Tesla unveiled the Model X last night with some seriously impressive tech specs, cabin features and range estimates. But first: the nose.
This is the biggest and most dramatic change versus the near-production models previewed at SEMA and elsewhere over the last three years. Replacing the gloss-black grille shell is a smooth one-piece painted bumper. Just a sliver of black grille remains up at the hood edge. This black grille houses the sharp Tesla T badge, making a point into the bodycolored bumper below.
The look is quite unique on the roads, with a distinctly electric-car feel. The Model X cools its radiators via lower bumper intakes, as many cars and SUVs do, but omits the entire black pseudo-grille of the Model S in this new look.
Revised LED headlights also show progress versus the concepts, as does the new active spoiler in back with integrated CHMSL brake light.
What do you think? Oddly enough, we are starting to come around on the Model X. The design is not as bad as we feared, and seems downright interesting for its uniqueness in production form. On the roads, the Model X will look like a spaceship from the future — for many years to come.
Perhaps this newfound admiration for the Model X is thanks to its truly family-first cabin. The active safety features and medical-grade HEPA air filters are mostly hype — similar or better autonomous drive tech is available on every superlux SUV competitor, not to mention the Toyota Camry from $28k. Active city braking, lane keep assist, dynamic cruise with all-speed control…. the Model X is not special for including these.
What we love best about the Model X cabin, actually, is the massive roominess and utility available. A six or seven-seater, the captain’s chairs in the second row look massively supportive — they are near-clones of the front seats in look, size and lateral support.
Our favorite feature of the cabin is the US-exclusive panoramic windshield. This is genius and will make the drive experience feel like an IMAX movie. Opel and Citroen have produced the large-windshield tech on European hatchbacks, but this is its first application in the US market — by any carmaker in any segment.
Basically, where the windshield header and sun visors of a normal car would begin, the Model X stays glass. It is a double height of glass that extends to the front seaters’ foreheads. Special shades are needed with this HD windshield style — with the Euro cars using fairly chintzy pull-down shades to stop blinding sunlight on bright days. Tesla appears to have advanced A-pillar-mounted shades to accomplish this — but we have yet to see if the shade is power-operated or manual. We’d bet on button-controlled operation, knowing Tesla’s perfectionism, and to let the driver operate both sides at the push of a button. Having to reach over to A-pillar on passenger side would not be super classy.
The huge-windshield concept is hard to implement for most carmakers. The model needs this feature from before day one of platform engineering. Super strong crash structures that do not rely on the A-pillars and roof are mandatory to have a double-sized view forward — and most cars are not structurally rigid enough to make this safe. The Tesla X overcomes those hurdles with near 60-mHz in estimated torsional rigidity — far stronger than any other production car. As such, crash force from the nose is distributed low into the frame versus being spread all around the front half of the car.
Ultra-strong lower ===>>> party up top with falcon doors and this huge windshield.
Tesla promises 5-star safety scores in all categories. The Model X comes standard with a titanium-fortified battery protector across its entire underside. An added benefit? The armor-like undertray is a structural element of the body, like the battery box. All combined, the Model X is ridiculously strong. This will help it ride smoothly and more quietly, with more-precise handling without ride-comfort demerits.
Overall material quality takes a huge leap versus most Model S sedans: the P90D shown has suede-wrapped dashboard and even headliner — two areas where the Model S felt more like a 320i at 750i prices.
The Model X is launching with two flagship trims: the P90D and the P90. Both are AWD and deliver an EPA-estimated 250-mile range per charge. Both sprint to 60-mph in less than 5.0-seconds — with the P90D delivering a fairly shocking 3.2-second time. This is by far the quickest SUV on Earth. Truly Ferrari-levels of speed in this top model, but pricing to match. The P90D should base at about $115,000, with the P90 estimated at $105k. Tesla notes that the P90D shown is priced at ~$142k.
Tesla is still coy about the actual pricing for options, but these base prices are down from the $132k of the Signature Series first models — which hit $150k with options.
Later in the roll-out, likely about this time next year, Tesla is expected to launch lower-priced and lower-powered variants in P70 and P80 battery sizes. These will be limited in their appeal — Tesla Model S trims skew to the most-loaded model by about 80/20 versus all others. This means price is not really a barrier for the early-adopters who have embraced Tesla for daily driving.
The falcon rear doors are stunning. Power-operated for opening and closing, these hinged gullwings have numerous proximity sensors to never hit other cars or garages. They can open wide in their initial upswing, or can open fully but with a tighter upward arc. In tight spots, we can see the lower half of the doors hinge downward as the top sections rise — making them hugely useful as well as a showstopping highlight to rock your school’s dropoff line… =]
But as Riders on the Storm thumps out from your stereo… so you will still look cool.On a detail/safety front, the hinged falcon doors appear to take everything into account. No word yet on rollover escape methods if the car were to roll onto its roof. This is highly unlikely — especially with ultra-low weight distribtion. But still, something parents may wonder about. The Mercedes-Benz SLS, the only other gullwing production car in decades, employed exploding bolts to release the top-hinged door if the car is in an accident and stuck upside down. Tesla’s hinged Falcon door may solve for this — opening an escape hatch even when the top segment is blocked. Will investigate this and update post if Tesla offers more info.
Much as Tesla annoys us at times, the Model X does look like the breakout product they have promised all this time. It is hard to imagine anyone not selecting the X based on size or bodystyle — common rejection points for SUV shoppers. Three rows, huge trunks, great performance… The Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid has its work cut out for it fending of this competitor.
Obviously, the huge price will limit uptake for at least the first year. Today’s reservations are promised in the second half of 2016 — a bump of six months versus the delivery estimates of “Early 2016” for previous reservers. Overall, it will take a while to chug through the claimed 20k deposits Tesla has received. Orders today and this Fall are likely to have a full 12-month wait time.
For die-hards, though, waiting for the future of tech and transpo has always been agonizing. We are still all waiting for our hovercars.
With the Model X, Tesla does indeed seem to be pulling the future forward. At Ludicrous speed.
2016 Tesla Model X
2016 Tesla Model X Features
- Falcon Wing rear doors with built in sensors for opening in garages of any height
- Automatically deploying rear spoiler
- Maps and navigation with real time traffic updates
- Daytime running lights
- Power-folding and heated side mirrors
- Front trunk with room for luggage, strollers or two golf bags
- Full size rear cargo storage for bikes and gear
- Free long distance travel on Tesla’s expanding Supercharger network
- 8 year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty
- Automatic keyless entry
- GPS enabled Homelink
- Parking sensors, blind spot and side collision warnings
- Automatic emergency braking
- Seating for six or seven adults depending on interior configuration
- Four LATCH child seat attachments, two in each passenger row
2016 Tesla Model X Specs
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Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.