THE Model X marks Tesla’s first foray into the SUV market.
What is it?
Elon Musk, the company’s CEO and founder, had a ‘master plan’ when he started the business that he hoped would see it grow from a small electric sports car maker to offering zero-emissions models to the masses.
An SUV was never in the original vision and came out of what felt like something of a knee-jerk reaction to the booming segment. After early production delays and build quality issues, the Model X is back on track and available to the UK market.
The ‘Falcon’ rear doors, which hinge upwards to make getting in and out easier, are not only a source of entertainment but they’re useful too, while the electric motors’ power delivery is as addictive as ever.
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s no traditional engine under the bonnet. Instead, there’s an electric motor on each axle, which get their power from a battery pack. There are three battery options available, ranging in size from 75kWh to 100 kWh.
Depending on battery size, range increases from 259 miles in the entry level 75D to 336 miles in the P100D.
Spend too much time on the motorway without giving the regenerative braking a chance to replenish the batteries and that range will quickly drop. Cold weather reduces range too, as the batteries are less efficient when the mercury drops.
What’s it like to drive?
For people new to the whole electric drive thing, the experience can feel pretty alien from the get-go. Climb into the capacious cabin and there’s no ‘on’ button, no key to turn and no firing up of cylinders. Simply belt up, knock the steering column-mounted gear lever into ‘D’ and away you go.
Acceleration is exhilarating, as the nature of electric power delivery means that performance is available instantly at any speed and with only one gear there’s no waiting around for cogs to swap.
Regenerative braking replenishes the batteries by harvesting energy whenever you lift your foot off the accelerator. Once you get used to it, you can almost forget about using the brakes at all.
Cold weather and lots of motorway driving, which limits the effect of the regenerative braking as speed is more consistent, can have a negative impact on range.
How does it look?
Tesla’s biggest success has been making electric vehicles cool. With that in mind, among wealthy environmentalists there are few cars that carry badge appeal quite like a Tesla.
In the past, though, Tesla has struggled a little with build quality. Early US versions of the Model X suffered greatly, but after spending some time perusing Tesla’s owners’ forum, it appears the latest models have little to no issues at all. We poked, pulled and prodded our right-hand drive model and could find nothing to complain about.
The materials used feel high quality, and the seats in particular are incredibly comfortable. Our test car was specced with bright white leather seats – they look great, but we’re confident young kids could ruin them quickly!
What’s it like inside?
In the large SUV segment space is king, and here the Model X excels. There’s plenty of headroom and a couple of well-sized cubby holes between the front seats. One of the advantages of an electric car is the lack of a transmission tunnel intruding into the cabin, so legroom is plentiful even for the centre passenger in the back.
The Model X can be specced with five, six or seven seats, with the latter two costing £3,000 and £4,000 extra respectively. There’s plenty of room for passengers in all seats, but taller adults may find legroom a little limited in the ‘boot’ seats.
The big talking point is those ‘Falcon’ doors for rear passengers, which are double hinged so that they can open even in narrow spaces. They have in-built sensors to ensure they don’t hit other cars or garage roofs, too. Once open, they give a huge entry point, which makes it ideal for putting kids in the back. And they’re seriously cool to watch in action!
What’s the spec like?
Here’s where it starts to get a bit trickier for Tesla. The entry- level 75D Model X starts at £70,500, which includes the government’s £4,500 electric car grant. For that money, you’re looking at a heavily-specced Porsche Cayenne or a top-spec Volvo XC90 with enough change for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. The most expensive Model X starts at an eye-watering £132,950.
For those looking purely for space, luxury and a commanding driving position, there are better value cars on the market. To opt for the Model X you really have to have bought into Elon Musk’s vision for a sustainable future – it’s admirable and the car holds its own with more established competition, but buying in isn’t cheap.
Look away from the cost and the Tesla Model X is an excellent prospect. Futuristic looks, high quality and spacious interior and incredibly low running costs make it mighty appealing.
As a statement about buying into a sustainable future, there’s nothing on the market to touch it. But there are more established rivals that offer great driving dynamics and plush interiors at a much lower entry point.
Few will be left disappointed with life with a Tesla, so long as regular recharging is feasible and that purchase price isn’t a barrier to entry.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Tesla Model X 75D
Base price: £70,500
Engine tested: Dual electric motors with 75kWh battery
Power (bhp): 324
Torque (Nm): 430
Max speed (mph): 130mph
0-60mph: 4.9 seconds
Charging time (domestic): 12-13 hours
Charging time (fast charger): 40 minutes to 80% chargeRange (NEDC): 259 miles
Emissions (g/km): 0