Tesla has been making waves in the car industry with the Model S, an all-electric car that not only offers blistering performance, but offers a range that leaves most other current electric cars on the sidelines. Tesla is taking its successes with the Model S and applying them to its next model, the Model X.
The Tesla Model X is an SUV that sits in the 5+2 camp. It's certainly not as big as the Land Rover Discovery, BMW X5, or Volvo XC90, but more akin to the Qashqai, Discovery Sport, or BMW X6.
Looking to address the range fears of electric vehicles, and bring you the everyday practicality of an SUV, is the Tesla Model X a perfect pairing, or is it a compromise conundrum?
Tesla Model X design
More approachable than the executive-focused Model S, the X comes with a robust, but futuristic look, with distinct SUV stylings. That look starts at the front of the car with its signature nose, lacking a traditional front grill. The lines run over the huge panoramic windscreen that flows over your head and into the roof. And, lest we forget, the car's most polarising feature, those Falcon Wing doors, that punctuate the design in the centre of the car.
It's a contemporary styling, sticking to a family nose similar to the refreshed Model S and the incoming Model 3. The rising roofline has a hint of Citroën about it, another company that's employed the panoramic windscreen to good effect, if not with the drama of the Model X. But rather than opt for a squared hatch back as you find on many SUVs, the Model X opts for a fastback, dropping the roofline back down to the rear. That gives it those BMW X6 looks, rather than X5 looks.
The ride height can be adjusted to four different settings from "high" to "baller" (according to a spokesperson), again adopting solutions offered by a number of SUVs to help them cross from on-road stability or off-road comfort, but the Model X doesn't carry offroader looks. It's a stylised look, closer to the "active" or crossover models we've seen more of lately.
That fastback styling and Falcon Wing door approach does bring with it compromises though. Windows for the third row, if you opt for the expanded seating configuration, are almost non-existent. Although that roofline quickly drop, it's still fairly high at the point that the Falcon Wing doors open, making them incredibly high. A talking point they might be, but they're not without compromise too.
Tesla Model X Falcon Wing doors
One of the most defining elements of the Model X are the Falcon Wing doors. They are futuristic, cool, gob-smackingly exciting, and yet at the same time possibly the most impractical thing we've seen on a car of this type for a long time. If you aren't sure what Falcon Wing doors are, the rear doors of the Model X open upwards and outwards, raising from the centre of the roof into the sky. It's like a clever version of the DeLorean from Back to the Future, but suitable for all walks of life.
To combat car parks, the door is actually in two folding parts, which is why we guess they're referred to as Falcon Wing doors, rather than gull-wing, which appear on an eclectic mix of car models, like the famous Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupé.
As you can imagine for an American Telsa Model X owner, doors that open upwards and outwards present little problem: large driveways, big company car parks and spacious shopping malls are a staple of life in the USA. The doors, packed with sensors to avoid them smashing into anything, will allow you to park in the tightest of American car parking spaces and still open and let you out.
The idea is to give you more space and easier access to the rear seats, with Tesla saying it's going to be better for parents getting kids into the rear and so on.
For the rest of us those doors have could be problematic. The chances are, here in the UK, you won't have anywhere near the same kind of space afforded to Americans. We can imagine the scene: you drive to your local multi-storey car park, where it's already pretty difficult to park and the ceiling is only marginally higher than your car, and wonder how on earth you are going to get even the smallest of children out of the back row of seats.
At least with a standard car door you can contort yourself to squeeze through a narrow gap, but you can't really get on your hands and knees to crawl up through a tiny gap. To get in the Model X, you'll likely have to drive out of the parking space and climb in. The Falcon Wing doors also mean that the roof isn't somewhere you can use to load up your car: that's no roof box or bike rack, although you can fix one to the rear tow hook.
Maybe that doesn't matter: as the Tesla Model X is electric, it may not be your first choice of holiday/vacation cars because of the range, but when you're unloading Jack and Jill outside the school gates, everyone will be watching you and those doors.
Tesla Model X interior
Moving inside and the Model X is the space age experience we've come to expect from Tesla. The dashboard, which is much more refined than the first Model S to come to the UK, is both plush and solid. It's not a carbon copy either, with a few new additions over the current Model S. There's now a central compartment situated between the driver and passenger seat where you would normally find the handbrake or gear stick, with plenty of storage space, cup holders, and USB charging points for your phones or gadgets.
