The Model X SUV is big news for Tesla -- a reminder that the company actually makes cars versus headlines.
Amid the inventions and novel solutions for the first seven-seat, AWD EV SUV lurks a pair of big concerns for Tesla and car lovers alike: the Model X's awkward design and expected obese pricetag. Morbidly obese pricetag? Perhaps....
The Tesla hype machine can be seriously exhausting. The company relies on fairly gratuitous financial PR outreach -- juicing NASDAQ:TSLA with every snippet of info rehashed by analysts ad nauseam.
The entire operation starts to feel like a boilerroom pump 'n dump after this process recurs like full moons twice a month.
So much creative accounting and monopolistic sales/marketing is truly frontier-level stuff versus most automakers.
After all this fluff, you might be distracted enough to rationalize the constant product delays, truly risky bond issues, gigafactory vapors and overall prospectus for the company. Which, past the velvet curtain, is far from certain.
So does Tesla make anything besides money?
They do indeed! And the excellence of the Model S sedan is what truly drives the company's valuation. It is a sublime achievement in tech and speed -- while also a huge market success at peeling buyers away from AMG, Porsche and BMW.
The new Model X crossover is still not ready for its pre-sale marketing. There is barely a dribble of information on the actual Model X specs -- despite the fire-hose approach to investor relations.
The unknowns include actual delivery timeframes, pricing, range and safety.
Tesla is still on record with a late September 2015 production commencement for the Model X -- but that is looking less likely by the day. Even assuming a September 30th production kickoff, first deliveries are still months further on the horizon.
So. What do we know? Besides being so actively skeptical of Tesla, we do have some info to share. This should at least help you decide if the Model X should be in your consideration set.
WHAT IS IT?
The 2016 Model X is a 100-percent-electric AWD crossover with seating for seven.
WHEN WILL IT ARRIVE?
There is a big wait list in addition to endless production delays. Orders today have "estimated delivery of early 2016" and require a $5k reservation deposit.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Here is the rub: no one knows what the Model X will cost. Tesla is expected to produce cheaper vehicles to comply with its DOE grants and low-rate mega loans. These sought to spur EV production when a barrel of oil kissed $150 in 2009 -- but to sell the deal, regulators demanded Tesla be more than a luxury, niche choice.
While the 2019 Model 3 Tesla is officially the firm's answer to the volume pricing question -- many will be shocked that the price of the Model X is not lower than the Model S. Nor at parity.
With WTI oil prices at $39 today for a full barrel (and under $2 a gallon at the pumps), the Model X's potential market is shrinking rapidly. T core buyer pool among an estimated 80,000 Model S sedans owners is also quite shallow.
To make the numbers total up -- even by Tesla's non-GAAP accounting -- the Model X list price will need a substantial bump to make it even vaguely profitable. So if the X was expected to cost $75k to $110k like the Model S before this year's ugly economy, the new normal will require at least a $30k bump.
We've seen estimates that the Model X will cost from $50- to 60,000 -- and think that is wildly wrong. Across three battery pack sizes (yet to be announced), we expect the Model X to base at about $95,000 for a low-range model. The top power output, similar to the P85D sedan in range and performance, is likely to cost a whopping $150,000.
This is speculation at this point, of course. Many unanswered details on this about-to-launch machine...
--- Drivetrain -- Will the Model X come standard with AWD? Tesla says yes in the three-line official release and reservation page. A dual motor setup mounted one on each axle for the Model X concept -- but this could theoretically be optional.
--- Pace -- Tesla makes much of how quick the Model S is (...when its batteries are full... ahem)
The Model S hits 60-mph as quick as 3 seconds for the top models, and ~5.5-seconds for the cheapest. We predict the X will be much slower -- up to 3 seconds extra for each count.
--- Range -- Will the Model X be just a town car, or one with 300-miles between fillups like the top Model S? It will depend on the trimlevel battery pack chosen. We still anticipate the Model X will match or exceed the Model S's distance to empty.
--- Battery sizes -- Based on the shared platform fundamentals with the Model S, but a much higher floor, we actually expect the Model X to have about 30-percent more battery capacity than the sedan. Add that figure into the overall price forecast.
WHO MIGHT BUY IT?
The core market for the Model X is current Model S owners looking for another Tesla.
Threat: Tesla's X might cannibalize Model S sales entirely in this current-owners group. A select number may choose to have two electric cars in the household, but most two-car households will not drop the anytime, any distance promise of a gas-powered model.
The secondary market is crossover and SUV drivers. Everything from Range Rover Sports to Chevy Suburbans is in the broad seven-seater segment.
Here is the Model X's biggest problem: the latest BMW X5 eDrive, a half-dozen new hybrid Mercedes SUVs, and the PHEV 2017 Audi Q7. Not to mention the new hybrid Volvo XC90 or Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid.
WHY SO UGLY?
The Model X and Model S were both designed more than five years ago by Henrik Fisker. Fisker left Tesla to found his own epynoymous company, with Tesla alleging he took IP with him. A legal battle followed... and now Tesla owns the flagship Fisker store in Palo Alto as a final FU.
This is irrelevant, though. Even while the tech under the Model S and X has evolved radically since the sheetmetal was styled, the exteriors have been frozen in time.
The Model X really suffers from this stillborn look. Were it 2009, the X might look good. A bit Maxda CX-9 like. With a heavy hint of handicapped mobility solution tossed in?
NOT A GOOD ANGLE
Not just this angle. The Model X has no good angles. There is no good side to find. It is a blob; a hard-boiled egg of a machine with nerd-alert writ large.
The nose is boring and effeminate, the profile is alarmingly dull and generic, while the tail is a yawn as well. The carbon-fiber inner grille details are perhaps the best element of the Model S design. We especially hate the unpainted lower body pieces -- which definitely say Special Needs to me.
The roofline is perhaps the most hideous ever put into production. The Falcon doors appear cool -- with much more room to hop in the back row without tumbling the second row. They even fit in garages, Tesla claims.
But something happened engineering them for production. There is a freaky and pregnant look to the glasshouse. Yuck.
The Tesla Model X is the only 2016 model from any carmaker that is less sexy than the BMW i3. Seen many of those around?
Yea. Us neither.Does the style of a family cruiser really matter that much? Not as much as you might think. After all, few people will be painting Porsche Cayenne Hybrids in 100 years as a beauty exemplar.
Both the Porsche and the Tesla share $100k-plus pricing -- but the Porsche might even beat the silence and smoothness EV appeal of the Tesla with its ultra-wafty, airsprung e-Hybrid models. While no Mona Lisa, the 2016 Cayenne shows what buyers demand in the very nascent superlux SUV market.
Did this help clarify the Model X for you? It opened a variety of new questions for your author... so clearly there is much mystery still about the car.
But from what we can see, the Model X has a rough road ahead. Hopefully the Model X's titanium battery-box protector can withstand a few sharp rocks.
Even if it arrived tomorrow, the Tesla SUV looks like a loser to us. Three big reasons:
Gas is cheap,
competition is steep,
and the X's style is weak.
2016 TESLA Model X Price
Utility, Style and Performance
Model X combines the space and functionality of a seven seat sport utility vehicle with the uncompromised performance of a Tesla.
Every Model X comes with all-wheel drive standard, powered by two independent, digitally controlled electric motors. Brilliantly functional Falcon Wing rear doors fold up and out of the way to allow easy access to third row seats.
More details will be announced as production nears.
The delivery estimate for new reservations is early 2016