Tesla has been making serious waves in the luxury saloon marker with the Model S, and now it has a seven-seat MPV. Does the trend continue?
On the road
On the road
The Tesla Model X is one of the most head-turning cars on the market, which is quite impressive for what is, to be a little rude, a posh people carrier. And that’s before you even get to the doors.
Normally, rear doors would be a pretty odd place to start a review, but with the Model X they are the centrepiece, the thing that absolutely everyone wants to talk about.
And that’s because the motorised back doors are a so-called Falcon Wing arrangement, opening upwards with a sense of theatre unmatched this side of supercars. They’re big, too, so there’s no way anyone isn’t going to notice your arrival.
But they are much more practical than they appear. It’s easy to think they’d be no good in tight car parks or low garages, but in reality the clever hinge arrangement means they open upwards rather than out – so they need a gap of only 30cm, which is less than a conventional door. And, predictably for an advanced tech company such as Tesla, there are enough sensors all over the car to make sure the door will stop if it’s about to hit anything to the side or above. Plus, you can set the car via GPS location to only open the doors to a lower setting in certain places, such as a garage at home or low-roofed car park. As far as downsides go, they take longer to access than wrenching open a door in the rain, for example, and can get confused at times, not opening or closing when requested. But the access is brilliant compared to normal doors, especially for those trying to strap kids in or help older or less mobile people into the car. Likewise, third-row access is much less of an agility test than in the average MPV, and there’s plenty of space when you’re back there.
So doors out of the way, what is the Model X? It’s basically a more practical family-oriented, second string to Tesla’s bow, joining the Model S saloon. It can be had in five-seat configuration as standard, with six in a two-by-two-by-two individual seat configuration for an extra £4,200, or as a seven-seater for £2,800 more than the five-seater.
Like every Tesla, the Model X is powered by electric motors only, and the firm offers greater battery range than any other EV on the market. There are three models, all four-wheel drive and each with different performance and range capabilities. The entry model is the £73,500 75D, which has an official range of 259 miles and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds. Pay £90,500 for the 100D driven here and the figures go to 351 miles of range and 4.7 seconds to 60mph. The top-spec P100D can go as far as 336 miles but gets to 60mph from rest in a frankly ludicrous sub-3.0 seconds and has a rather eye-watering list price of £132,950.
It feels every inch a seven-seater that can beat supercars off the lights, thanks to the instantaneous surge provided by the electric powertrain. Electric cars are more responsive than those with an internal combustion engine, thanks to there being no delay between pressing the accelerator pedal and the car moving forward. But Tesla takes it to another level in a way that is range-damagingly addictive. The Model X really is very quick.
Resist the urge to floor it at every opportunity, and it’s a very pleasant thing to travel in, with the serene silent running being one of the most pleasurable elements of electric vehicle ownership. Second to that acceleration, obviously. But the steering is nicely weighted, and high-speed refinement great, though road and wind noise is accentuated a little by the absence of anything from the powertrain. Our test car was fitted with very kerbable 22-inch alloys, which won’t have helped a ride quality that isn’t the most supple or absorbing.
The interior is dominated by a huge 17-inch touchscreen system that controls everything in what is an otherwise almost button-free interior. The screen, which basically looks like a very big iPad, does everything from the regular music, climate and navigation functions, through to switching on the heated seats across the car or opening any of the doors or front or rear luggage area. Because as well as a huge luggage area behind the middle seats, with plenty of space for weekend bags if the third row is fitted, there’s also storage space under the bonnet that’s big enough to fit a set of golf clubs.
Tesla has responded to customer feedback on the Model S and increased storage areas in the cabin. The X has door bins and a range of central stowage compartments rather than the big open arrangement early saloon models were fitted with. It’s a very useful improvement.
Talking of improvements, Tesla is unique in the car industry for its ability to upgrade its models over the air like an app, rather than an actual car. Regular updates are issued, and the car will automatically download new software while it’s parked close enough to the house to pick up the Wi-Fi. The latest software update for the Model X has taken user data to improve the accuracy of the projected range, but previous update on the Model S went as far as to introduce a ‘creep’ function after owners complained that the car didn’t originally crawl forward like a regular automatic does in Drive.
