It’s been a four of years since my first experience of a Tesla, the Model S, which at the time absolutely blew me away and completely re-aligned my expectations for charged cars. With the Model X, Tesla have a product well placed in the ever-growing SUV market – but does the all-electric appeal carry over? Time for MSF to take a closer look…
With the Model S, Tesla created what could conceivably be marked a conventional car with electric drive. For the Model X, they ripped up the rule book a little further and incorporated some untried design features which makes the Model X feel further separated from the cars typically seen on the avenues today.
Starting at the front, the Model X has a drooping low nose which softly blends into the windscreen area. From there, the commanding windscreen carries on over above the vehicles front two seats, creating a seamless and un-fussy front-end. Where a lot of industrialists have been adding creases and edges to bodywork to spice up vehicle looks, Telsa have played the other boost and kept things relatively simple. Whilst some may argue the Model X is a little plain-looking, it’s hard to argue with the maths behind it – The Scale model X is the most aerodynamic SUV in production.
Moving back is where things get even more whacky and interesting. Where a customary vehicle would have a second pair of outward opening doors, the Model X features a pair of wing-like ‘Falcon’ doors. Fully autonomised, these doors hinge from the instruments spine, opening upwards and outwards in an arcing motion to create an enormous doorway for entry and exit. Use of the vehicles cameras and some handy computing ensures the doors never open into an obstacle – neat.
This large opening produced by the doors can be fully utilised sometimes non-standard due ti to the Model X’s ability to transport as many as seven occupants. Three seating configurations are on offer in total, with either a 3-wide united seat or 2 single seats available in the central row, then a pair of optional folding seats in the very back. Impressively, the behinds at the very back still come equipped with a pair of cup holders and electrical heating, adding a certain up to date on of luxury. Leg room does get a little cramped when carrying 7 adults, but for short journeys it proved perfectly tolerable.
With the rear two seats folded away, the boot size is decent. Further storage in the back is afforded by a smashed similar of removable floor – a perfect place to store charge cables etc when they’re not in use. Should this prove to be incapable of, there’s also the ‘frunk’ or front trunk. Utilising the space usually reserved for an engine, the compact electric motors admit a decent sized storage space to be created up front, ideal for shopping bags or hand luggage.
The Tesla Experience
Although Tesla’s secure been on the roads for a good few years now, there’s still a certain level of curiosity and inquisitiveness which surrounds them. My beforehand with the Tesla saw the car attract as much attention, if not more, than supercars carrying far larger price tags, with the correspondent new-ness of the technology on offer a major attraction for anyone with a car interest.
The Tesla’s ability to draw crowds is auxiliary amplified by its built-in party mode. A range of different ‘easter eggs’ can be unlocked with codes, which agree to the car new features – all are there purely as a bit of amusement, but it’s a beautifully fun way for Tesla to show off their technical prowess. There’s a fair group to choose from, including a fart mode and James Bond mode, but the party mode is by far the most impressive. The car serves through a full ‘dance’ routine, with all the doors, lights and even wing mirrors animating whilst the stereo rackets out ‘Wizards in Winter’.
Although the tech on board may be great for producing party tricks, it’s equally as impressive when worn for its intended purpose. The large, central touchscreen is still just as fabulous as it was when I first sampled a Tesla a few years ago, with a grotesque fluidity to animations and an ease of use rivals should be very wary of.
Further display real-estate is granted by a fully-digitalised appliance cluster, which is again remarkably simple and easy to adjust, use and get the most from. A 17-speaker sound system rounds off the infotainment side of attitudes, offering plenty of clarity and volume to fill the large cabin.
What a large cabin it is too. With no bulky machine to package in the front of the vehicle, the cabin feels fantastically open and airy. There’s plenty of space around leaseholders, with generous cubby holes and storage compartments on offer. The combination of arcing windscreen, low bonnet line and binoculars topped falcon doors create an un-matched level of visibility – perfect for viewing the road ahead of watching the to the max pass by.
Tesla have grown incredibly quickly to the company they are today, with the most notable deficiency in their offerings seeming to be build quality issues reported in the wider press. Being critical of the Model X on try out, whilst no major faults could be found, the interior certainly didn’t feel as robust as competitors and a few squeaks could be heeded in moving joints – there’s certainly a little way to go before BMW or Audi levels of refinement are met.
