Tesla has now been about for a few years but it’s only really been since the launch of the Model S that people have started to take note of Elon Musk’s futuristic and marvellous creations. The Model S was Tesla’s first real attempt at getting company CEOs out of there BMWs and Mercs and if you pay attention to traffic as much as I do, they are really starting to appear all over the place. With that victory in hand, Elon then set about his next target market, the SUV market with the Model X.
The SUV and 4×4 market is the fastest growing by a long shot with every manufacturer on the planet having a go, even the likes of Lamborghini and Rolls Royce are at it now! however, the biggest issue with this sector is its reputation as a planet-destroying, iceberg melting monster of the car market when, in fact, there are plenty of family estate cars and so on that are much worse… What Tesla has done here though is create a spacious and practical 4-wheel-drive vehicle that is also fully electric and full of the same goodies buyers have got used to in the now ageing Model S.
I’ve been really looking forward to driving the Model X, mainly because my experiences with Electric Vehicles so far has been rather chequered. I loved the BMW i8, the beautiful styling, those brilliantly stupid doors and the overall driving experience was as good as a lot of regular combustion sports cars. On the other hand, I hated the Nissan Leaf. The range was shocking – despite it’s claimed 99 miles per charge, I found myself charging it every day after a mere 45-mile commute. The Model X is all completely new to me though, it’s a premium luxury SUV with a hefty price tag and no engine… I literally had no idea what to expect.
Upon arrival at the Heathrow dealer, I was given a full rundown of what was available in the car I would be driving and how it all worked. The example I was given the keys to was a Model X 100D which was essentially the top spec model with the 100kw battery giving a 350-mile range, all-wheel-drive and just about everything else bar Ludacris mode. Very nice, but also very expensive at just over £116,000. That’s not to say the car is overpriced as it literally teeming with technology and innovation, however, there are many well-established SUVs out there that cost a lot less.
As soon as you get in the Model X you can feel the quality. The soft leather seats are comfortable and the cabin is light and airy thanks to the glass roof and extended windscreen and the 6-seat configuration gives the car a bit of a lounge feel as all the seats have plenty of room around them to give each occupant plenty of space. A lot of other SUVs tend to feel quite cramped inside, even though their exteriors are enormous where here, the Model X looks quite compact from the outside due to its sloping roofline but it feels like a spaceship inside. One part of the interior that definitely grabs your attention is the huge portrait mounted screen in the centre console, I have owned smaller televisions over the years. Personally, I am still not fully converted to all these new touchscreen infotainment systems that are being put in new cars, I think they are slow and clunky and still have a long way to go and I still think a knob or a switch is much easier and quicker to operate, but this isn’t a normal car with normal features, it’s a Tesla, so it almost gets a pass from me. Only almost though, as while I was driving I did find it hard to do simple things like adjusting the climate control.
It’s very difficult to talk about the driving experience of this car as it’s not the kind of car you would throw around a track, or hit the B-roads with or take off-roading, the real story with this car is the everyday usability as an electric vehicle and all the brilliant bells and whistles that have been put in the car to make it stand out. On the road it’s very civilised, it has little cameras and sensors all the way around it and it’s constantly scanning around you to make sure you have plenty of room, which is good considering how wide it is. The X also had Autopilot which I only used a few times as the roads were busy and I have perfectly good working hands, eyes and feet. One thing I will say about the drive is the way this car picks up speed is nothing short of wizardry. When you’re navigating through towns and villages the car feels quite heavy and you are fully aware of its size, but when you get an empty bit of road and put your foot down, it just shoots off and keeps on going! This isn’t even the full-fat Ludacris version, but it will still blast itself from 0 to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds. The lack of gear changes means you just have one constant feeling of acceleration with no interruptions and at first, it properly takes you by surprise. It also feels surprisingly planted. It has all-wheel-drive and air suspension to keep it smooth and grippy and it also has the batteries in the floor, meaning you have a much lower centre of gravity giving you a lot less body roll and a lot more confidence in the cars handling.
Now I know this all sounds very pessimistic and negative, but it really isn’t. As a car, the Model X isn’t for me, mainly because I buy a car pretty much purely for the driving experience that goes along with it. For that price, I would have a lovely Range Rover without any doubt. However, as a piece of technology, the Model X is brilliant. The fact that you can now buy a luxury SUV that can seat up to 7 adults and never have to put any petrol or diesel in it is amazing and now they have a 350-mile range, you can use it properly every day. They also come loaded with loads of quirky and cool easter eggs which is great but it feels more like a new smartphone instead of a car. You will also sleep easier knowing your car is 100% zero emissions. Tesla has come a long way with their cars in a relatively short period and the quality of the finished product is definitely that of a premium standard, I’m just excited to see where they go and to see what the future holds for the brand, and motoring in general.
One thing Tesla does really well is educating people on the features and benefits of their vehicles. A lot of main dealers these days want to get you in a car and have that dotted line signed as quickly and easily as possible, where Tesla is genuinely taking the time to show you how and why the cars do what they do and how they are different to other cars. Buying a car like this is not only a massive financial commitment, but it’s also a bit of a lifestyle commitment as everything you know about looking after and running a car goes out the window with Teslas. I was shown so much in the short time I was there and even though I’m sure there is still a lot that I didn’t see, I left at the end of the day knowing a lot more about EVs than I did when I got there. It’s worth looking at these cars for no other reason than to just experience these brilliant creations.
Check out James’s review of the Model S here.