The dashboard is dominated by two large displays, one for the driver, the other a huge central touchscreen. The latter, virtually identical to the Model S offering, delivers everything from mapping information, to controlling the ambient lighting in the car. It is here you can set performance options, turn on Ludicrous Speed - if you've selected the optional extra when you bought the car - or merely surf the Internet when stuck in traffic. The lack of buttons is a breath of fresh air, as is the minimalist flowing lines and mix of matte and gloss surfaces.
Move back through the cabin and the minimalist approach continues, perhaps a little too much. The second row of bucket seats has little or no storage space. The backs of the seats are covered in a black gloss shiny, somehow smudge-free plastic, and when combined with the white synthetic leather seats that are wipe clean, delivers a space age, yet clean feel. If you aren't vexed by the lack of storage space, you will be by your reflection staring back at you.
That lack of storage and isolation continues to the third row. Tesla allows the Model X to be configured in three options. A five seater, a six seater, and a seven seater. Opting for the six seater removes the middle seat on the second row (the two remaining seats are also made slightly bigger), while the seven seater option puts two smaller seats in the boot, and unlike the Model S, they do face forward.
You might think that's a good thing, but it might not be. Although more traditional, those third row seats get zero visibility, and unless you are under 4ft tall, zero space. The problem is that the second row of seats neither move forward very much nor fold. You can't look through the seat in front of you, and because of the fastback design you can't even look out of the window. This must be what a dog in a cage in the boot of a car feels like.
The issue of the non moving second row of seats also has a second problem. They don't fold down to create larger load space as they do in a standard estate for example, meaning the boot is one of the smallest we've seen in an SUV. Want to use it to haul large amounts of rubbish to the tip, transport a couple of bikes, or move some furniture? Forget it. You have to compromise.
Tesla Model X battery power
The Model X, depending on which model you get, will give you a range between 260 and 303 miles on a single charge according to Tesla. Their are three models currently listed by the company. The Model X P90D, the 90D, and the 75D. Prices haven't been confirmed but a Tesla spokesperson we talked to suggested prices would range between £70,000 to £90,000 depending on the configuration.
The P90D delivers the fastest SUV on the market with a top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds. Opt for the Ludicrous Speed Upgrade (the P90DL) and you can knock a further .6 seconds off to bring it to a 0-60mph time of 3.2 seconds. There is no denying you'll be able to get to school quicker than probably anyone else on your street.
In practice and we suspect those range distances will vary, in the same way a phone battery does depending on how you use it. Tesla admit that the performance enhanced version featuring Ludicrous mode will deliver less range if you drive without caution for the battery, while driving like "Miss Daisy" will let you go further.
Range won't be an issue for most, and combined with Tesla's network of Superchargers, as long as you are happy to stop for a coffee on longer trips you should have no problem. But the Tesla Model X feels like it's been designed for the school run, rather than the run to the sun. There's no shortage of SUVs that never see a grassy verge, let alone go offroading, so perhaps that doesn't matter.
But range is only half the story. Tesla has foregone manual controls for most of the car's features opting instead for gadgetised control. There is no manual option to close the Falcon Wing doors for example, and you shut the front driver door by pressing the brake pedal.
There are cool toys though, the Model X has four suspension options which can all be controlled automatically via GPS based on your location, as well as the usual array of Tesla options like Autopilot to help assist your driving, and Summon to help you park your car in your garage at the end of the day, again without really having to do anything yourself.
This is embracing the electric dream 100 per cent.
The Tesla vision of the electric car is supposed to remove the need to compromise. The Model X is supposed to be a car that allows you to have electric and an SUV, to have utility and space. For Americans we suspect that still holds true. This is a unique SUV with plenty of smart features, a distinctive design and doors you won't find anywhere else. It's a car that isn't cut from the same cloth, and that carries some appeal.
The Model X claims to be the fastest SUV on the planet and for those who are buying it as a beefed up saloon who have no plans to pile loads of kids in the back, it delivers something as sexy as the Model S, but in a more versatile package.
The issue is that once you start asking it to deliver equal to, or better than, an SUV in Britain, the more compromises you have to address. Boot space, the Falcon Wing doors, and an isolating rear cabin space see the Model X facing a mass of rivals that through conventionality, may offer more convenience.
Where replacing your executive saloon with the Model S has lots of appeal, replacing the humble Nissan Qashqai, or the more assured Land Rover Discovery, may bring with it a compromise too far. Of course we've a lot to still learn about the day-to-day experience of living with the Tesla Model X.