The Model X might turn heads when those doors open, but overall the styling is a mixed bag. Nose-on, it’s a development of the futuristic, classy and striking design of the Model S, but housing that excellent interior and boot space has given rise to a car with an almost walrus-like bulbous quality to it. Ultimately, the formula works, but it isn’t the most elegant of designs overall.
As for what counts as a Model X rival… that’s an interesting question, as on one level there aren’t any. The nearest you can get to the Model X in terms of pure electric practicality is the Nissan e-NV200 Combi. Which is like saying Norway is near Portugal because they’re both in Europe. But for drivers looking to deploy electric power, there are large and practical plug-in hybrid models from premium manufacturers such as the Audi Q7 e-tron and Volvo XC90 T8, as well as the likes of the Mercedes GLE, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. None have the zero-emission capability of the Tesla, with the Audi being the best at 35 miles before the internal combustion engine takes over. But the Audi and Volvo get below 50g/km with the tax benefits that brings, although they’re not eligible for the plug-in grant because they’re too expensive, while the Tesla gets £4,500 as a full electric vehicle. But all the rivals are significantly cheaper to buy as their tech is a different proposition, combining petrol and electric.
Overall the Model X is another huge achievement from a fledgling car company. Massively innovative and technologically pioneering, it’s a sensible and practical family vehicle with supercar acceleration and enough talking points to fill a dinner party conversation. And then there are those doors.
In case you’d missed Tesla, it’s the American company making an impression in the worldwide car market with top-end electric cars.
Chief Executive and co-founder Elon Musk made his money in payment system PayPal among other investments, and is listed by Forbes magazine as the 80th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $16.1bn (£12.4bn). The same magazine also listed Musk at 21 on its list of the world’s most powerful people. His other interests include the SpaceX space transportation company.
Tesla’s first model was the Roadster two-seat sports car in 2008, based on the Lotus Elise, but the Model S saloon four years later propelled the firm into the big league, and that car is currently history’s second best-selling electric car after Nissan’s Leaf, with more than 150,000 sold; and in 2015 and 2016 it was the biggest-selling pure EV on sale. Tesla’s models have the longest electric range in the mainstream car industry.
Next in line is the Model 3 saloon (pictured), which will take the brand into the lowest-priced segment yet. Coming to the UK late next year, prices are expected to kick off at around £40,000.
What they said
● Tesla offers an annual 1,000 miles-worth of charging for free through its Supercharger network, and is also growing a network of Destination Chargers at the likes of hotels and restaurants.
● It’s hard to do justice to the acceleration. The instantaneous surge has to be felt to be believed.
● Realities of EV living include having to unplug before it’s fully charged if you need to load the boot and want to put the cable away first.
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Three things we like...
Those rear doors aren’t always practical (they’re not so good under a low ceiling), but there’s no denying they’re cool
Once people are over the doors, it’s always the huge central touchscreen that grabs the attention
The windscreen, the largest in the market, takes a little getting used to but lets in plenty of light
...And one we don't
Tech showpiece it may be, but wet or dirty charging cables are an inescapable reality
Phenomenal performance but a breeze to drive around town. The 100D isn’t a performance model, but it’s fast family transportation.
Peerless electric vehicle range (351 miles in this case) and the car is good for getting close to its predicted range in the real world.
The doors do have their drawbacks, but are more practical that might be expected and offer huge space for loading kids. Boot is also huge.
There’s not an extensive options list, but the Model X comes pretty well specced.
Nose on, it’s striking and modern, but the roofline and large rear needed to accommodate rear seats don’t make for a slender profile.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
The optional 22-inch wheels on our test car won’t have helped the ride quality, but it’s not the most absorbent. Silent running is odd at first, but great once acclimatised.
The screen dominates the cabin, but the seats are comfortable and Tesla has responded to customer criticism of the Model S and added plenty of interior storage.
That screen isn’t just to show off, it controls every element well. Only drawback is the nav struggles and gives up when 4G reception is poor.
Whole life costs 10/10
High list price looks worse thanks to absence of real rivals, but EV running costs are low for a car with this range of abilities and quality.
CCT opinion 8/10
Head-turning and with a wealth of strengths for those with money and suitable journey profiles.
Not subtle in any way, and certainly not cheap, but a useable range, massive practicality and immense performance make for a very appealing car.