James Flammang, Contributing Editor -April 13, 2016
After garnering considerable publicity and bountiful sales with its Model S full-size luxury sedan, Tesla has begun to expand its electric-vehicle lineup. The first new product is the Model X battery-powered crossover vehicle, which can seat up to seven adults.
Battery power is only one of its attractions. The Model X is sure to draw attention with its "Falcon Wing" rear doors, which open upward, not to the side. A handful of sports cars have used comparable “gullwing” doors in the distant past, but the idea has been refined by Tesla, and is especially startling when employed on a crossover model.
What's New for 2016
The Model X is a brand-new vehicle, introduced for the 2016 model year. Prospective buyers have had to proffer a $5,000 deposit, well before taking delivery.
Choosing Your Tesla Model X
Two batteries are available for the Model X, rated 70 kWh in the 70D series and 90 kWh in the 90D series. Range, specified in miles on a single charge, varies according to battery rating. Both batteries can be charged at 120 or 240 volts, or quick-charged at an appropriate location.
Mounting the battery beneath the floor helps give the Model X a low center of gravity, substantially reducing rollover risk. Tesla expects the Model X to achieve five-star crash-test ratings. Standard active-safety features include collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. The front trunk serves as a large, impact-absorbing crumple zone.
Double-hinged rear doors are designed to ease entry to the second and third rows. Each door has a sensor that acts to prevent contact with adjacent objects, such as garage walls, in tight spaces. The doors move upward, then outward, and can open even if as little as 30 centimeters separates the Model X from another vehicle. To open and close the doors properly, a foot of clearance is needed on either side of the car. Model X also is the first Tesla to get an “auto presenting door,” which opens as the driver approaches the vehicle.
All versions can sense the roadway ahead using a forward-aimed camera, radar, and 360-degree sonar setup. The “Autopilot” autonomous driving system can steer the vehicle within a lane, change lanes by tapping the turn-signal lever, and manage road speed using “traffic-aware” cruise control.
Each model has all-wheel drive, using a dual-motor system. An active spoiler deploys from the liftgate. A Model X can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Four trim levels are available, each with all-wheel drive:
Free long-distance travel is included, using Tesla’s Supercharger network of charging facilities. Note that Teslas are subject to incentives for electric vehicles, from the federal government as well as certain state or local agencies. Incentives lower the price somewhat, but these are still expensive automobiles. The 90D makes a reasonable compromise; though intense (and affluent) electric-car afficionados who seek the utmost in performance might be satisfied with nothing less than a P90D.