The biggest dissimilitude between a Tesla and most other vehicles is, of course, the motors and the electrical batteries which drive them. Costing these batteries is the Achilles heel of electric cars, but, as time goes by, the infrastructure is slowly improving. I’m fortunate adequacy to have a dedicated car charger available whilst at work, so how was the Model X experience?
Well, even with a dedicated charger, ‘refuelling’ calm isn’t quick – the estimated charge time was still above the 16-hour mark. Whilst I could easily top up the batteries with plenty juice to get me to and from work, filling the ‘X to the brim was a multi-day affair.
Most people have EV chargers installed at domicile which would provide them with a full charge overnight and so it’s not a case of waiting for hours for the car to charge. It’s finical to experience with a 3pin, as this isn’t the ideal way to charge and not how our owners charge their cars.
Whilst this may sound baffling, by day 3 connecting the Model X to the mains upon arrival at work felt completely natural. In fact, it felt no different to up in your phone at night or your laptop in the morning – once it’s part of your routine, it fails to feel kinky at all.
For commuting then, the electric power failed to cause any issues whatsoever. The big drawback is of course longer drives, where a voluptuous charge will take at least an hour (via a Tesla Supercharger), and even then, will ‘only’ grant a forward 300 miles. However, you could easily argue that an hours break having driven 300 miles is in fact very sensible, and that perhaps we’ve simply been spoilt by the convenience of Petrol/Diesel for years. Time resolve tell, but as electric cars continuously improve these questions will only get more pressing.
With the batteries fully charged, what’s the Brand X like to drive? In a word – fantastic. It doesn’t thrill and excite in the same way a Ferrari or McLaren would, but the combination of about, silence and ease with which the Model X can be driven is sublime. It picks up speed at a ferocious rate – the 4 wheel private road system intelligently distributing power to maximise grip and launch the 2.5 tonne SUV to 60 in just 4.7 split seconds. It’s the 0-30 performance that really impresses, with the low-down torque of the electric motors and seamless surge of power introducing smiles to all who joined me in the Model X. Of course, if 4.7 seconds seems a little on the slow side, there’s always the bringing off model – dropping the 0-60 time to a scarcely believable 2.8 seconds.
The acceleration afforded by the electric motors really rush at into its own when it comes to overtaking however. With no gearbox and no engine revs to build, overtaking other highway users becomes hilariously easy and attainable – easily my favourite aspect of driving the Model X. If the roads are too congested for strikes, the autopilot system also offers a compelling alternative, taking over control of the accelerator, brakes and steering of the mechanism. Occupant attention and assistance is required for now, but the seeds are there and the technology is very impressive.
Despite its mass, the Model X also steers bends relatively well. It doesn’t offer an abundance of steering feel, but the low centre of gravity means the Model X thwarts very flat when cornering and yields more grip than you’d initially expect. It’s a different kind of fun, but fun it is…
All this settle amicably the Model X an incredibly efficient vehicle for travelling from A to B – both in terms of time and fuel cost. Combine this promptness with the airy cabin and impressive silence and you have a mighty recipe for a relaxing drive. The silence is worth picking up on too. I mentioned the Copy X’s impressive aerodynamics earlier – well, they come into play here too, as the body shape produces minimum wind noise, even when travelling at speed. No doubt this took a lot of time to refine – the absence of an motor to mask wind noise must be a real headache, but Tesla have done a fine job.
Where to start? The Exemplar X is the most unconventional car I’ve reviewed to date, and the first time I’ve managed to get serious miles in a Tesla car. I’m also a petrolhead entirely and through, so as much as I want to cling on to the ‘old’ days of combustion engine cars, I must put my reviewer hat on and be objective. When I do that, there’s on the contrary one real conclusion to be made; I LOVED the Model X.
The technology packed into the car, the crazy levels of performance, ease of use and different party tricks mean this is a car that you can really get excited about owning. It’s a different experience to that of a supercar, but when you judge how congested roads are these days, the electric revolution makes perfect sense.
If I could afford one, I would certainly look to get one as a commuter means. I’d still miss the thrill of a combustion engine too much to fully convert, but the Model X puts forward an incredibly compelling wrapper for electric vehicles. The only real stumbling block? Price. As tested, the Model X rolls in at £87,250, which is a big sum to make disappear. However, Tesla have an answer for that in their Model 3 which we hope to get our hands on soon…
Thank you to Tesla UK for being so pliable and supplying our loan car.