (Some competing models, such as the Audi e-tron, are nearly as fast but come with a mountable charging unit at no extra cost.)

For many Tesla owners, the selling point is the wide availability of the Tesla Supercharger network that 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. According to the company, about 98 percent of the US population has ready access to the Supercharger network. Consult with the Tesla website to see the current layout of Superchargers in your region: http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

Keep in mind that this perk is not free as it once was. Tesla, on occasion, makes a special offer for free lifetime charging or grants 400 kWh of annual charging credits. But these pricing policies are subject to frequent changes—so inquire about them when you get closer to making a purchase.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Model X redefined the possibilities for space and passenger comfort available from a long-range electric vehicle. 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 families, six- and seven-seat setups are available for $6,000 and $3,000 respectively. The second row can be configured with two individual captain’s chairs rather than a bench row.

Tesla Model X

What about those dramatic falcon doors? The unique doors make stepping in and out of the Model X nearly as easy as some minivans, even in the third row. By the way, that third row is best suited to children. The configuration with the captain’s chairs makes it easier to get to the third row. Other nifty techno features include front doors that slowly open as you approach the vehicle with a key fob, the SUV automatically starting up without an on/off switch, and the previously mentioned giant touchscreen.

Some critics believe that conventional door pulls would make the Model X easier to use. Nonetheless, all of the seats, in all configuration, are heated and come with 12-way power adjustability.

As with the Model S, the X doesn’t 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 about five shopping bags. Model X’s overall cargo volume is 88 cubic feet, among the best for luxury midsize SUVs. However, reviewers believe the legroom is not as generous, that the upholstery is stiff and uncomfortable, and that the Latch anchors for kids’ seats are hard to reach.

Standard interior features include Bluetooth, 17-speaker stereo, satellite radio, navigation, two USB ports, voice commands, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Safety

The Tesla Model X became the first car to receive a perfect safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Its higher center of gravity would have increased the likelihood of a vehicle tipping or rolling over, but the Model X has a heavy battery pack on the floor of the car. The latest version of the Model X continues to earn five stars from NHTSA for Overall Rating, Frontal Crash tests, Side Crash tests, and Rollover ratings.

“More than just resulting in a five-star rating, the data from NHTSA’s testing shows that Model X has the lowest probability of injury of any SUV it has ever tested,” Tesla said in a statement. “In fact, of all the cars NHTSA has ever tested, Model X’s overall probability of injury was second only to Model S.”

“Getting top ratings in most NHTSA tests is not uncommon, except for the rollover rating for SUVs,” said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “The Model X aces this by having a low center of gravity, due to the weight of its battery pack and its location under the floor.”

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, the Model X offers a long list of standard and optional safety features, including collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems, Autopilot functionality, and blind-spot monitoring. Each Model X is outfitted with a camera, radar, and sonar to monitor 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 biggest safety threat faced by Tesla drivers is the over-reliance on Autopilot, the company’s automated driving technology. In March 2019, a California software engineer over-relying on Autopilot was killed, prompting a lawsuit and increased scrutiny of the real-world capabilities of the automated system. Critics accuse Tesla of beta-testing its Autopilot software on live drivers and not ensuring that relatively basic system, like automatic emergency braking, are not reliable—while Tesla simultaneously reminds drivers to say alert with hands on the wheel at all times and promises a fleet of fully autonomous robot-taxis as soon as 2020.

Tesla Model X

Price

Tesla is now accepting orders for two Model X trim levels. The Long Range version starts at $77,800. Colors other than Solid Black have a price tag between $1,500 and $2,500. Optional wheel upgrades add between $2,000 and $5,500. Opting for the six-seat configuration increases the price by another $6,000. Standard Autopilot is included although the more robust automated features, promising full self-driving in the coming years, boosts the price by another $6,000.

As you can see, with upgrades, the Long Range Model X can approach or exceed $100,000.

Similar enhancement can also add $10,000 to $15,000 can bring the nominal $97,800 price of the Performance Model X to well above $100,000. A fully-loaded and enhanced Model X an exceed $140,000—resulting in an extremely fast and high-tech, all-electric SUV.

Or you could keep the price to around $80,000 (minus tax credits) by relying on Tesla’s long list of standard equipment includes all-wheel drive, navigation with real-time traffic, LED headlights, power-folding seats, heated outside mirrors, keyless entry, power Falcon Wing rear doors, and a power rear liftgate. The standard configuration is two rows seating five passengers.

Be aware that the federal plug-in vehicle tax credit for Tesla vehicles will be completely phased out on Dec. 31, 2019.

Tesla offers an 8-year/infinite-mile warranty on the battery and drive unit as well as a 4-year/50,000-mile limited warranty on the rest of the vehicle.

The Model Y, Tesla’s second (and smaller) SUV, is due in late 2020.

Tesla Model X specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $81000
Est. tax credit: $3700
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: SUV
Seats: 7
EPA Range: 255 miles pure electric
Battery size: 75 kWh
Charging rate: 19.2 kW

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