The Tesla Model X has been around for a while now, with the new all-electric SUV already being driven by customers in the US. The car is finally in Europe, however, and we were among the first to drive the car around the roads near Munich, Germany.
You might have already guessed that SUVs are an ever-growing segment of car sales; Tesla sees the opportunity for the Model X to sell up to two and a half times more units than the Model S saloon it’s based on. The extra practicality of the larger body is a big draw for customers around the world – and in the case of the Model X, buyers won’t be sacrificing much in terms of performance, either.
There are two versions available, with the least powerful Model X 90D managing a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds. The faster P90D manages it in 3.8 seconds, but if you’re feeling brave enough to endure Ludicrous Mode then it’ll do the sprint in an astonishing 3.2 seconds. All models manage 155mph flat-out, too.
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From a standstill it feels just as fast as those figures suggest, blasting up to speed so quickly you’ll forget you’re in a two and a half tonne SUV. It’s not as quick as the Model S, and the bulk of the accelerative power is at low speed, but you can’t avoid being astonished every time you experience this car’s performance.
It handles well for such a heavy car, too. The low centre of gravity (because the batteries are positioned low down in the floor of the car) means it rolls less than you would expect in corners – but it can’t match the lower Model S. The suspension and steering can be adjusted, with options to lower and raise the ride height, but the difference feels minimal. The steering is well weighted in standard mode, if a bit vague, and the huge performance on offer means the Model X is still good fun to drive, if a little clinical.
Thanks to the almost-silent electric motors and plenty of sound deadening it’s a very relaxed driving experience overall, and the comfortable seats help with that too. The ride felt smooth on the German roads where we tested the car, and wind and road noise is kept to a minimum – thanks in part to the Model X’s aerodynamic body shape.
The distinctive ‘Falcon Wing’ doors are a distinctive design touch, and give the Model X a uniqe look when they are open. Unfortunately, though, the rest of the design can’t quite match the sleek Model S. The blank nose looks oddly unfinished, and the high, flat tailgate and boot spoiler look a little awkward. There’s no doubt that the ‘jacked-up Model S’ styling will have its fans, but we’d argue that most conventional SUV rivals like the Volvo XC90 have a more handsome design.
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While the doors do give plenty of access to the rear seats, and have sensors to stop them from opening where there’s an obstruction, they do feel rather unnecessary. For a start, they take a long time to open, much longer than just swinging a normal door open, and they also emit a loud warning beep as they move – guaranteed to annoy anyone over time. Plus, much like an open kitchen cupboard, the doors are a head magnet.
Once you’re inside, though, there’s loads of room for passengers. The front and rear seats have lots of adjustment to make sure everyone can get comfortable, and there are loads of seat combinations: you can have the car with 4, 5, 6 or 7 seats. In the second row there’s lots of leg and headroom for the outer seats, thanks to cutout sections in the doors, but the middle seat has quite a bit less head space. The third row of seats faces forward in the Model X, and there’s enough room for kids – but adults will find their head resting against the rear glass.
Fold down the back row and there’s an impressive 2,180 litres of space, with a moveable boot floor that can be brought up so there’s no loading lip, dropped down for more storage or removed completely, revealing a deep section behind the seats. Luggage could easily slide and fall forwards into the cabin with the seats down, however, but that will only be a problem in the 6-seater car – and there are hooks to secure items if needed. There’s a 187-litre boot in the front, too, and the Model X can even tow loads up to 2,270kg.
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The Model X uses the same huge touchscreen display as the Model S, which means you can open all the doors from the driver’s seat. There are a huge number of functions on the screen, and it’s one of the best-looking and easiest to use in any car, just like your smartphone or tablet. Controlling functions like the air-conditioning using a touchscreen while on the move is a pain, though.
You get a powerful sound system in the Model X that stretches across the top of the dash, but the reflection on the windscreen on a sunny day is distracting. The large A-pillars and slightly offset driving position don’t help visibility, either – though there is plenty of light let into the cabin.
The quality of the materials inside is good, but like the Model S it’s where the Tesla feels behind its conventionally-powered rivals. Mercedes switchgear is used in the Model X, but even that doesn’t mean it’s as impressive as the latest Merc interiors. The minimalist display behind the wheel is a highlight, but the rest of the cabin looks drab, and just isn’t as well designed and built as we’d like in such an expensive car.