What do you get from mixing falcon-wing doors, giant panoramic screen, unexpected amounts of power and a crazy amount of party tricks and Easter eggs? The Tesla Model X – an all-electric SUV that aims to fulfill your transportation (and enjoyment) needs while making the world a more habitable, less-polluted place. So, how well does it perform? Let’s have a detailed look at what the Tesla Model X does and doesn’t.
Model S chassis, identical interior
One thing that comes right off the bat about the Model X is the “keep it in the family” approach. The electric SUV shares the same chassis with the Model S sedan – although the shear difference in size doesn’t make it all that apparent. Furthermore, various styling elements were also brought over from Tesla’s flagship. Especially when it comes to the interior cabin, both a Model S and a Model X driver get to have almost the same exact view.
What this translates into is the Tesla Model X benefiting from the same dominating 17-inch touchscreen on the dashboard. The screen still looks like something out of a spaceship even in the large SUV and keeps control of almost all functions of the car. The permanent virtual buttons found at the bottom of the screen allow the user to select, change and tune elements such as climate control, music level, seat heating, screen heating (yes, you read that right, there are heaters in the screens).
Furthermore, with a tap of the Controls icon, the driver can adjust the wiper speed and frequency, control the headlights as well as another of features we won’t bore you with.
Instead, let’s get to the fun: party tricks! Get to the top of the screen and unlock the drawing app and start doodling all over the 17-inch screen. Once you get tired of drawing, you can trade the Earth maps for satellite images of planet Mars. Finally, if you really want to get loud, turn on the party mode, get out and lock the car. The Model X will start flashing lights and moving its falcon doors to the beat it plays.
The seats are comfortable and all feature internal heating. The thing with electric cars is, since there’s no heat given off by a thermal engine to warm up the insides during winter, heating the seats is more energy-efficient than fanning hot air throughout the cabin.
A rather distracting interface
While it’s all fun and games when you’re parked, the actual user interface tends to become slightly overwhelming and distracting for the driver, especially during peak city hours or very long drives.
Even something and random as adjusting the temperature inside the car or switching headlights to manual mode requires the driver to take his or her eyes off the road for a bit more than it feels comfortable. And while we won’t banter on Tesla’s safety features and Autopilot, I’d rather have my own eyes on the road as much as possible.
Ah, the doors
There’s one special bit of the Model X control screen that doesn’t come from the Model S sedan – the falcon door control.
The high-rising doors of the Tesla Model X SUV are the car’s signature feature. And we’re not just discussing the amazing way they unveil, but how it helps save space and allow you to park the Model X even in tighter spaces than you would dare with other SUVs. The doors can be programmed to open as you get close to vehicle. Once you are in within a foot of the B-pillar, the doors will spring upwards. If you’ve only had the car for a short period of time, witnessing the doors ascend upwards while the Model X is parked really close to other vehicles can be stressing.
However, the doors know not to open too much and a herd of sensors will stop the mechanism if they get too close for comfort. On the other hand, if they become too conservative, there’s a manual override switch which lets you adjust their position. Then, the Model X will memorize the amount you’ve adjusted and act accordingly the next time you will park in that exact same spot.
The powertrain – all-wheel drive is standard
There aren’t just downsides to the fact that the Tesla Model X shares the same platform as the Model S. In fact, sharing the same powertrain means that the electric SUV is able to come close in terms of performance figures. How close does it actually get?
According to Tesla, the Model X 75D I able to launch from 0 to 60mph n 4. 9 seconds, while the Tesla Model S 100D takes 4. 7 seconds. Obviously, the power packed P100D needs just 2. 9 seconds to get to 60mph and only 1. 4 seconds to go from 45 to 65mph. Even these impressive results have been bested by a number of independent car review sources. Regardless what acceleration figures you’re focusing on, the numbers are simply bonkers for most cars, moreover for what’s supposed to be; a family SUV.
Tesla replaced (the lack of) the differential by a set of interconnected motors which work in tandem switching power on and off depending on the wheel slip values. This allows the Tesla Model X to come out of low-grip and potentially dangerous situations by maintaining grip on all wheels.
And since the battery pack is preserved beneath the floor panel, the SUV gets a lower center of gravity compared to its gas and diesel competitors. Even with this advantage, there’s a sensible body roll when subjected to tight corners when compared to the Model S sedan. Nevertheless, the Model X does prove to be fun in spirited driving, especially with Sport mode engaged.
Just like almost any other electric car out there, with just a bit of training it becomes possible to drive just by using the accelerator and letting the regenerative braking system to deal with slowing down or stopping the car. The other, more or less entertaining option is to engage the Autopilot and have the Model X slow down to walking speed before a roundabout and switch lane when you turn on the signal.
Autopilot – the pioneer starts to feel normal
In the early days of Tesla Model S, the Autopilot was coming out as something ripped from Sci-Fi movies. The ability to hold the lane, accelerate and brake according to traffic and the immense automatic safety features definitely kept the Autopilot on the top position for years.
However, now that competition from major brands emerges, the Autopilot doesn’t feel so much Star Trek-like anymore. There’s no doubt that it is still one of the best autonomous driving systems out there – it’s just that it isn’t the only one anymore. However, as Tesla founder Elon Musk mentions, competition will only lead to higher achievements and better technologies for the end consumer.
As to whether we will get to have autonomous cars without a steering wheel during our lifetime – it’s hard to answer. With Tesla and most major automakers putting great effort into reaching Level 5 Autonomous driving, there is a good chance that you will someday be able to walk out of the bar after a few beers, get in the back seat of your Tesla and just ask it nicely to take you home, with the car complying nicely.
Conclusion: Model X – the right family car?
With ample interior space, enough juice for at least a few runs to work, school and football games and doors that let you park in tight spaces, the Model X does appear to emerge as the right choice for the next family SUV.
However, there are downsides. The still-limited supercharger network may have you wait in line to refill the batteries and the huge touchscreen taking most of the dashboard isn’t suited for everyone.
Overall, you can confidently have the Tesla Model X filling the shoes of your old family SUV and also bringing useful novelties to the scene. While it may take a bit of driving to find and get used to all its space-age features, the all-electric SUV presents as the right companion for all the members of the family.