Tesla has yet to allow journalists the pleasure of a test in its Model X crossover in Europe, but we’ve finally managed to get behind the wheel of one of the radical all-electric SUVs on the streets of New York.
The Model X is Tesla’s third car, after the original Roadster launched in 2008 and the Model S saloon, which earned the brand its reputation for bold engineering, followed in 2013. This newcomer builds on that; it’s the ‘practical’ Tesla, with dramatic ‘falcon wing’ doors that slide upwards before opening.
The X sits on the same chassis as the Model S, and gets the same all-electric powertrain. Lower-powered versions with smaller batteries will be offered eventually, but for now, you have one decision to make: the P90 or the four-wheel-drive P90D driven here. UK prices have yet to be confirmed, but they’re likely to range from around £50,000 to £90,000, with the early, more potent versions towards the top of that bracket.
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We didn’t have a chance to put Tesla’s claimed 0-60mph time of 3.8 seconds to the test in Manhattan, but the Model X does feel a bit heavier than the Model S – and so it should. The taller body (and, we suspect, that door mechanism) add to the car’s weight of almost two-and-a-half tonnes.
Chassis settings are firm enough to ensure that even with the taller body, the Tesla stays pretty flat when you’re cornering. There’s enough suppleness to absorb the worst street bumps, too – and there are plenty of those in Manhattan. The three-stage power-steering set-up is said to change the level of assistance depending on what mode you’re in, but even in ‘easy’, it felt pretty aggressive.
Inside, the cockpit is clearly recognisable from the Model S, with the dashboard dominated by the 17-inch screen; it’s still surprising how many passers-by peer in to have a look at the display.
But the X appears more awkward than its sleek sibling, with the slightly bulbous styling making the car resemble an S on steroids. It’s sure to look meaner on Tesla’s popular 21-inch ‘Turbine’ alloys, mind.
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Plus, the large windscreen extends further than it does on the Model S, allowing more light into the cabin – even for those sitting in the second of the three rows of seats. It meant we got a great view of the Empire State Building as we drove past it.
The key point will be whether the Model X is any more practical than the S, which offers a third row of rear-facing seats. There’s enough room across the second row for three adults, but space is at a premium in the front-facing third row, where the shortage of headroom means it’s only really suitable for children. And only the third row of seats folds down; you can’t lower the middle row to extend boot capacity.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that all of these pros and cons are part of a vehicle that doesn’t emit any CO2 – and one that can be charged quickly and for free at Tesla’s ever-expanding Supercharger network. Even with the increased weight, the Model X still has an impressive range of around 250 miles, which is more than enough for cross-town commutes.