Looks can be deceptive and this adage is also applicable to cars when you consider a specific segment like crossover SUVs. The Tesla Model X looks like any crossover SUV and it even feels the same even though it isn’t propelled by any internal combustion engine [petrol or diesel]. It’s not even a hybrid yet it is almost as fast as a super car. By the time we got our hands on this particular model, Tesla confirmed that it has produced its 300,000th vehicle. There are now 212,821 Model S , 71,927 Model X SUVs, and 1,770 Model 3 saloon cars on roads worldwide.
The Model X is a mid-to-large sized SUV which is offered in modular accommodation for 5- or 7-adults. The badge P100D on the test car tells us it is a Performance variant with 100Kw/h battery and ‘D’ stands for dual motor which mean it is all-wheel-drive (AWD). There are other lower grade variants too in the line-up which helps in the price point.
At first glance two things immediately strike you — first on the list is the absence of a grille up front and secondly, the extra large front windscreen that may remind you of Citroen’s C4 Grand Picasso tall-boy MPV. Never mind a bit of stylistic oddity in this car, there are other unique features like the falcon doors and other elements in its packaging.
Everything is automatic even before you enter the car. The user’s key fob will activate the car within range and even open the door without touching it. All exterior light functions sensor driven and are automatically activated.
Inside the cabin is laid out very much like that of a conventional SUV. Apart from a BMW/Mercedes-styled column mounted gear lever there are no functional buttons to fiddle with. A medical grade HEPA air filter prevents pollen, bacteria, viruses and pollution entering into the cabin. In terms of accommodation, the car is extra generous, thanks to overall dimensions and in particular its wheelbase of 2,965mm which has been fully utilized by designers.
All controls like driver-settings and controls are accessed via a menu driven 17in portrait tab placed in the central console of the dashboard. The system works on a split-screen basis wherein at a time several applications and live streaming can be facilitated via Wi-fi. Even surrealistic driving simulations are possible with virtual presentations – for example how the car can drive on the red planet or if the car got transformed to Santa’s sledge! Many functions are mirrored on the instrument panel and are voice-activated to focus the driver’s attention on the road. On the practical side, you get two trunks – one up front capable of carrying a couple of cases, plus the main one at the back, which is quite large.
Comfort and convenience in this car would score top marks as you can literally walk in or out. Like-wise when the double-hinged two-step sonar sensor driven falcon wing rear doors open up, it’s a sight to watch and will require just 30 cm of space which means no more parking dings in tight parking spots. Rear seats move independently, sliding and tilting forward and back to free space.
All occupants get stadium view, thanks to the extra large front windscreen; a built in solar tint ensures the cabin remaining cool.
Now, this is a pure electric vehicle which uses a flat lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, a couple of electric motors and controllers as its main hardware. The whole package is tucked in the car’s ‘skateboard’ platform which comes with highest safety ratings. The SUV weighs close to 2,500kg depending on motor and battery pack chosen.
The electric motor channels 259hp to the front wheels and 503hp at the rear. Combined torque is staggering 713 lb-ft good enough to propel the single ratio gearbox SUV from 0-100km/h in staggering 3.0sec and hitting a top speed of 250km/h with no emissions.
Keeping the SUV planted on road and aiding its performance is its low centre of gravity, active air-suspension, large 21in wheels and extraordinary aerodynamic package. At Cd 0.24, this SUV has the lowest drag coefficient of any SUV in history and comes standard with an active spoiler, a feature usually found in high end sports cars.
Active safety technologies include collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking besides the usual kit. Battery charging is easy as it has domestic electricity compatible ports. Air-conditioning set-up is not mechanical but uses motor-driven heat exchangers. Like-wise, the power steering is also electric.
On full charge, the driving range (official EPA rated range) of this car is up to 475 km and that’s what we had when we kicked-off our sojourn.
Although it’s designed to feel like a mainstream vehicle, it is actually quite different from the moment you settle in. All systems are activated automatically when the driver takes charge through the key fob. There’s no start-stop button to fiddle with, just tap the throttle and car is ready to roll. It takes a few minutes to get accustomed to its super fast acceleration and comparatively slower regenerative braking. In fact, the vehicle will rapidly slow down when foot is off the throttle pedal. A glance on the information centre highlights range, speed, battery consumption and energy regeneration. The more the car is pushed (especially in ludicrous mode) the energy depletion rate is higher and range reduces quite fast.
Commanding a car which weighs around 2.5-tonnes and has over 600hp on tap almost instantly may overwhelm some drivers, the Model X has low centre of gravity and its front-to-rear weight distribution mimics characteristics similar to that of a sports car. As a result, it is actually easy to fling the car in corners while remaining firmly planted on road, in part thanks to its large 21in rims and low-profile tyres. We had good fun smoking out a few Cayenne’s and X6 sports SUVs with the car’s mind-blowing straight line acceleration and torque. Where there’s fun, there’s a serious side too. In fact, on May 15 a Model X and Qantas set the Guinness World Record for “heaviest tow by an electric production passenger vehicle. The Model X was able to tow a 287,000 pound Boeing 787-8 nearly 1,000 feet on a taxiway at Melbourne Airport.
And it goes without saying the last part of the drive was on open roads in Ludicrous mode which virtually glues you to your seat when pushed. Quietness in the cabin is one virtue, but on the move at high speeds some tyre noise can be felt. Electric steering is well-weighted but feedback isn’t that sharp when you consider other performance parameters.