22 November 2016
Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

It can be done!

Car review | It's always the same. First a carmaker shows a promising concept car full of high-tech gadgets and revolutionary ideas. But when that car actually comes to the market, all the innovation is gone. The technology can't be mass produced, the market isn't ready or things are said to be too expensive. Tesla proves it can be done with the Model X.
 

The "Model X" is the third car by Tesla. The young brand attracted the attention of car lovers with the "Roadster" (2008 - 2012) and subsequently conquered the business world with the "Model S". From a technical point of view the Model X is based on the Model S, but it is built for height to offer even more space.

Tesla calls the Model X an SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle. However, as a general rule an SUV has tough looks and tons of ground clearance to make it possible to go off-road. Because of the streamlined nose and the absence of a grille the Model X doesn't do either. Despite great efforts of the photographer to make the car look tough, the Model X has a sweet and almost anonymous face.

Tesla Model X

Space

The Model X compensates for this with many other things that make a car more attractive. Because Tesla is a new carmaker, it has a fresh approach to design. Other brands unlock the door via a remote. With Tesla it's enough to simply approach the car, after which the doors open electronically (provided there's enough space to do so). This seems the most logical solution, but so far no one else has thought of it.

Instead of traditional rear doors, the Model X has gull-wing doors in the back. This is the best example of a feature that makes a concept car irresistible, but which is never actually taken into production. Tesla shows it has guts by fitting the Model X with gull-wing doors. Apart from the fact that opening and closing happens at a theatrically slow speed, this construction actually does offer benefits. On small parking spots these doors require less space around the car (30 cm) to fully open.

Tesla Model X

Once inside, the experience is also totally different. The windscreen extends well into the roof, which means the Model X gives an unparalleled feeling of freedom. And the seating position is different from other SUVs as well. The usual mighty feeling and high seating position are lacking. And... Tesla made some beginner's mistakes. For example, the headrests are too low and just press (hurt!) the lower neck. The view in the rear-view mirror is poor. The shiny hard shells around the seats look great, but go at the expense of the legroom, limiting this six or seven-seater to no more than a fair four-person vehicle.

Features

Yet, the unusual looks and futuristic ambiance in the cabin are just the start. The modern technology makes the Model X really stand out. For example, the dashboard is dominated by a display as big as a television. At first this feels like merely showing off, but during the test drive a huge screen like this turns out to be easier to operate and safer to glance at while driving.

Tesla Model X

Because a Tesla is in fact a computer on wheels, this vehicle can receive updates via the Internet which add functionality. The test vehicle ran version 8.0 of the software and it meant a big leap ahead as to features and visual design.

Of course the Model X offers all the usual functionality when it comes to audio, communication and navigation. But in every respect Tesla goes its own way. For the "ultra high fidelity" audio system, it is working with a tiny little company called "s1nn", which was founded by former Bose employees. The sound quality is absolutely immaculate! Satnav is by Google, which means up-to-date maps and live traffic information. Communication is taken one step further than just connecting a phone, by offering a Spotify subscription with every car.

The best known and now infamous function is the "auto pilot". The auto pilot is meant to act like a second pair of eyes and ears. If necessary, the computer can interrupt steering or braking to prevent an accident. While this function is not meant to take over driving completely, it is well known that the Model X changes into a self-driving car when the steering wheel and throttle are let go off.

Tesla Model X

Again, Tesla outperforms conventional brands which offer similar functionality. A Tesla has a better understanding of the traffic around it and schematically shows this in a display. By seeing what the computer sees, the driver has more confidence in the system. During this test drive more than once the computer took over for several minutes and performed flawlessly.

Tesla Model X

Handling

With so much innovative and useful technology the Model X already captures the heart of many car lovers. Handling makes it even more desirable! For this "SUV" Tesla focussed on use on the open road. The modest ground clearance, small angles of approach and decent and high-speed tyres make off-roading almost impossible. The four-wheel drive is only meant to ensure the Model X can perform under all circumstances.

Tesla didn't have to compromise between handling on paved and unpaved roads and it shows! When also opting for "intelligent air suspension", the Model X is as stable as a sports car, despite the tall bodywork. No matter what speed, the Model X won't tilt over. This doesn't just make the Model X handle better than most conventional SUVs but even better than most hatchbacks!

Tesla Model X

The huge weight and sheer size guarantee rest and stability. Only when braking hard, the Model X suffers from its obesity. Also, keep in mind that the Model X hardly fits in an average parking spot. Even car washes find the Model X a challenge, and that's soft peddling it.

Electric car

The Model X owes its sublime handling to its powertrain. Just like every other Tesla, the Model X is an electric car. The Model X doesn't handle well despite the electric motor, but because of it. An electric motor is more quiet, stronger and more agile than an internal combustion engine.

Tesla Model X

And not despite its size but because of it there's lots of space for batteries. During this test drive the Model X easily covered 300 km (factory figure: 467 km) after only 20 minutes of charging. The driving style was mostly calm, but that 987 Nm of torque was just too hard to resist.

That's because the test car features a unique option: "ludicrous mode". With a push of a button the batteries are conditioned to the optimal temperature of 41 degrees after which acceleration is... ludicrously fast! Usually the "P90D" driven here takes 3.9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 62 km/h. In ludicrous mode this is reduced to 3.3 seconds! An SUV that's faster than a (super)sports car? It can be done!

Tesla Model X

Conclusion

After a test drive with the Tesla Model X all other cars seem outdated at once. The Model X offers everything other carmakers deem impossible: gull-wing doors, a panoramic windscreen, up to seven seats, futuristic looks, the best automatic pilot to date, an Internet connection, excellent handling, possibility to pull a trailer with an EV, a sublime audio system, supercar performance, zero emissions and minimal cost of ownership.

Yet, the Model X isn't the perfect car. Because of the high price the build quality is disappointing. The materials, build quality and ergonomic mistakes make it clear that Tesla is a young brand. However, when considering the long list of strong points there's only one conclusion: it can be done!

plus
  • Innovative
  • Excellent handling
  • Insanely fast, squeaky clean
min
  • Poor build quality
  • Poor (leg)room in the rear
  • Headrests too low and too hard