First drive: Tesla Model X is an awesome way to spend $132,000
Even having arrived with high expectations, Tesla’s new Model X electric SUV succeeds in a way that is likely to turn to the world of luxury SUVs on its cushy little ear.
It’s powerful, yet whisper quiet. It has has cool, power-lift “falcon wing doors” over the second row. By now, all the world knows that. But taken together, the raft of innovations in Tesla Model X creates something entirely new. Competitors are left looking like they are wallowing in complacency.
From Munich to Tokyo to Detroit, we suspect two predictable events are happening this week. One is a sense that that brilliant but crazy, Mars-loving Elon Musk has gone overboard and that he has built a vehicle with far more complexity than his plant workers will be able to handle. Second, and far more telling will be a sense of “why didn’t we think of that?”
The Model X is loaded — and we’re not being overdramatic here — with features that just seem beyond the pale of anything the traditional auto industry seemed to care about or would be willing to try. There’s so much new stuff that talking about the electric drivetrain and its 250-mile range, which no other automaker can touch at the moment, seems passe.
For instance, the rear seats sit on pedestals, allowing under-seat storage. We’ve seen that on concept cars at auto shows. But when it comes to producing those same cars for the public, major automakers always turn back to their traditional ways.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., introduces the Model X SUV in a ceremony in Fremont, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
Yes, some things about the new Model X borders on overkill. One of the most spectacular elements of the Model S sedan was the way that the door handles present themselves to owners by pulling away from their flush positions. The Model X takes that idea further. The front doors can open as the driver approaches. It’s cool, but it is an answer to a question that no one asked.
With so many amazing elements going on in the Model X when it is standing still, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a vehicle. It is supposed to move and carry lots of people.
While we were able to thoroughly go over the Model X before its debut Tuesday night here south of San Francisco, our drive of the vehicle was limited to little more than access roads around a sprawling plant and a cone course. That’s not much more driving than a valet parker would experience.
But it was an exhilarating few minutes. The Model X bolts off the line. Your eyes don’t exactly roll back in their sockets when you press the accelerator, but it’s still quite a sensation. There’s no engine roar — just a little whoosh of the wind going by.
It becomes the first electric vehicle being touted for its towing ability — 5,000 pounds.
Tesla says there will be both “comfort tune” and “performance tune” versions of the Model X, but really that refers more to types of tires than any difference in the chassis. One of the great pleasures of the Model X was that even high-tailing around a parking lot, there was none of that annoying noise of tire tread against pavement. Would the same be true on the highway? We’re not sure.
Just sitting in the driver seat of the Model X is a thrill. The panoramic windshield that extends back over your head gives the driver not only a clear view of cars ahead on the road, but passing birds, clouds and aircraft. Drone attack? You’ll see it coming.
Normally, a windshield is nothing to crow about. But, again showing the complexity of this vehicle, the sun visors are works of art — swiveling out and locking in place with magnets.
We could go on and on. It’s going to take months to dissect this vehicle. So here’s our bottom line: A practical car buyer will take a pass on the Model X. It’s so easy to go with a BMW X5 or Lexus RX, luxury SUVs that have been built for years and will be relatively or completely dependable. Yes, maybe a bit boring. They are are nice cars, but they are just cars.
But if you view life as too short to let great things pass you by, if you’re willing to take a risk on breakthrough but relatively untested technology — will those “falcon wing doors” keep working and keep out the rain five years from now? — the Model X is probably for you. It’s an interesting way to spend $132,000.
The Model X isn’t evolutionary like other automakers’ new models. It’s revolutionary. Now the question is: How many car buyers want to join a revolution?
Anyone? Come on don’t be bashful……..